27 Jan 2020
By Liam Harrington and Anne Marie Kilkenny, Associates at Oliver Wight
In our privileged position we get to be both part of the change that clients go through and also to observe it as an outsider. As a result we have decades of experience of what change involves and also what affects people’s willingness to make change. Following a recent visit to FC Company, Liam and I were discussing the value of the zealous convert in making change happen. Not every organisation has – or needs – a zealous convert. Some people can be zealous converts and have no impact. Zealous converts with influence are the ones who make a real difference. We have seen some terrific examples of this.
It goes without saying that if the person in question is the boss then their ‘conversion’ will reverberate around the organisation loudly and quickly. In one previous client, we had an Executive VP who was hugely challenging and negative in the initial engagement process. This, of course, made it very difficult for the IBP advocates in the business to create any real momentum. We’re still not entirely sure when the change occurred. We know it was more gradual than it appeared to the rest of the organisation. And we are certain that having the head of that part of the business going from being one of the biggest resistors to taking action to make it clear that IBP was the priority had a huge impact on the speed and success of the implementation. The action was to take all meetings out of the leadership team’s diaries except for IBP reviews. It caused an uproar, in fact people still talk about it now, years later, but everyone got the message. IBP is the way we run our business.
The zealous convert effect is now also a factor in FC Company. We had been making good progress, the IBP design workshops went really well. The teams did great work in those sessions and there was a great buzz about what the business would be able to do once the process was up and running. Then we hit some bumps. When the design teams started to share their work across the broader organisation, Marsha Jackson, the Regional Sales Director for North America said she did not see the point in her team spending time in the process. They had enough to do managing customers and ‘anyway isn’t it the Demand Manager’s job to do the forecast?’. At about the same time Mark Chen, the FD for the Industrial Division was insisting that financial projections would be done separately by his team ‘with input from IBP’. He simply didn’t believe the process inputs would be sufficiently reliable for full financial integration within the process. Some interventions were clearly necessary.
Liam along with two members of the Demand design review team sat down with Marsha and two of her senior sales managers. Marsha had missed the rollout education sessions so they went through base principles and also the purpose statements the team had come up with for the Demand elements of the FC IBP process. "You could literally see the lightbulb moment", Liam told me. Marsha’s paradigm had been "this is all about producing a forecast that is used mostly by Supply Chain, a bit by Finance, never by Commercial folks!" When she saw the content and realised this was a process by and for Commercial people to get to a joined up view of how to grow the business she got really excited. That excitement has subsequently transformed the engagement of the sales organisation all around the business. They are now pushing hard to really sharpen up the inputs from both Marketing and Sales and to make sure they reflect both the real market challenges they are facing and the strategic activities they are planning to get back to growth.
Mark had been through the initial education and had contributed positively in those sessions. He says now that he thought at the time that it sounded like a really good idea but hadn’t thought he would have to change. He had a deep-seated mistrust of the information that came to him from Sales and also from Production. To be fair there was some justification in his position as bias and game playing were endemic, particularly in his division. However, our experience is that in order to make the plans 'accurate' Financial Integration is a must. I don't believe that there is any company that has reliable plans for the next 24-36 months without this.
Unlike with Marsha, there was not one ‘a-ha’ moment for Mark. We had lots of lengthy conversations and he gradually opened up to the benefits of one set of fully integrated plans. Transparency and accountability are two things that are very important to Mark. Once he saw that IBP is absolutely about both of those things – and that the reason we insist on financial integration within the process is to drive out sandbagging and game playing – then he got on board. Now that he has ‘got it’ he is very impatient! The process of getting to full financial integration will not be easy for FC Company due to data and system issues as well as the culture of avoiding bringing bad news. We’ll get there but there is still a lot of work to do.
Read the story from the beginning here.
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