A global insurance company with multiple brands and business units had, for many years, underinvested in its IT infrastructure. Having assessed the cost and quality of its current infrastructure, leadership identified a critical need for upgrades to meet basic industry standards. Cumbersome or inefficient IT processes and incompatible applications and systems were impeding the company’s ability to manage efficiently across its business units. And fragmented vendor relationships and procurement standards across the business units meant that IT spending did not ensure the right quality at the best price.
The cost of doing nothing was high: the company faced significant risk of catastrophic data loss, disproportionally high IT costs relative to value, an inability to manage data at the corporate level and misallocated and poorly-leveraged IT talent, creating redundancies in some areas and insufficient staff or skill sets in others.
Corporate leadership had decided on a solution: IT operations would be consolidated under a single U.S.-based management team, creating a Global Infrastructure Utility that would provide efficient, flexible and sustainable infrastructure services to the business units. Allen Advisory Group was brought in as the program was approved to help establish a change management plan to increase support for the Global Utility and help transition individuals, teams and business units to the future state.
Ideally, a change readiness assessment is part of the initial planning process when an organization contemplates a major new initiative. In this case, the client was starting late: changes were already underway and rumors were rampant, but little had been done to engage stakeholders and prepare them for the transition to the new structure.
Allen Advisory Group took a two-pronged approach. We created an interim rapid communication plan to get some important messages out to stakeholders, clarifying the scope and purpose of the global utility and addressing the backlog of unanswered questions. At the same time, we began more comprehensive research to assess stakeholders’ readiness for change and gain insight into their attitudes, aspirations, concerns, formal and informal communication channels and training needs.
Although we started with the premise that our client had already established a clear mandate for change, our research contradicted the assumption. It revealed critical gaps in stakeholder understanding of the program’s value proposition, significant areas of resistance and mistrust and poor cross-cultural communication. Although the broad outlines of the initiative had been announced and discussed at leadership meetings with the corporate CEO more than six months ago, the business unit leaders were still waiting for detailed plans, timelines and service level agreements.
The migration of services and staff from the business units to the global utility represented a high-impact transformation for the IT organization. In such cases, a nuanced approach to stakeholder management – directive in some situations and collaborative in others – is the most effective approach. Therefore we made the following recommendations for immediate remediation:
- Re-set business expectations based on real timelines and staffing plans.
- Reduce uncertainty by announcing and explaining any decisions that have been made so the organization can move on and stop re-litigating those issues.
- Ramp up communication. If questions can’t be answered yet, let people know what you are doing to determine the right answers – bring as much transparency as possible to the process.
- Improve collaboration – bring experts from the business units together with the global IT group to co-create the new organization, giving the business units greater ownership of the end-state organization.
- Target high-impact stakeholders – those who have a high vested interest in the outcome and a high degree of influence over others, recognizing that organizational power is not always synonymous with influence.
- Clarify the value proposition for each stakeholder group – recognizing that even when change is “mandatory,” high-performers always have alternatives. If the value proposition is not clear and compelling, you will lose your best people.
Stakeholder research fed into a number of additional deliverables: a comprehensive communication plan, training curriculum and performance metrics to ensure that what got communicated aligned with what would be managed, measured and rewarded. In addition, the team produced a welcome booklet and manager discussion guide to assist with the transition of employees from the business units to the global utility, and developed content and guidelines for the new intranet.
Allen Advisory Group team members also spent a significant time with the identified change leaders within our client’s organization to help them understand our recommendations and prepare them for implementation.
The comprehensive plans, messages, and tools enabled the senior management team to effectively communicate the compelling case for change, monitor performance along the journey and transition employees to the new state.We worked side-by-side with them on initial implementation steps to ensure that they were comfortable with their roles and would not be dependent on consultants for any longer than necessary.