Leadership for Change - Aligning Resources and Setting Expectations - aftermarketNews

Leadership for Change — Aligning Resources and Setting Expectations

In this series on change leadership, we’ve talked so far about creating a vision, identifying key initiatives, and limiting active initiatives to a manageable number. Another critical task for leadership is to make sure that functional departments are aligned with active initiatives.

AMN Perspectives by Thomas Group: Experience at Work

Posted: June 15, 2004, 9 a.m., EST

by John Steidl, Thomas Group consultant and Mike Manor, president, Automotive Aftermarket, Thomas Group

IRVING, TX — In this series on change leadership, we’ve talked so far about creating a vision, identifying key initiatives, and limiting active initiatives to a manageable number. Another critical task for leadership is to make sure that functional departments are aligned with active initiatives.

We have dealt previously with this issue, so we’ll just reinforce that it is quite normal for different departments to have very different sets of priorities. Unfortunately, the highest leverage initiatives always require cross-functional collaboration and commitment. If key departments do not have their priorities and resources aligned to support these initiatives, progress will be slow and painful. All it takes is one critical resource being “unavailable” to bring progress to a dead stop. A key role for leadership is to maintain constant vigilance for stalls caused by this type of priority disconnect. When a stall is detected, leadership needs to intervene immediately.

On a related note, it’s extremely important that key resources have the time to do what they need to do in support of any major change initiative. As part of the planning process, team leaders need to identify those resources, and define (at least roughly) how much time they will need to commit and for how long. It may require some time away from normal responsibilities to enable a critical resource to support an initiative at the level of effort that’s called for.

Another key role for leadership is the setting of expectations. Previously we’ve written about creating visions that are radical, meaning that they are about dramatic performance improvement. But how long should it take to achieve such a vision? If we allow ourselves too much time, the annual performance gains become incremental. Achieving a 50 percent reduction in product lead times or time to market is not really a transformational initiative if it takes 5-10 years to get there. (And it won’t provide any competitive edge, because some of our major competitors will probably have gotten there before us.)

A time frame of 12-18 months is about right depending on the size and complexity of most organizations. Anything faster is unrealistic unless the company is quite small. Many people will initially consider even this time frame unachievable. But in our experience, companies with leadership and vision accomplish truly transformational change routinely. In fact, an aggressive time schedule is critical, because it forces people to think out of the box-one of the pre-requisites for dramatic performance improvement. If people are allowed to feel too comfortable about the goals and timeline, there will be no reason to think radically.

Next time we’ll talk more about how to use cross-functional collaboration effectively to get people thinking out of the box.

For additional information, visit www.thomasgroup.com or call Mike Manor at 972-401-4444.

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“AMN Perspectives by Thomas Group: Experience at Work” is written and sponsored by Thomas Group. The opinions expressed in “AMN Perspectives by Thomas Group: Experience at Work” articles appearing on aftermarketNews.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AMN or Babcox Publications.

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