First Line Management
A major logistics company had a first line management population that lacked initiative, empowerment and drive to improve. They were steeped in a traditional command and control style of management, because that’s how they themselves had been managed for years.
They were largely unable to make decisions for themselves and saw their role as standing in the middle of the warehouse telling people what to do, often through shouting and barracking. This style of management was having a serious impact on efficiency, management were bogged down in detail and the business was struggling to hit its performance targets, costing them money.
We spent time in the warehouse watching and speaking to the staff and managers at work. From this we got to understand that the primary problem was that the managers just didn’t know any other way of managing. They were repeating what they had been taught by their managers. Staff felt unappreciated and saw it as a pay check and not a job.
We needed to change the mindset of these managers and developed a development centre process to allow managers to have their skills assessed. We used an experiential learning approach to give the managers an opportunity to practice the skills they needed. As a further support we arranged for each individual to have one‐to‐one feedback on their performance during the centre and support with developing a personal development plan.
Manager’s left the centre with a much clearer understanding of what they were meant to be doing. Senior Management gave clear support in allowing managers to make decisions and improve things locally. Each manager received personal feedback to help their development.
What the solution clearly showed were those managers who were a long way from ready to manage and those who were much more capable than they had previously shown themselves to be. The assessment created a means to benchmark manager’s skills and minimum standards.
When we went back to observe the warehouse, we found managers were much more engaging with their teams, there was no shouting across the floor and there was a much greater sense of energy. A number of managers had suggested key changes to the shift briefing process and the loading processes which the company says will net them over half a million pounds of improved efficiency saving. The business was able to reduce it’s reliance on contract workers and reduced sickness and absence rates which they attribute to a more effective management style.
Whilst exact figures can’t be defined, the company believes our support has helped them save around £800,000 in efficiency improvements. Following the success of this programme we rolled out a similar solution to two other areas of the business.
The organisation also won a National Training Award for commercial gain from a training solution.
A large telecoms provider was reorganising to provide a more customer focused structure. In order to do this they needed to realign some 300 middle managers into appropriate new roles in the new structure. At the same time, the company was introducing a new competency framework to support the new structure and ways of working.
In order to work out who would fit where in the organisation they needed to assess and benchmark the skill set of the middle manager population. Also, many of the people within this group had been working for the company for many years and were felt to be sceptical and apprehensive of the process, seeing it as a vehicle for redundancy.
We designed an assessment process which involved a mix of online assessment to be completed from each person’s workstation coupled with a day of observed exercises, case studies and presentations. The assessment included personality profiling, aptitude testing and real world case study exercises. Each candidate was pre‐briefed and had one‐to‐one communication from their manager as part of the comms process we set up. This was designed to reinforce the message that the assessment was about development, not redundancy.
In order to help the client achieve the project within budget, we trained up a number of the more senior managers as assessors. This had the added benefit of them being actively involved experiencing what their managers were going through.
After each assessment centre, candidates received a report and a one‐to‐one feedback session from an assessor with their manager present. The feedback session enabled the candidate to make sense of the report and their manager helped to set the feedback in the context of their everyday performance.
We produced graphical representations of the assessment results to support the senior managers in the decision making process for the restructure.
The feedback from the candidates who underwent the assessment process was excellent citing the professionalism of our staff and how at ease people felt given their initial fears. The involvement of managers as assessors helped them to get a broader view of their people’s capabilities.
We assessed the entire middle manager population and fed back to them within the 2 month target date for completion. All managers were re‐aligned into the new structure and according to the client over 90% were satisfied with their role allocation.
Through good logistics planning of resources and venues we were able to achieve additional savings to the project which we passed onto the client.
We were approached by the Global Supply Chain Director of an industry leading power generation company to help him improve the way the supply chain team worked. His view was that they weren’t joined up, didn’t see themselves as a team and didn’t sign up to the global goals for the team.
They were all located at various sites across the globe and so suffered from mixed reporting lines, differing time zones and communication barriers. This new Director had set the team a goal of reducing global purchasing spend by 3.5M pounds over the course of the year. The team was due to attend a four day conference in Germany where they would also meet their new line manager for the first time.
We designed a programme that had a mix of facilitated business sessions and experiential activities. The business sessions would allow us to see how the team worked together when focusing on real business discussions. The activities would allow us to take away the business context and see them perform as a team. Not surprisingly the English and Americans dominated the discussions and leadership and not just because of the language issues. They were power hungry and lacking in respect generally with each other. They communicated poorly, behaved poorly and achieved very little.
During the business sessions we gave candid and challenging feedback about their behaviour, which led to some shocking revelations and self awareness lessons. In every case, they were unaware of the extent to which their own behaviour impacted the team. This ranged from writing e‐mails whilst a presentation was being given to talking over people constantly and interrupting. We then helped them to develop principles of behaviour and engagement with each other. As they started to change they saw the results of the activities improving which reinforced the messages.
As a conclusion to the conference, the team were required to create a high level plan of projects that would bring about the savings. The expectation from the Director was that they wouldn’t complete the work as was typical for most things where they had to work in cohesion.
The team went through some real highs and lows but came out a much stronger and more cohesive team. They respected each other, took time to engage and communicate more effectively.
They completed the high level plan in half the time allocated, which was a pleasant shock to the Director. Once back in the business their new approach and efforts led to them smashing the target of 3.5M by more than double. This was largely due to improvements in sharing ideas and support, minimising duplication and improving their economies of scale.
As a result of this work we were then asked to support the Global Board Team in their development as a team.
Our client, a major utilities business was having problems with a leadership population that was too “tell”. Over the years the business had suffered from too many layers of management, poor decision making, poor people management skills and a lack of profit focus. All of this was having a major impact on efficiency, quality and cost effectiveness. Things needed to change.
Some research was done which identified a serious lack of people leadership skills in the middle and junior manager population. The organisation had invested time and money developing a leadership framework which nobody knew about or understood. Managers ruled with big sticks and a firm hand yet nobody was ever disciplined or dismissed other than for serious misconduct. The board realised they had to change things to survive.
For the junior managers we designed a development centre which benchmarked their skills against the leadership competencies. We also ran a residential training event that helped them to realise the skills they needed to apply and practice them. Incorporated into this was one‐to‐one peer feedback. We also ran two masterclasses on “Managing Change” and “Driving Performance” to equip them with examples of success from their own organisation.
Throughout the development process they also had a business transformation project to work on, that would demonstrate what they had learnt and make a change to the business.
For the middle managers, the benchmarking was through online assessment followed by feedback. We involved the middle managers in the development of the junior managers, helping them get used to giving feedback and discussing behavioural performance.
There was also a residential element for the middle managers to practice and develop best practice leadership skills. Throughout the programme, mini reviews were carried out to correlate their experience on the programme to how things would happen at work. This enabled the individuals to keep a real world perspective on what they were learning.
They also undertook a business transformation project to demonstrate their learning and apply it to the business.
There resulting survey feedback has shown a marked increase in the perceptions of managers from front line staff.
We received many personal e‐mails from managers attending the programme thanking us for the impact we’d made on them and how they work.
The organisation predicts that the effects of the work we’ve done will improve their cost base by more than £1M.
We were asked by a senior manager from a large motoring organisation to carry out 360 feedback on all his direct reports as part of their ongoing development. What transpired was a need for the manager to build evidence on one individual who was supposedly performing poorly.
Having gone through the 360 feedback with the individual it became clear that his poor performance was a reaction to the management style of the senior manager. This was a case of manager and subordinate indifference. At the same time, we were asked by the Director to carry out 360 feedback for his direct reports which included this senior manager.
This was one of those problems that starts out as one, fairly simple thing, which turns into something else more complex.
We realised that the poor performer really had issues with the senior manager and was avoiding dealing with it. This was resulting in a lack of communication, mixed messages and perceived poor performance. We arranged with the senior manager for a period of coaching for the poor performer to see if we could turn things around.
We implementing a series of 2hr coaching sessions where we worked with the individual to understand the root issues. This led to a light bulb moment where he realised that the issue lay with his manager’s poor people management skills and lack of engagement with the team in general. We coached him to identify what success looked like in managing the relationship with his manager and how he could achieve this situation. This enabled him to realise that he was in fact very capable but was allowing the poor relationship with his manager to influence his behaviour.
Once this realisation occurred, he set about developing mechanisms to manage his manager and things started to improve.
For the senior manager, his 360 feedback revealed that he was doing a job that he didn’t enjoy. He didn’t like managing people and preferred working by himself on process improvement (the job he was originally employed to do 12months previous). We provided coaching for the senior manager to help him understand what he needed to do to resolve the conflict he had between what he wanted to do and had to do.
Within four weeks the poor performer had completely turned his performance around and received a commendation from his key customer. He also won a major customer award for excellence in service. He was also more confident in managing the relationship with his manager.
The senior manager realised that he was doing a role he really didn’t enjoy and decided to look for a new role. He resigned from the business a month later after securing a new role doing a process engineering job.
We were asked by a large worldwide electronics manufacturer to help them design a new performance management process. Their key aims were to improve the quality of completion and the completion rate.
Currently the organization used a pre‐printed paper system, which was cumbersome to complete and old fashioned in its content. When we initially researched the quality of the paperwork completed, we found that many were being completed by the manager and just signed by the individual. Reviews were also annual and performance wasn’t really reviewed unless there was a problem at which point HR was called in to sort it out.
We designed a new performance management process which incorporated business objectives, behavioural reviews and personal development planning. We designed a software solution to automate the process to include reminder triggers for reviews, evidence sections for capturing evidence of performance throughout the year and grandparent monitoring and reporting.
We developed a communication strategy to introduce the new approach to managing performance, which included “workplace briefings” from senior managers, “open surgeries” for people who had concerns to discuss issues with HR.
We also developed a full training package to support the implementation of the new system. Staff received an e‐learning module and a half day training session. Managers received a full day training and e‐learning module. We also trained up experts in each work area to support the implementation.
A key part of this project was to improve the quality and completion rate of performance reviews. To do this we created a zero tolerance policy of completion, trigger by automated reminders and reports from the software. The reviews were then randomly checked for a period of 6 months to review the quality. An intranet site was set up to show examples of poor and good quality completion and to offer additional tips to improving the quality of reviews.
We had planned to achieve a 75% first time completion rate without triggers from the system. We achieved 88% within the first month.
We had planned on 50% achievement of the good quality standard, based on our previous research of the old system. We had 72% achievement of the quality standard within the first month.
The system is now well embedded and completion is consistently achieving 95% with quality hovering around 85%.
The new approach to managing performance has shown improvements in completion of projects on time, savings in increased efficiency of front line staff and a reduction of 6% in sickness and absence.