When Power and Influence Collide…..

Earlier this year I was working with the management team of a logistics provider during an organisational restructuring brought about by the implementation of a new operating system.  As usual in these circumstances there was a fair amount of tension inside the organisation as the team members struggled to cope with closing out the old system, preparing to launch the new and come to terms with the new management structure.

The transition to the new system had been carefully planned in conjunction with the systems provider. The process changes to accommodate the new operating system had been mapped out and an extensive organisational re-design had taken place with supporting input from the existing team members.  An extensive training programme had been devised to support the implementation to ensure a seamless transition and a brief had been prepared for communication to the customer network.

A key focus of attention for the management team during the run up to implementation was to put in place an escalation process to deal with any issues as they arose to minimise customer disruption. The maintenance of the contracted service levels during the implementation was of paramount importance to secure the company’s future market position.

As the implementation drew near every team member underwent extensive training in how to operate the new system and the team leaders were given further training to accommodate the new escalation process. At ‘go-live’ all seemed well – customer feedback had been positive and no major issues had arisen during the run-up although team morale did seem to be on the wane.

In the weeks that followed the new system operated well but morale continued to fall with arguments becoming common place amongst the team members. Error rates were beginning to escalate and on several occasions customer deliveries had not been met.  I attended several team briefs during this period and also undertook ‘water fountain’ chats with individual team members to try to understand what was wrong.

It was during one of these chats that a picture began to emerge.

“ The problem is that the team no longer know who to turn to” confided one of the younger members.” In the old world everybody knew who the experts were. We didn’t need help from management – we knew who to go to and how to fix things ourselves “

“The thing is,” he went on “the old guard still think they are in a position to influence the team. The reality is that they are no longer the experts and the people that really do understand the new system cannot make themselves heard”

“Have you shared this with your supervisor?” I asked.

“Not much point really” he said. “The management are fine for the formal stuff but the real leaders are within the team – we need to fix this ourselves”

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