If I Could Do It All Again... (2: David Lines)

If I could do it all again… I would have worked on drawing up a comprehensive change program when we started to get our business case through, to carry people through the inevitable resistance against the shared services project. I would establish game rules at the start of the process about what is needed and about how people should behave and act throughout the entire thing. I would also be much more demanding of the top brass, to wheel them out on a regular basis to keep reinforcing the message "this is a decision that we have made; we’re not talking about if we’re doing it, we’re talking about how we’re doing it and when we do it".
When I look back we confused making what we saw as organisational change, structural change, with what was really a major change program.  Developing and implementing shared services is a major change program. That means that you can produce a devastatingly persuasive business case but it won’t persuade people in a devastatingly effective way, because there are all sorts of other things tied up with it that will affect how committed they are: it affects their jobs, where they’re going to work, their prospects, the people that they work with – all of those soft issues come into play.
One of the surprising things was that when we wrestled the business case – which was quite a complex argument – through the organisation, the Cabinet and the County Council Management Team, and we got the sign-off, we thought it was a done deal, and all went round patting ourselves on the back.  In fact the action was only just starting, because once people saw that the decision had been made, resistance to the proposal was jacked up by several notches. If you underestimate that perfectly natural development – and I think we did – you do so at risk to the entire project.  In our case I’d say the project stalled for about three or four months until we broke out of that.
It’s all about recognising that this is a change program, that it is going to affect people – it is going to affect their emotions as much as it’s going to affect the way they do their job - and you have to have a plan that deals with that, allows them time to come to terms with the changes, but never once gives them the idea that the decision is going to go round the loop again. The decision has been made; it’s about how we do it, not if we do it.

(If there's something you'd do differently if you could do it all again, why not let us know?  Email the editor with your thoughts - anonymity will be respected upon request!)