30 Jan

Different organisational cultures reconciled

WEB-services2

Client: A major UK food and clothes retailer and a major global NGO.

Licensee: KPMG.

The NGO worked in partnership to ensure that the retailer’s decisions about sourcing of commodities such as cotton and fish were as sustainable as they could be. This relationship was up for renegotiation and the two individuals in the respective organisations with responsibility for making the partnership work wanted to do everything they could to set the next seven year agreement off on the soundest possible footing.

The issue

Both organisations stated their desire to build on their history together and ‘make the relationship great.’ However the two organisations had very different cultures, oriented respectively toward the environment and financial return. Although both parties were immensely committed to a shared vision, they nevertheless clashed when historic prejudices got in the way. In particular the NGO believed it could do much more to support the retailer on its sustainability journey if this artificial barrier could be broken down.

It became apparent that the most senior individuals from each party were judging the organisation-to-organisation relationship on the quality of their personal relationship. This personal relationship was particularly strong. Problems in the relationship between their respective teams would then be escalated for these leaders to resolve. The two leaders would resolve the problem, but neither could implement the changes needed to prevent the problem arising again.

Type of project:

Standalone, one-off project

Key insights

Strong one-to-one relationships, particularly at senior levels, do not inevitably produce strong organisational relationships – though this may not be immediately obvious.

The methodology was easily able to highlight where change was needed – in the degree of access each party felt they had, in how responsive they felt the other party were, and in the breadth and depth of their understanding of each other. All these were highlighted as areas for improvement.

Impact

A new basis for the relationship was established to which both parties were able to commit.

30 Jan

Closing a perception gap with training providers

WEB-manufacturing

Client: A professional membership and qualification body in accountancy.

Licensee: KPMG.

The CEO of the client group was concerned about its relationship with two partner organisations who recruited and trained the students who would become the Membership of the future by qualifying in the professional standards set. The relationship was not financial but was entirely symbiotic.

The issue

There was no particular issue with either of the relationships, however they were going through a process of setting mutually beneficial strategies and the CEO wanted to create the best possible relationship going forward.

The major project challenge was to convince the two training organisations that they were not being punished, and to get their agreement to participate. KPMG’s independent facilitation of the process and the two-way nature of the Relational Health Audit were instrumental in addressing this.

Once the surveys were completed and analysed, two workshops were set up to deal separately with each training provider. One proved easier to set up quickly than the other and this made a significant difference to the usefulness of the intervention for both sides. Led by the CEO, the parties adopted an appreciative approach to the discussion, offering improvement actions to help each other achieve relational ideals. This was extremely effective.

Type of project

Standalone, one-off project, organisation to organisation.

Key insights

Low or high scores are not always the most important factor. Often what matters is the ability of the process to close a perception gap. When there is evidence of a willingness by either party to close the gap, improvement in the relationship and trust between the parties can be almost instantaneous.

When two leadership teams have an evidence-based discussion about their respective organisations’ perceptions, they can often generate the commitment to act. As one of the CEOs put it: “I want our organisations to have a good relationship. If your team are telling us they only get 90% of what they expect in any area shown on the audit, then I want my team to be moving that to 100%. Every incremental gain must be worth having.”

Impact

The parties agreed to a relational action plan that they would cascade through their organisations. As a result of the intervention, both parties acknowledged that their strategic discussion was more productive and efficient than it otherwise would have been.

30 Jan

Better sales performance

WEB-services4

Client: A sales team.

Licensee: KPMG.

The client organisation was a business going through a significant process of change. In one division a new leadership group had been formed, bringing together disparate sales leadership to increase collaboration and learning from best practice. The group had not gelled well for more than a year and performance was suffering.

The issue

On the face of it everyone in the team stood to gain if they worked together but the necessary collaboration wasn’t happening. The individuals had been extremely autonomous in the past and resented what they perceived as an attempt to impose central control. The individual appointed to lead them assumed he had more respect from them than was actually the case. The behaviours in the team were challenging and unsupportive and could occasionally descend into hostility. The leader of the team felt he was running out of options.

Why was the issue difficult to address?

The team members all disputed the right of the leader to instruct them. Whilst instructing them was not his intent, this damaged all the relationships. The team met regularly but had no face to face communication between meetings. A lot of assumptions were made about what they knew about each other as people, and also about whether they shared common purpose. There was such a degree of dispute between the individuals that the leader of the team was unable to see how he was contributing to the problems.

Type of project

Standalone team intervention – a one-off project involving the use of a Relational Health Audit followed by a facilitated workshop to discuss the results

Key lessons or insights

Deficient scores were observed across all of the drivers, confirming the initial feelings that a poor relationship existed within the group. Particularly low scores were found within the Conduct, Benefit, Skills and Amount sub-drivers. These low scores, except for the Parity driver, had a high consensus, indicating that there was a common recognition of the problem.

Impact

Before the intervention it was clear to an outside observer how dysfunctional the group was. However the members of the group were telling themselves a number of narratives that placed all responsibility on the leader or one or more other members of the group. After the intervention, it was possible for the group to discuss their problems dispassionately. In the end this allowed for a realignment of purpose and this in turn led to a reorganisation and disbanding of the group.