Why change management will strengthen your business

Recently I stopped by a coffee shop with outdoor seating to enjoy the spring sunshine whilst partaking in a quick caffélatte. To expedite matters, I ordered (and paid) at the counter and was assured they would bring my beverage to me shortly.

As I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, watching some four waitresses taking more orders or staring dubiously at the till – my patience growing increasingly thin by this point – I finally returned to the counter and asked whether my drink was ready yet, and if so, could I take it to the table myself. It was already some fourteen minutes since ordering. And it most certainly was not a rush hour or lunch hour crowd either.

The woman behind the counter looked up at various tickets tacked to the shelf, and declared, “But there are ten orders before yours, we will be with you as soon as possible.”

Had I not already paid my money, I would have left there and then. As it is, I returned to my table, sat down, and five minutes later my tepid drink arrived, delivered by the counter woman no less.

“We are very busy,” was the excuse she offered.

“Really?” I replied. “You also have a full-blown industrial coffee machine there, capable of producing four hot drinks simultaneously, with a single person operating it and instead delivering one drink at a time. Being familiar with such machines myself from my days as a waitress, I know that better efficiencies would have two people working it, producing multiple drinks in a continuous, effortless flow. ‘Busy’ does not come in to the equation. Have you ever been to a bar in Italy?”

The woman smiled and took her leave quickly. It was pretty obvious that she was not the owner, otherwise our conversation might not have fallen on such deaf ears.

So why the story? Simple analogies can work wonders when trying to get a point across. In this case what struck me was an easily rectifiable problem. More individuals in the engine room focusing on the production line, less on the floor unable to deliver promised goods without accompanying excuses. Given that the café only had some twelve (very small) tables in total, including those outside, it is hardly a difficult mathematical equation.

Change management is about analysing what is good about your business as well as what could do with improvement. It is about looking at individuals’ strengths and weaknesses within the company and how to leverage the former and improve the latter. It also brings to the fore how better, more aligned practices within the company itself can promote a clearer message – and thus vision – of where you are going and how you intend to get there.

Most importantly, change management is not just about agreeing a strategy and plan for your business to grow, it is also about helping you implement it with the right people.

Now, if I had not been in such a rush I might have offered to step behind the counter myself at the aforementioned café, and show them how coffee-making is done. Effectively.


When contemplating open heart surgery, would you choose the cheapest surgeon?

Few would argue that service industries fundamentally rely on the quality of their people. Employing second rate people invariably puts a business at risk, allows valuable clients to migrate to the competition and erodes hard won market reputations. Eventually, the ability to recruit top quality people diminishes as fewer people choose to risk a career move to a venue perceived to jeopardise their personal reputation.
Under such circumstances it would be hard to imagine that any business leader would choose to use the cheapest means to attract vital people, especially those whose actions are likely to have a profound impact on top line revenue. Unfortunately, the professional recruitment market isn’t always straightforward. Potential buyers often approach the market with a degree of understandable trepidation. The recruitment market has no  barriers to entry, anyone can instantly establish themselves as a career consultant irrespective to their background or experience. Many so called industry professionals treat a recruitment process as a sales exercises where candidates are commodities to be punted around a market in search of a fee, hopefully to be sold to the highest bidder. It’s no wonder that some companies are bewildered at the prospect of outside recruiters, frequently becoming reluctant to pay a premium for an external service where results may fall short of the desired standard. When faced with such doubt, it’s easy to conclude that commissioning the least expensive and least binding option will be the sound conservative measure. The problem with such arrangements is that a recruiter who is not bound in to the process, or who perceives it to offer no certainty of outcome to them, will often give up – frequently long before they tell you that they have.
So how does a hiring officer avoid second rate results? The first thing to do is to evaluate the cost of getting it wrong. It can take up to half a year to discover that the person you have recruited is wrong for your organisation. Sadly, that half year will never be returned to you, the clocks cannot be reset to zero and the hoped for results and output will be lost forever. Assessing this cost may not seem an obvious thing to contemplate when looking to the future but it’s a perfectly reasonable starting point. Whatever figure you arrive at should be closely borne in mind when deciding how best to hire optimal staff. It is a worthwhile investment. 
If you decide to work with an external recruiter, choose one with an established reputation. Any good recruiter will have a proven track record and should be easily referenced within your vertical peer group. It’s easy to check them out. The best recruiters will frequently have come from your side of the fence and will know your market. They may not be as expert as you, or as current with market thinking, but they will be able to see things from your perspective and they will appreciate the demands of your role. These skills have a value and people with relevant experience and know-how are with finding. As a minimum, they will personally understand just how frustrating it is to have inadequate results from a recruitment process.
Reality dictates that that the best people in a market are unlikely to be reading the jobs pages or have their CV’s lodged with agencies. Anyone wanting to entice and retain the best people invariably has to pay the right price. The need to engage industry top performers demands a committed approach; it is at this point that the best recruiters  in any industry earn their spurs.
At the end of the day, we inevitably get what we pay for. Assigning a crucial task to a questionable performer is rarely wise, to automatically assign it to the lowest bidder, or to a disinterested member of staff  is particularly brave. The pulse of a business is often dependent upon the calibre its people. It generally pays to think twice before committing to the process of finding them.
The sad truth is that an indifferent surgeon can continue to operate long after the patient’s involvement in the process has become terminal.