Leadership, Context and Change Management

Last week, I sat on a panel conversation on BPM in the Financial Services Industry hosted by CityIQ. Like most of these smaller events, it was a great chance to meet people and learn something new.

One story resonated with me strongly enough to share:

We’ve been talking to our offshore processing center about improving their productivity but all we get back is stonewalling. We ask for data and get slightly different data. Everything we get support the view that they are overworked and under-resourced.

So, we changed tack. The message from the top became that, in these challenging financial times, we are putting a hiring freeze on the business but expected to continue growing so everyone needs to do more with less. The result was surprising. Suddenly, we have lists of ideas from the coal face on how to work faster and deliver better service.

There is an interesting mindset change in the two propositions in this story.

In the first paragraph, the default assumption was that talk of productivity and collecting metrics meant redundancy so the reaction was fear and resistance. People often forget what simple information requests can feel like when they come from someone with more positional authority in the organization.

In the second paragraph, it was put into a broader context and the result was action. Sometimes, leadership is nothing more than providing the context everyone can understand.