I’m back in a session on large scale structural transformation.
The intervening 45 minutes passed in a blur and I barely had time for a coffee and a toilet break inbetween so many people who I wanted to say hello to. People really seemed to have enjoyed the opening keynote speech, and so did I.
This session focused on the restructuring and redevelopment of Aston Martin, and the speaker started by explaining the problems that Aston Martin has had in recent years. Essentially the business had been in a cycle of boom and bust for many years, and lots about their business model was not conducive to sustainability.
This was their redeveloped strategy. The approach was a holistic one with representatives from all functions, and these function heads still meet weekly to look at strategy and overall business sustainability. This builds on the concept that people are part of the solution, not the problem. They have used all their peoples ideas to help redefine the business.
In this they have asked people questions that I always advocate organisations and leaders ask their staff:
– what are you enjoying at work right now?
– what is pissing you off at work right now?
Aston Martin began working establishing patterns of behaviour to build one team and one way of working, beginning with the top team.
The speaker shared a picture of their top team, which was all male, all white, and thankfully he realised how this looked and highlighted how this had changed recently, but this made me wonder how much of Aston Martins problems were as a result of the composition of that top team?
The next speaker was Stuart Henderson, Group Head of HR and OD at Together Housing Group. This was interesting because a few years ago I applied for this job and he must have got it when I didn’t.
He talked about the challenges faced by five organisations merging at once, and this is a situation I’ve dealt with in the past and he outlined what kinds of things the group needed to do to ensure the transformation worked.
They began with establishing general design principles to drive their new structures. They also spent time ensuring line managers were on board, and that trades unions were fully involved and informed.
Here’s how HR continues to contribute to Together Housing, which is noble and nothing wrong with it BUT I don’t think this is anything startlingly new and many organisations will already be doing this.
One key takeaway from me was about checking whether your leaders have the right skill set. Stuart said that many of your managers will be able to steer a ship. But how many can plot a new course, or build a ship? This is something I think many organisations who struggle with change don’t give enough attention to.
An interesting pair of speakers with some good practical insights into change management and transformation.
But it’s lunchtime now.
Till next time…