We needed to convince everybody – our own people, our shareholders, the unions, all stakeholders, in fact – that we were on the right path. We decided to come up with answers for three simple questions:
- Why are we doing it?
- What are the main drivers for this strategy?
- How are we going to do it?
As we communicated with employees, we also carried out surveys to measure engagement across the company. Eventually, the whole organizational structure and operating model coalesced, and we moved from a business area structure to a matrix structure.
3. Provide coaching for your top leaders
Any business transformation is stressful, especially for those at the top. A challenge for us was to get the whole senior leadership group to work together to implement our new growth strategy. At the same time, some key individuals who didn’t believe in what we were trying to do were heading for the door. This put an enormous strain on the executive leadership team; even the Chief Executive was finding it difficult. My suggestion was to have a separate coaching program just for the executive team. We were one of the first companies among the listed companies to take this kind of proactive measure.
I recruited an external executive coach just to work with our executive team. To begin with, there were individual coaching sessions for every person in the executive team – including the Chief Executive – followed up by joint coaching sessions every quarter. It worked thanks to the support we had from the Chair. I am confident the program wouldn’t have been successful without his – and the rest of the board’s – total support. In the end, the program lasted three years. Proof of its success is that finally, in the first quarter of 2014, we had positive financial results for the renewables business for the first time.
Since then, coaching has become part of the DNA of the company, and we have continued to use similar customized programs to help with strategic implementation. We need to keep developing ourselves, our way of working, our leadership, our culture, and the ways we implement strategy. Employees have always been enthusiastic and engaged when we want to try something new, thanks to the maturity of the culture of the executive team.
Change management is difficult; it can be as much of a shock to the leadership team as to the employees. But with coaching and communication, it can be put at the heart of the company.
The three questions that companies going through change need to address