Page 4: Managing change
Changing the culture of an organisation requires a great deal of skill. Change management is always most successful when the participants in the change process feel involved.
The key drivers for the change process were the emphasis on getting everyone to see themselves as working as part of a single business unit and to make sure that the focus was on the customer. The training programme assisted by consultancy therefore emphasised the key objective for teams within the unit as being – ‘We want to be indispensable to our customers’.
The change process at Corus has not been easy both on account of the extensive changes taking place in the business environment and because of the sheer scale of the changes required. People used to working in specific product areas and in specific locations now needed to change their mind-set to realise that they were working in a single business unit producing a variety of products to the benefit of the customer. They needed to take shared responsibility for these products, and for the success of the business unit.
Corus has had to develop an extensive process for managing change particularly in its sales force. It had to move from a situation in which there was a hierarchical structure in which many of the sales staff expected to be told what to do. Managing change has involved a process of breaking staff away from the comfort zone of behaving in a certain way, “If you do what you have always done, you get what you always got” to developing new ways of working in which the new account managers have considerable responsibility: to sign off deals and to negotiate contracts for example.
An important aspect of the change was that of relocating employees to Scunthorpe. Previously the sales force had been located across the country e.g. in Motherwell (central Scotland) and Teesside. The new staff needed to be re-trained in new areas so that they could work with new products and new systems. Not everyone was prepared to make the move or to make the change in the way they worked.
Training to fill gaps
Corus therefore had to engage in a drive to fill the gaps by interviewing to fill vacancies. It was then necessary to engage in an extensive training programme so that everyone involved with the new way of working was familiar with new approaches and was familiar with how their new roles differed from previous roles.
Training programmes were implemented in late 1999 and by early 2000 the company began to reap some of the benefits although it will take a long time for the real impact of the change to be felt. The training programmes involved familiarising people with a range of products that were new to them, new markets, and new ways of dealing with people. An account management course was a key component of the training.