Editor’s note: This is a guest blog by Greg Gibbs, VP of Global Customer Transformation at the Service Council
A Short Story
The VP of Field Operations Support (FOS) was goaled with finding 20% in productivity in his areas of responsibility, consisting of Service Support Operations, the technical call centers (TSC) and Dispatch. His areas, collectively referred to as ‘the Hub” were all a part of the larger Customer Services organization that included Field Services. He was a peer of the Field Services VPs, who shared in overseeing Field Services, consisting of 1900 Field Service Engineers (FSEs) reporting to Regional Service Managers. The Hub and Field Services worked closely together. For example, if there was a parts delivery problem, both organizations had to get involved. If the Preventative Maintenance numbers were below target, the root cause(s) could be in a variety of areas and, again, needed the collaboration of both divisions to really succeed in finding the right fix.
Back to the FOS VP and his 20% goal—in his research of industry best practices, he was convinced that by implementing an automated dispatch system, he could save at least 20% in reduced headcount in Dispatch personnel alone. And FSE productivity improvement could contribute almost as much. As part of the implementation, the remaining Dispatch employees would have to learn a new system, including the use of new formulas for the level of work for FSEs and the FSEs would have to start relying on a mobile scheduling app and would not be able to call Dispatch whenever they wanted.
In addition to these considerations, much upfront work was needed to baseline and document how scheduling overall was being done today, as people in the process had learned to “do their own thing” when it came to dispatch and scheduling.
Somehow people knew that when the VP of Field Ops Support announced they would have the new system up and running in 90 days, that he was “dreaming an impossible dream.” Why 90 days—why not take the time to do it right? (What the rank and file didn’t know is the VP of Field Ops Support had committed to a 90-day to the COO and CFO.)
By the end of the 90-day period, the transition to the new system was still in process. It would take at least another 90 days or more to be able to go fully live. The Field Service VPs were still not fully bought in to the new system and some even thought the implementation might be scrapped mid-stream.
There are probably a number of change success factors the FS Ops VP overlooked, and we can delve into those in another writing. For now, our focus is on one major success element that he missed—identifying and leveraging the fundamental roles of change.
The Essential Roles of Change
- Sponsor – a leader with accountability for the change, who has “consequential influence” over the targets of change. Consequential influence is defined as being able to reward or reprimand in a tangible way—therefore in most cases, this follows the current organizational chart.
- Change Target – an individual expected to do something different in their work to realize the change. This role is really about everyone involved in change—whether an individual contributor or a leader—everyone begins as a change target
- Advocate – anyone in support of the change initiative, willing and able to promote it. The role of Advocate is most effective when a leader or peer with high credibility accepts the role and whose influence is perceived in a positive way
- Change Agent – an individual with specific responsibilities to help drive the change initiative. Change Agents often are referred to as the Subject-Matter Experts (SMEs) of Change—they are well-versed in the mechanics of change as well as the subject matter and organization context.
1. Of the four roles of change, the two that are most important to properly understand and identify are the Sponsor and the Change Targets. Why? Because the success of any change implementation rests on the Targets changing their behavior—permanently. The most essential role to ensure that happens lies with the Sponsor. Sponsors have the leverage over the Targets, and the reality is, that behavior doesn’t change without either a carrot or a stick, or both. That’s where Sponsors come in.
2. The primary function of each change role is not arbitrary. The role can and will evolve over time, but at any fixed point in time, the primary roles are fixed. For example, everyone begins as a change target. Executives will have to do things differently as well as individual contributors, but the executive role will in most cases have to grow into either the Advocate or Sponsor role.
Let’s go back to our story to illustrate this point. To effectively implement an automated dispatch system, many target groups will have to buy in and support the change. In this case, the targets reside in two major organizations: Field Service Ops Support and Field Services. What the FOS VP was unaware of was that he had no significant leverage over the FSEs—only his own staff within the “Hub.” Further—he never took the time (nor could he) to properly enlist his fellow VPs of Field Services so that they would be willing and able to be the Co-Sponsors of this change. Again, the reason for this is that the VPs of Field Services are the true sponsors of change within their organizations—they influence their Service Managers, who in turn, influence the FSEs.
So, was the adoption of an automated dispatch system successful Eventually, yes, but it took a lot longer than expected and even today, there are some mixed feelings “behind the scenes” about the new process and technology.
The above short story, based upon a real situation, is not unusual. It is an example of one leader wanting to implement a solution that appears to be of business benefit, but not being aware of the pitfalls of implementing change across multiple divisions and stakeholders, even when the change should be seen as a good thing.
The takeaway is this: by planning thoughtfully and preparing the right stakeholders for their appropriate roles in the change, the likelihood of success is much greater. If you read this and say, “I don’t have that kind of time either”, then just keep in mind that your plans for expected results will ALWAYS take longer than if you had been able to “go slow to go fast.” Successful change is hard work, and if you can’t front-load the work, try to be realistic about what you can commit to and by when.