Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

Changing your organisation – using the science of ‘segmentation’

As the UK election looms, in what looks to be one of the closest elections in many years, I’m drawn to speculating what the new swing vote category is going to be called…we’ve had ‘Worcester Woman’ from Tony Blair and ‘Basildon Man’ from Margaret Thatcher some years ago so what next?

  • ‘Portsmouth Pensioner’? The grey vote appears to be a major battleground
  • ‘Teviot Teenager”? Does the momentum of the Scottish Referendum, engaging with 16-18 year olds generate a new set of energetic and politically active voters?

Seriously though, I’m interested in the application of this science of ‘segmentation’. This is a quantitatively based type of research where demographics, social context, and voting history are tracked to create a reasonably accurate, statistically robust view of where the campaign needs to focus.

It creates some interesting contrasts to the way we think about the employees in corporates where we want to create some change.

In my experience, there is often a convenient myopia at the heart of the leadership of a business going through transformation. It expresses itself in the following manners:

  • ‘I have the authority to delegate and lead, and those who work for me, have an obligation to follow my instructions.’
  • ‘People work here because we pay them well in comparison to other offers in the marketplace. Our competitive position is mostly defined by our compensation package.’
  • ‘We actively manage out the bottom 10% of performers in our business annually. As a result, we maintain a consistently high level of productivity in our organisation.’

In addition, the very idea of segmentation in business is uncomfortable as a concept. It creates the nightmare of customisation for employees where the normal organisational structures no longer apply or are relevant. Much easier to ignore therefore!

Let’s think about some of the potential benefits of this approach:

  • We get beyond the 10% of acolytes / 80% passive / 10% terrorist model where all of our focus is on the acolytes if we’re feeling under pressure in implementation or on the terrorists as an excuse for a failed implementation effort.
  • We create some collective clarity / actual insight into our organisation, such that the motivations for different employee groups are laid bare and can be managed against the required changes.
  • As a consequence, we get a real view of whether what we’re planning to do is feasible. As Greg Hyde has commented before on these pages, the potential damage of blind optimism should not be underestimated.
  • It creates an environment where design and implementation are not perceived as two separate activities, bound by their own quite different measures of success but rather as a single transformation initiative.

It’s rare we can learn something from politics but maybe this is such an occasion!

Categories: Change management, Complex transformation, Forecasting, Functional Leadership, human behaviour, Human Capital, Learning, Politics, psychology, Segmentation

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