Hay Group: Tips for boosting underperforming teams

11 September 2014 Consultancy.uk

It’s one of the most common issues within organisations – stressed and underperforming teams. For managers, the key question is: how can symptoms of underperforming teams timely be identified and more importantly, how can they effectively be addressed? Sharon Crabtree, Associate Director at Hay Group, walks through three common symptoms and offers suggested cures aimed at re-engaging staff.

Symptom: Your team is unsettled since a restructure has been announced. Rumours of new ways of working are rife. People don’t know what’s expected of them. Sometimes blank faces stare back at you in team meetings. Behaviour varies from 100 questions a minute to dumfounded silence, and sometimes your team simply don’t seem engaged no matter what you do. You get the impression that people are talking and coming to some inaccurate conclusions.

Hay Group - Underperforming Teams

Cure: Create clarity immediately. You need to defuse the situation before it becomes a lethal cocktail. People want to understand about their new roles and how they fit into the bigger picture. The manager needs to take urgent action. They should hold an open team meeting explaining what’s happening and why, warts and all. This should be followed up with individual meetings, one on one with the manager for everyone in the team to air their views and concerns and allow both parties to get clarity on the new roles, perceived difficulties and any other concerns about what people think or feel.

Fundamental to treating this symptom is the creation of clarity. Without this, all other interventions will be superficial. This cure is most effective when people understand the bigger picture and their role/contribution within it. If that detailed role clarity does not exist at the time of announcing the restructure, people just need to understand that as soon as it does it will be shared and that no bad news is being held back.

Symptom: You are working hard to create clarity, however some of your team are clearly demotivated. You notice a variety of behaviours ranging from lack of interest, long lunch breaks, to unhelpful, uncooperative behaviour and silly mistakes are being made causing an unpleasant and unproductive environment. You’re finding it hard to get around your team members and to give them the time, attention and care needed – you have a day job too after all.

Business Team

Cure: Managing this restructure has to be a priority within your day job. A common cause of employee unease during structural change is the lack of clear career progression. You have a job on your hands – as the manager you must define the roles and think flexibly about career paths. Look at the skills and talents of each of your people. Steer them to the roles they will be most suited for. But do this fairly and equitably. Find out from each individual what interests them about the new roles and how they feel they can contribute. Have challenging discussions about how realistically these jobs can be delivered, whether resources need to be moved around and whether additional training and support is needed. Be honest about whether capability can be developed within the team, or if new people will need to come on board. Move people around to meet the organisational needs, but help them to feel connected, valued and motivated – they are vital to getting the job done well.

Symptom: You’ve moved people around. They feel safe knowing what their job is and what good looks like. They can see a future with you. But some members of your team are much busier than others. There is still work to do. Your staff are clear on their roles but are still not operating as a team. Roles are siloed to specific responsibilities.

Cure: Share the load. Once you’ve created an effective structure, you may need to recruit some new roles. Make sure that the key accountabilities are clear and don’t over promise. You now have the opportunity to be flexible in how you allocate work. It’s motivating for people to have a combination of work that needs to be done alongside specific areas of interest – with the important proviso that some work is the sort nobody wants to do! So it needs to be shared out fairly, working towards creating a greater spirit of cooperativeness within the team. Creating this sense of belonging means that people are more likely to see new work as an opportunity to develop their talents, and appreciate the opportunity to work with different people within the team.

Hay Group

Sustainable change

Implementing structural change is hard and stressful work. Don’t forget to celebrate and reward success. Other managers will be suffering from the same stress, and that’s why it’s really important to share your achievements more widely. Talk about what you’ve done and the wins you’ve started to have. This process feels really hard because there is no prescribed formula to dealing with change successfully. However, research shows that regardless of the situation a team is facing – creating a new team, merging with another team, restructuring a team etc – they all require some core conditions for it to function effectively. In simple terms, a manager can’t go wrong if they:

• Create clarity, both in terms of big picture and how individuals fit into this
• Make sure people understand what good looks like and the focus on continuous improvement
• Provide regular feedback and recognition
• Eliminate unnecessary processes and encourage innovation and new ideas
• Help people to feel responsible and accountable for their jobs
• Engender a climate of cooperativeness, pride and trust within the team.

When people enjoy what they’re doing, they will create a more productive environment. And when people are happy, motivated and rewarded – patients will notice too. We’re only human, after all.


How a change toolkit can help consultants deliver transformation

23 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Changefirst is a company that provides a cloud-based transformational change toolkit to consultants and companies. David Miller, Founder of Changefirst, sat with Consultancy.uk to discuss how the toolkit known as ‘Roadmap Pro’ adds value to consultants. 

When David Miller called time on his 15-year career with American Express to found Changefirst in 1995, change management was a different animal altogether. According to Miller, even as recently as five years ago, the business of change was much more manageable. The pace of change was slower and project timescales were longer.

Since then, however, the accelerating pace of change and the widespread impact of digital transformation has completely transformed the role of change management professionals. Those working in change management now face more projects, with diversified end-goals, new ways of working (e.g. agile), and are left with shorter timescales to deliver them. The drastic alteration in the sector prompted the IT and services company based in West Sussex to develop a new SaaS-based toolkit for implementing change more effectively.

An example of this is that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based services in the HR technology space have been steadily increasing in recent years, as companies explore ways in which to reduce costs and access new innovation in the space. SaaS can reduce the cost of ownership, an HR department’s dependence on IT support, improve employee experience, and increase the speed at which value is yielded by change.

How a change toolkit can help consultants deliver transformation

Speaking to Consultancy.uk, Miller explained, “The pressure from digital transformation and the race to reinvent business processes means that the sheer pace and volume of change projects can be overwhelming and chaotic. Organisations needed a whole new way to respond to the challenge – one that is quick and easy to use and supported collaborative working; one that is online and can rapidly scale across the organisation itself. We saw these trends emerging and they were the inspiration for developing the Roadmap Pro tool as a SaaS-based approach to implementing change projects.”

Consulting sector

The SaaS toolkit provided by Changefirst, named Roadmap Pro, has the potential to yield value for consulting industry incumbents, as they are so often drafted in by clients to oversee complex change programs. However, firms might still be skeptical of the need for an external tool to do something that in essence is already part of their core business, and something they theoretically know inside out.

When asked how Changefirst believes it can make inroads into the consulting sector, Miller noted that not all consulting firms have the same level of change management capabilities. Indeed, the toolkit is designed to be tailored to firms, depending on their level of know-how.

“Our solution can help and how consultants choose to use it is likely to differ based on the change management maturity of their firm," Miller explained. "The more capable firms can utilise Roadmap Pro to increase productivity, improve client delivery, consistency and to rapidly on-board new hires and contractors. Less capable firms also might want all these benefits too, but it's highly likely they also want the ability to rapidly increase their client-facing change management capabilities.”

The toolkit is an ‘Out-of-the-Box’ solution, supported by Changefirst’s service offering, which enables clients to deliver higher time-to-value returns compared to other approaches. It is mostly configurable, and the ability to customise it is increasing during 2019, with Changefirst working with new clients to make changes that ensure the software meshes with their clients' implementation methods, while giving them the advantages of the installed content. The system takes the best practice content the firm has built up since it first launched, and makes it available in a state-of-the art, SaaS-based software solution.

“We’ve spent 25 years building our ‘best practice’ model," Miller added. "We have a huge database, that we are able to query, and that tells us a lot about what is happening during change projects. We continuously synthesise that with the lessons we have learned from working with over 300 organisations around the world. This has enabled us to build a methodology which was described by Forrester Research as one of the three most used change management methodologies in the world.”

“We’ve spent 25 years building our ‘best practice’ model... We continuously synthesise that with the lessons we have learned from working with over 300 organisations around the world.”
– David Miller, Changefirst

Roadmap Pro uses this wealth of experience for three key building blocks, which integrate these capabilities: effective online learning; change management diagnostics and analytics; and pre-populated change management planning. It also creates high levels of client engagement, enabling consultants to easily collaborate with clients.


There have been some fears in the consulting sector that the leveraging of technology could risk the cannibalisation of hourly work. However, Miller regards this more as an opportunity than a problem.

He argued, “If you look at all the reporting from the analyst community, it’s becoming clear that clients want more digital support and what is called 'Reusable Assets'. In other words, they want IP that consultants have used left behind so they can continue to use it. Consultants now have a big opportunity to create continuous revenue streams and client ‘stickiness’ by using digital tools on assignments and then letting clients continue to use their tools. These firms will also sell more hours and generate more opportunities by on-selling and supporting clients' use of the tool.”

Indeed, the benefits seem to have already been judged to outweigh the perceived risks. Roadmap Pro was only launched in early 2018, but Changefirst’s partners are already using it to deliver a variety of major projects. These include usage in a major real estate change for a European media company; in the outsourcing global IT services for a Brazilian manufacturing company; for implementing a new global HR business model for a European chemical company; and for implementing industry changing technologies for both infrastructure and for new ways of working in a major transportation organisation.

According to Miller, clients have already presented the toolkit with “tremendous” feedback. The interface and the marriage of content and software have drawn particular praise, but Miller concluded that the bigger picture here is that Roadmap Pro can help the firms looking to challenge the Big Four. Indeed, with many firms looking to leverage technology to increase their competitiveness and digital presence, technology like Roadmap Pro is undoubtedly playing a role in seeing such companies win more of the bids against larger organisations around the world.