Genius of Liberation

Kate Hughes interviews BiG directors Joe Binnion and Paul Twiney about liberating organisational change.
To thrive in today’s business climate, organisations need to drive change, building on strengths and removing barriers which threaten success. But many change programmes depend on a large number of diverse stakeholders often with misaligned perspectives and staff can feel like they are fighting inertia, abstract barriers, and even company culture as a whole in an exhausting bid to achieve programme success. Not only that, scale, deadline and even fundamental logistics present challenges, whether you’re tapping into local capabilities or building a new proposition across an entire continent.

It is disappointing but perhaps unsurprising then, that 30 years worth of change effectiveness studies tell a fairly grim story. “More than 70% of change programmes either stall prematurely or fail to achieve their intended result,” as Jaap Boonstra, of Sioo, Utrecht and the University of Amsterdam puts it in Dynamics of Organisational Change and Learning.

“Goals are not achieved, policies are not implemented, customers do not experience improvement in service and quality, and employees, supervisory staff, and middle management are confused by all the change efforts.”

“Most organisations have project methodologies, frameworks and templates for managing change, but that change is rarely anywhere near as effective as it should be,” says Paul Twiney, director of BiG. “It’s not good enough and shouldn’t be that way.”

The right fit

In response, external, objective partners are usually drafted in to break down the barriers holding organisations back. But in an increasingly agile world traditional consultancy can sometimes seem discordant, and some fear that underlying consultancy business models prevent acceleration and create incentives to land and expand within client organisations.

When Helen Attenborough, of leading global insurer QBE, embarked on one particularly demanding programme across four countries over just six weeks, she knew a different model was required to deliver the results she needed.

“We were kicking off a multi-country new system development and we were trying to approach that differently to the way IT development has previously been handled in the region,” she says. “We knew we needed a different approach, so based on a recommendation from my CIO, I contacted BiG.”

Think differently

BiG fundamentally believes that the majority of change programmes fail because people aren’t having the right conversations at the right level of detail at the right time.

“Underneath it all, organisations are systems and sub-systems of people. If you can give them the structure, the framework and the permission to work together effectively, you can achieve great things. To do that you’ve got to break through the barriers that stifle collaborative working,” says Joe Binnion, director of BiG.

BiG helps organizations achieve their goals. But plenty of business consultants claim similar things, so what does BiG actually do, and how?

BiG design and deliver transformation events that get people working together effectively. Lasting up to three days and bringing together as many as 150 people, they involve strategic problem-solving and action-planning based on an immersive event design and planning process which takes between three and eight weeks.

Focused around client specific outcomes, forming high performance teams and condensing months of work into days, these events have a profound impact on the business.

Building on this experience BiG also design and facilitate collaborative programmes using a series of these events combined with smaller group sessions to ensure the stakeholders work together effectively through the life of the programme to deliver what the business really needs.

“BiG interventions enable programmes to break down the silos, throw out the politics and remove the limitations of hierarchy. Give people the chance of true collaboration and you can achieve strong, tangible results for the most demanding of change programmes,” adds Paul.

Achieve more

Drawing on decades of experience in leading multi-million dollar change programmes and more than 100 transformation events, BiG knows how to overcome the typical barriers that stand in the way of successful change.

“When it came to our own change programme, BiG was dealing with a variety of different stakeholders, senior management people, skeptical people, those who really wanted to be involved, people who know about IT, those who know about insurance, a whole range,” she says. “For them to be able to bridge that and bring engagement across all those different groups and countries at the same time is a real skill. They can only really achieve it because of their depth of knowledge, their experience and the way they can adapt to these situations.”

“Bringing a new way of thinking about change is about considering all factors,” says Joe. “That includes the physical space, process, people, governance, technology, and global connection.”

Facilitating such a shift means going in deep – getting under the skin and pursuing a strategy of co-creation from the start with careful working session preparation, seamless, engaged activity during the working sessions themselves and, ultimately, the delivery of progressive and compounding steps forward in thinking towards an end outcome.

“Acceleration is the word that comes to mind,” Helen adds. “That was probably the biggest thing I noticed – the volume of information and outputs you could achieve because of the way BiG designed the sessions, the parallel processing and getting the right people working on the right tasks.

“Everything was extremely responsive. The level of engagement we achieved across a variety of stakeholders and the volume of work we were able to get done in that space of time was amazing.”

Effects that endure

“We set up this company to make a profound, lasting change to the way our clients operate,” says Paul. “There are lots of dimensions to successful change, and with proven tools and business change experience, we design and facilitate sessions in which programme teams make huge leaps forward.”

“But for me, even greater benefit comes from helping groups of people to recognise and break down barriers which are currently holding them back. That way, we can start to make systemic, profound change which lasts far beyond our interventions.”

“For us, it’s about unleashing the potential of people within organisations and providing the framework and opportunity to bring about the desired business outcome” adds Joe.

Put simply, their clients believe that BiG brings senior capability and big consultancy know-how, but without the overheads, which, they feel, makes BiG a natural partner. In fact, both directors maintain that the scale of the BiG business model lends itself particularly well to the increasing requirements for responsiveness and agility.

Examples include the identification of more than 40 new sales opportunities for one global leader in technology-led solutions, bringing together core solution offerings with specific target client opportunities. Elsewhere, BiG brought together more than 50 global leaders from a wide range of product lines to not only assist the identification of a range of new macro propositions for a market leading data services group, but to fulfil the design and delivery of that facilitation in just three weeks.

“We don’t pretend that BiG is right for every single circumstance,” adds Joe. “But when a programme is kicking off, when traditional approaches are taking things off track, when everything is just moving too slowly, when the challenge is complex and requires the full engagement of many stakeholders, we can deliver better results in accelerated timeframes. That’s the reality of it.”