Choose PRINT or SAVE AS.. under your browser's FILE menu if you wish to read this article later.

Please hit the BACK button on your browser to return to website.

_______________________________

Developing the team to lead the merger of two cultures

Case Study of Lloyds TSB merger

Drafted August 1999, submitted to People Management, October 1999

_______________________________

 

 Synopsis

Given the difficulty faced by companies trying to merge their cultures, how would you develop a group of 21 highly experienced directors from 2 different traditions who are to become the leaders in creating one new bank? Sue Kurnaz, Tony Page and John Wilson describe how they addressed this challenge in Lloyds TSB.

Excerpt for contents page

You are asked to prepare the top 21 directors in your organisation for a merger. Each of them manages a chunk of business that is bigger than many major companies. You name it: they have been there and done it. What gives you the right to "develop" them? How do you approach the challenge? Sue Kurnaz, Tony Page and John Wilson describe how they approached this in Lloyds TSB.

About the authors

Sue Kurnaz is Senior Manager, HR Business Strategy & Change, in Lloyds TSB, Tony Page is an independent consultant specialising in the people aspects of change, John Wilson is Senior Consultant, Management Development in Lloyds TSB.

_______________________________

 

Putting substance behind the new identity

When Lloyds Bank and TSB announced their merger four years ago, initially it made little difference to the 38,000 staff and 15 million customers who operate within the branch network, and whilst there were all sorts of upheavals and rationalisations in head office departments, there was little sign of change at street level: both branch networks continued side by side in the High Street with their traditional identities and ways of operating… but this year, on 29th June everything changed.

Perhaps the first indication to people outside the bank was a high profile TV advertising campaign in April featuring The Corrs singing "What can we do to make it happen? What can we do to make it right? What can we do to make you feel good? How can we help you live your life?" The ad displayed a new logo combining the traditional Lloyds green with the TSB blue. On 29th June the signage finally changed outside every branch up and down the country and Lloyds TSB took a major step towards becoming a single integrated branch network.

(3 photos: old L & TSB logos/branches, the new logo/branch)

It is tempting to regard such changes cynically, and criticise a new corporate logo as representing only a superficial attempt to manipulate people: scratch the surface, we all think, and you'll not find much substance underneath. We were given the challenge twelve months ago to work on the substance behind and beneath the new identity, to make a real difference to Lloyds TSB. We were asked to help prepare 21 newly appointed Area Directors in Lloyds TSB to become a team of leaders in charge of creating one integrated branch network from the previously distinct heritages of Lloyds and TSB.

This was for us a complex and multi-layered challenge containing such dilemmas as:

For Sue and John, as internal consultants, being asked to provide this programme was a mark of their personal credibility and the reputation of their parent functions (HR and Management Development) within the bank and a great opportunity to further enhance their profile with senior figures in the bank…but it had a serious downside. This was a tough audience needing to be engaged in fundamental personal change and in moments of pressure it might have turned its power against them. One letter from an Area Director to their boss could have destroyed at a stroke years of hard-won credibility. The alternative of engaging an external consultant carried another risk of enhancing the external's reputation at the expense of the internal consultants and the wider HR function. Creating an effective win-win collaboration between internal and external consultants was therefore essential.

At the outset it was not clear whether and how we would address these challenges. This article describes how the three of us have worked together over the last 12 months with the 21 Area Directors in a unique collaboration which has gone some way towards supporting them in taking up their new role, and aligning them as a team to lead 38,000 people in the branch network in creating one new bank. Our work has played a part, alongside many others in the bank, in providing real substance behind the newly launched identity.

 

How did we get started?

When Tony was first approached to work with Lloyds TSB on this programme in July 1998 he learned that a paper proposing a series of development activities for Area Directors had already received an enthusiastic response from Colin Fisher, the Director of Branch Networks, but that the Area Directors themselves were still in their old roles in Lloyds or TSB and they did not really know what was planned for them.

Perhaps the biggest fear apparent from the outset was that Area Directors would cling to their old ways of thinking and operating thus creating a rigid divide between the two banks, or worse creating a confusion from which might emerge 21 different ways of operating and, in effect, 21 different banks.

The thinking so far was that the Area Director Programme should involve role clarification, development workshops and coaching. Role Clarification had begun by drafting "a day in the life of a new Area Director" with an accompanying job description, but apart from workshop dates being booked into diaries, the other elements were not defined.

Colin Fisher, adopting the role of overall programme sponsor, sent an announcement on 24th August 1998 to the 21 newly selected Area Directors, beginning with the words "Next year is going to challenge us all….". He highlighted the need to maintain network performance in 1999 while launching the new bank and implementing an unprecedented amount of change. He announced a series of development activities for ADs addressing four themes:

  1. Your new role as Lloyds TSB Area Director and how it differs from your present role
  2. The personal challenges that the role presents you with, and the support you need
  3. The information that you need about the organisations we are bringing together
  4. Working together with your new colleagues, setting the tone for our new team.

This announcement provided the back-drop we needed to approach programme stakeholders, to understand their views, pinpoint needs and start to develop a programme with firm backing. We sought initially to set up a Steering Group comprising 3 Area Directors including at least one from each heritage, 2 Network Directors, HR and Management Development, but dates proved difficult and instead the three of us sometimes separately, other times together, conducted a series of 1-1 meetings.

 

What did the key stakeholders want?

Our learning from the 1-1 meetings was rich. Here are some of the views and needs expressed to us.

Area Director 1 "We're more similar than we think, but it's tough to become a team"

Don't overplay the cultural differences: there is lots of underlying similarity, but we all tend to speak about the differences at the extremes. Nevertheless it is not easy for us to collaborate as colleagues. We have the attitude of let me work it out for myself: if I can I will, a deep belief in autonomy. We’re senior people, we’ll do it our own way. Perhaps the more senior we get, the more stubborn and proud. Whatever the centre says, I’ll do what gets results, within ethical limits.

Area Director 2 "We have to be able to empathise with staff realities, fears and concerns"

I'm from a Lloyds background. From 1st January I take over my new area with a mix of Lloyds and TSB people reporting to me. My TSB people will have fears and concerns because I am from Lloyds: we work from different assumptions, not understanding fully where the other is coming from. There are green/blue differences in all our work processes: the green guys don't know how the blue guys FEEL the process, and vice versa. It is vital we each understand this, or we cannot empathise, which means we cannot manage in a way that brings all the people with us.

Area Director 3 "We need these workshops but get them right!"

We are used to meeting regularly but not used to working together...and whatever you do to generate teamworking will be seen by some as a waste of time. There will be a huge amount of bluster. This is about testing people - it's what we do all the time!

I'm beginning to realise that we have not discussed the immensity of the change amongst Area Directors as an issue. We have not really been confronting this. I'm hoping the time in the workshops will be of sufficient quality to shake and challenge us. You need to get the right level of challenge, to shift the sand from under us - expose the rocks, the foundations.

Network Director 1 "It's tough to adapt personally, but easier if we get excited by this"

I have changed personally through this merger. I have stopped doing a lot, which I found difficult. In TSB I was pretty outspoken. I have learned not to be so aggressive. I sometimes wonder have I pulled back too much. Because I do care about the business, I feel frustration and the Area Directors will too.

Area Directors are the key people who influence the network. We need to discuss with ADs how to stop saying "in TSB, or Lloyds we do it this way". We need to talk about the future not the past.

I still remember the flotation of TSB. There was huge hype (remember "the bank that likes to say yes"?). There was one opportunity to really build everything up. To lift and drive. My question here is how best to set the scene and communicate the excitement.

Network Director 2 "This is the biggest change in our entire career with the bank"

Our biggest challenge is to make sure Area Directors see this as CHANGE rather than more of the same. None of us has previously experienced change on this scale before. When we first computerised, or introduced decimalisation, those were major exercises, but they had a narrower focus. We are introducing a new brand, integrating 2 networks, removing the back office… - there are ten major change projects all happening at the same time!

With the Area Directors we are leading implementation of this change. How we lead and communicate determines whether our staff come with us. We can say to our ADs: you have been given one of the most wonderful opportunities to be a leader. Each of you can influence this, stamp your mark on it, if not in policy then certainly in implementation.

Director of Branch Networks "Make sure performance does not suffer!"

The transition to a single brand must managed in a way that performance does not suffer, equipping people to perform in a new company, working as a team to share information. We will have regular monthly meetings of the 21 Area Directors, still keeping a league table culture, operating their areas in broadly the same way, delivering consistency that the customer notices.

HR Director "We need good feedback from the business to HR"

This is a critical piece of work for HR …in fact it is the most important piece of work that is going on in the organisation now. We need to be involved, feeling comfortable, feeling there is a structure to this rather than just a blank sheet of paper. We need good feedback from the business people.

Management Development "Ultimately this depends on deeper learning and personal change"

They do not want to be lectured at, but they want to engage in dialogue that produces learning. In essence the challenge is getting the 21 to see their job as designing a new bank.

Area Directors are very good at finding a task issue to deal with, but less good thinking outside the box or identifying behavioural change issues, making it personal. Ask them "is your current mode of operating going to get you there?". To be robust and enduring this must recognise the need for personal change.

 

What did the programme look like?

Following the various meetings, we had achieved the initial buy-in we needed and we understood how to pitch the objectives of the programme. See box.

Box: Objectives of Area Director Development Programme

To establish Area Directors as leaders in integrating the two branch networks into a single, new bank from 1st July 1999 generating

  • a sense of excitement, realism and confidence
  • an understanding of the wider changes that impact the branch network in 1999
  • shared vision, values and success model for the new Network Management team, (well enough understood to be able to explain to others in their area teams)
  • new ways of working in the new Network Management team encouraging personal achievement, knowledge sharing, joint problem-solving and support (set to continue as modus operandi for monthly meetings)
  • acceptance of the new AD role within in a matrix organisation and commitment to address the personal behavioural challenges
  • a clear and consistent action timetable for the period Jan-July 99 and beyond.

We call the method we used "Role-focused Leadership Development" because we aimed to help Area Directors lead by being clear about their new role, how to deliver the bank's strategy, and how to behave in the new "one bank" culture. Everything covered was to be focused on the new Area Director role, nothing was to be theoretical, generic or unconnected to the role. The programme eventually consisted of the five strands. See box.

Box: Five strands of Role Focused Leadership Development

Role clarification

A draft role description was prepared, including an "AD Story" which aimed to cover an ADs activities during the course of a typical day's work. The story was circulated initially to Network Directors for comment and then used within the initial workshop.

Workshops

Five workshops took place during the period October 98 to February 99, requiring pre-work and representing six days of workshop time together.

Coaching

At the initial workshop, each AD was offered the opportunity of up to six one to one coaching sessions with an external coach( from a firm of coaching specialists called Lane 4), to help them to address the changes they needed to make in leadership style and behaviour.

Leadership Index

At the fourth workshop ADs were introduced to an upward feedback instrument which used the views of direct reports and staff at all levels to assist the Area Director in understanding the impact of their behaviour on climate and business results. Coaching sessions provided an opportunity for the AD to interpret the Index data and introduce changes in their leadership behaviour.

Action learning sets

Following the workshop programme, it was intended for ADs to spread best practice and accelerate learning by coming together in smaller self-organised, geographically convenient groupings. Not centrally organised but left to individual ADs to initiate.

 

This programme was a large and unusual investment for the bank requiring 23 bank directors each to set aside 6 days for workshops with preparation time before each event. On top of this they would be involved in one to one coaching meetings with an external coach , they would measure their progress using the new feedback instrument and later meet together in learning sets to develop new best practice.

The principle behind this was to help the Area Directors to develop themselves, rather than to impose a programme upon them. Workshops and coaching were introduced with the message: "don't say no until you've tried it".

Each workshop used a combination of presentations from visitors, small group activities and large group discussion to develop shared understandings and new practices and to define further development needs. See box.

 

What happened?

The five strands of the programme were considered to be interdependent with the central integrating strands being the workshops and coaching.

Coaching proved popular with all 21 Area Directors and two Network Directors signing up for an initial session. One year later, 16 out of the 23 are still engaged in coaching to understand their new operating environment and to adapt their behaviour accordingly. The Coaching and Leadership Index strands of the programme will be described elsewhere.

The Workshops were also highly successful with participants coming back each time, in spite of some heated debates, frustration, anxiety, pressure and deeply uncomfortable moments. Five days of workshops took place in autumn 1998, before Area Directors took up their new roles on 1st January 1999. A final workshop took place in mid February 1999 with approximately four months to go before the launch of the new brand in branches on 29th June 1999.

The workshops evolved in format and tone during the programme. This evolution represented a journey of discovery during which we adapted our facilitation style from hands-on directive to more hands-off, encouraging the directors to take more and more charge of their own development and supporting them in taking up their new role as leaders.

 

Highlights of the development journey

An exciting journey begins with a destination in mind and contains defining moments en route when people experience satisfaction or confidence, or doubts and concerns, or question the direction and challenge their leaders or guides. Here is a brief account of the defining moments on our journey.

Workshop 1

AD: In 12 months time I want my staff to be saying I have no idea which bank my Area Director started in, and anyway, who cares!

 

Starting the first workshop in a large Solihull conference room in late October 1998, 21 ADs sat spontaneously in groups reflecting their own heritage, with TSB people on one table, and Lloyds people in three groups which roughly tallied with their old regional affiliations. People seemed restrained, perhaps feeling a little trepidation, waiting to see what would happen.

Instead of forcing discussion onto the future agenda, or rubbishing what went before, our first short activity was for celebrating success, learning about the other heritage and letting go of the past. Separate heritage groups each prepared a "timeline" (see box) on which they recorded high points and low points in the history of their own bank. People gathered round the wallcharts to work. There was laughter and an animated buzz of conversation. After each group presented their highs and lows to their new colleagues, there was applause. We were off to a very good start!

Box

 

 Throughout the first workshop the pace was fast and participants were encouraged to mix. There were low points as people worried about the future of the branch network, and about how they were regarded by staff and customers. There was excitement as ADs sensed they could wield a powerful influence within the bank, and frustration as it became clear the new AD role was larger than expected, with a hunger for more detail, concern at the lack of time and more questions than answers.

One bewildered AD came up to us at the end to express frustration with our time management. He felt each session had finished before we had reached any firm conclusions. We had added insult to injury by closing the workshop early to allow participants to beat the motorway rush.

Overall though comments showed the pace and level of participation was about right:

Workshop 2

AD: This is not turning out how I expected. We're under huge time pressure. I don't know what the bank expects.

ND: You said you want to influence the bank - well do you, or do you just want the bank to tell you what to do?

One week later, workshop 2 was uncomfortable. There was serious confusion and frustration which fuelled uncertainty about the new AD role. A mixed message was happening: the presenting team from Business Banking appeared to be saying to ADs "do what we say", but ADs quickly realised that several important decisions had not yet been made, not least about how their results would be measured and performance-related pay calculated! It was less than eight weeks before ADs were due to take up their new role, and in direct contrast to their excitement about influencing the bank during workshop 1, ADs now seemed to be asking for direction from above. A Network Directors challenged them saying "You said you want to influence the bank, well do you, or do you just want the bank to tell you what to do?"

This stormy patch was a sort of turning point. Participants then challenged the appropriateness of the workshop programme and as a result the agenda for the afternoon was abandoned. Whilst to the facilitator this felt very uncomfortable, it symbolised a growing ownership and proactivity by ADs towards the development programme: instead of accepting the programme as we had designed it, they wanted to take charge. The facilitation role had shifted from directive to supportive.

The afternoon's discussion was short but very productive. ADs produced a list of all the activities the AD needed to complete by the end of January 1999 and an agreed format for the ADs monthly meetings from January onwards. Four ADs were nominated to liaise with Business Banking and resolve the problems that had been identified during the morning. They agreed on two volunteers to work with the facilitator to develop the agenda for the following workshop. They agreed on subject of the fourth workshop being "shared vision, values and behaviour".

Workshop 3

AD: I wish you would stop calling us the blue and green groups. We are all one bank now!

Three weeks later, workshop 3 was a great success, reflecting in part the involvement of ADs in developing the agenda. The optimism and confidence of the ADs was rising partly due to the recent appointment of their new Area Management teams. ADs were mixing well during group work and the facilitator was rebuked for continuing to refer to blue and green heritages. The good feeling was slightly diminished in the last 30 minutes when a senior manager arrived to report progress on integration plans to do with office relocations, staffing numbers, computers and timing of monthly results. The ADs sent a stiff message back to integration planning committee about their true requirements! This was perhaps an important sign of the ADs becoming a formidable team, a force to be reckoned with in the bank.

Workshop 4

AD: We are the bank that creates the future - we have a record of anticipating change, embracing it and making it work.

As participants assembled for workshop 4 one December evening in a London hotel bar, there was little remaining evidence of the old heritage divisions: people were mixing informally and easily. Three new factions seemed to be emerging: change leaders, laggards and open-minded/undecided. This was a final opportunity for ADs before taking up their new roles on 1st January 99, to achieve a sense of shared direction, but the ADs had been worried they might waste a day "wordsmithing" broad brush vision statements. Once again the success of the workshop was in part due to involving ADs in developing the agenda. Pre-reading, a series of self-administered questions and a presentation on vision and values in other leading companies helped ADs to prepare.

At the workshop ADs discussed lessons from other companies going through mergers, produced a series of positive but realistic statements about the continuing role of the branch network in the bank of the future, and gave role-played demonstrations of the new, preferred "one bank" behaviours. One AD who from his previous contributions we had placed amongst the "laggards" surprised us when he rehearsed a rousing speech to staff:

We have a record of anticipating change ,embracing it and making it work. History speaks for itself. We merged with C&G. We entered insurance with Abbey Life. We became the biggest bankassurer. We have 15 million customers, one quarter of the UK population.

Current developments are an opportunity. So called threats to our business have existed for 100 years. Once we saw building societies as a threat, later on it was American banks. Today we wonder about new technology, new distribution channels and new competition…but ask yourself how many retailers have not got a High Street presence, and remember that in Europe we are also ahead anticipating opportunities there for us.

Branch based banking is the bedrock of our business. It is where our customers come from. We face competition day in and day out and we win! We have the highest stock market rating of any bank.

In 1999, genuinely we need to work together. Yes there will be change and rationalisation. Remember though that success is our best form of security in a changing world. We have been reducing costs since 1991 with no redundancies and we intend that to be the pattern going forward.

Emboldened by each other, spirits at lunchtime were high. Later the new Leadership Index was introduced as a tool to support ADs in fine-tuning their leadership style. Several ADs said that the coaching sessions were proving useful and they wished these sessions to continue.

By the end of workshop 4, the stated objectives of the AD development programme had been to a large extent accomplished, and without being naïve about challenges ahead, many ADs and the Network Directors seemed pleased with what they had achieved in terms of excitement, realism and teamwork.

Workshop 5

AD1: January was the best month of my life.

AD 2: January was the worst month of my life.

Meeting for Workshop 5 in February 1999 in the same London room as the previous event, the atmosphere could not have been more different. Reality had dawned. This was a stock-taking exercise, six weeks into the new AD role. All 21 ADs had been consulted on the agenda. Their experiences and views appeared at first to be widely divergent. There was frustration, excitement and challenge. They had found amongst their people a much greater store of goodwill towards being one bank than expected and some successful meetings bringing blue and green heritages together had taken place… but ADs felt stressed, reactive and out of control. They were swamped with paper, but they lacked the information they really needed about their January results. There was discomfort about the way the new matrix organisation was working.

The discussion before lunch was heavy and serious, with deep seated doubts being expressed about their role, influence and about the wisdom of following the path towards one bank! Specifically ADs were unhappy about the way in which the bank's annual results had been announced which had fuelled certain staff concerns. They were feeling cost-cutting pressure from above but little real influence on decisions being made. Their first monthly meeting together had been ineffective. They wanted to be involved in a robust and challenging debate, rather than just being passed decisions from on high to implement.

During this discussion the Network Directors had been absent, tied up in another meeting. When they arrived in the afternoon the ADs had prepared what they wanted to say and were keen for a result. They wanted to achieve a short notice change to their monthly meeting which was due to happen the following day. Achieving this change would symbolise in some way their own significance and influence within the bank.

On arrival the Network Directors were briefed by the facilitators on the morning's discussion and took their seats in front of the group. They began by sharing their own experiences and frustrations about the last 6 weeks, many of which echoed the experiences of the ADs. The ensuing discussion with the Network Directors served to uncover the ADs concerns and frustrations about their role and to reassure ADs that their role was implementers-who-influence, not strategy-makers, but not passive order-takers. Nevertheless the group accepted the tough challenge for them implicit in the bank's strategy of continually reducing costs while improving customer service.

Actions were identified to stem the flow of information and to improve the monthly meetings and a request was made in a phone message to Colin Fisher, the Network Directors' boss to change the agenda of the following day's meeting. We closed the meeting not knowing whether the agenda had in fact been changed, but the discussion had taken the heat out of the issue and ADs seemed happy again, reassured of their significance and apparently re-united.

ADs decided that since they were now operational in their new roles, no further development workshops would be needed at the present time.

Looking back over the full workshop process, the first workshop began with ADs sitting more or less in cliques based on heritage groups which each shared past experiences, "in" jokes and a world view different from the other cliques. During the workshop process, the barriers dissolved. ADs met, and worked together in many different combinations, formed new relationships and defined together how to behave in leading the new bank. They achieved a journey together, and are to be applauded for having made a significant transition.

 

What happened behind the scenes?

During this journey there was considerable work going on behind the scenes to manage the involvement of others. The reason the Area Directors were overloaded with information was because they represented an organisational bottleneck. Being at the apex of the branch network, people in the bank such as those revamping branch products and systems, would naturally seek to do so through Area Directors.

When the workshops were announced many head office people wanted to visit, to observe, or to talk with or "at" the ADs or give them information. As facilitators, this gave us the challenge of "crowd control". The point of the workshops was to give ADs a little time and space to discuss, reflect on and understand their new role. We had a tough job to hold the boundaries of our programme, in the face of pressure to compromise from senior bank people, who are not used to outsiders or more junior staff saying no to them. This caused us to reflect on how we set up and maintained the boundaries.

In a sense the programme represented a "possibility space" or "shared reality bubble", that was first conceived at the time of Colin Fisher's agreement to offer the programme. We firmed up the boundaries as the facilitator team held initial 1-1 meetings with Network Directors, Area Directors, HR and Management Development and confirmed the objectives and shape of the programme.

We faced a choice early on over whether to bow to pressure and just say yes to everyone who wanted to come in, or whether we really wanted to hold the boundaries, to deliver a programme that achieved its objectives and made a real difference. We knew that if we compromised the programme's integrity, undermining the intentions and objectives behind the programme, the bubble would burst. On the other hand, positively managing all the people and relationships surrounding the programme would not be easy. See box.

 

How did we do this? We stayed close to our sponsors and worked to maintain the authority of the (virtual) steering group. Before and after the first two workshops Sue, Tony and John as "facilitators" met with the Network Directors, as "sponsors" acting on behalf of Colin Fisher, to review the workshop and plan next steps. Jointly we were "holding the boundaries" with the needs of the Area Director as "customer" in mind and agreeing who should and should not be "let in". From the third workshop onwards, we engaged representatives of the Area Directors directly in these agenda-setting and boundary-holding discussions. All the ADs knew that at least one of their number was involved in setting the agenda, so through that person they were able to influence any decisions.

Clearly we did not get it right all the time: we had insufficient AD input to the second workshop and the outside contributors felt unable to engage effectively with the ADs. Learning from this bad experience we spent more time face to face with any invited visitors to prepare their contributions and build their trust in the facilitators. Prior to the fourth workshop we consulted extensively to make sure we got a difficult session right. Throughout this process we learned ways of saying no to senior bank people perhaps more used to deference, along the lines of "Yes if you wish you can do that… and you do my concern is…a way round this problem is…" .

 

How did we create an effective internal-external collaboration?

Having decided, for reasons mentioned earlier, to work with an external facilitator, it would be easy for the three of us to fall into an ineffective collaboration through which no one gets their needs met and the overall results are inhibited . For example it would be understandable for Sue and John as internal consultants to boost their own profile by making contact with the Network Directors and Area Directors themselves, afterwards briefing Tony as the external facilitator, expecting him to parachute into each workshop and carry it solely through the excellence of his facilitation skills. But external consultants need access to and the trust of sponsors to do their best work. Preventing Tony from building relationships with sponsors and customers prior to the workshops would have made his job more difficult and reduced the overall impact.

The external consultant also makes an adaptation in a successful internal-external collaboration. They give up any heroic, know it all or arrogant tendencies. They seek to work as equal partners with the internals, learn from them, value their knowledge and skills, encourage their voice and contribution, resist dependency. They are honest when they do not know what to do next. They consult and take advice.

Sue and John, feeling sufficient self-confidence, and not being over-concerned with their own profiles were able to keep their focus on the best overall approach. They devoted considerable time to discussions in the facilitator team. We each had our separate roles to perform but we pooled our knowledge, communicated well with each other, responded flexibly to what happened in each workshop and supported each other including those in the admin team to create the biggest possible impact.

An example of getting the internal-external collaboration wrong occurred during the first workshop. An external consultant was asked to run a session that would confront ADs on the need to change. He was given the access prior to the workshop to conduct research with the layer of managers reporting to ADs, but feedback from ADs after the session indicated that the consultant had misjudged his audience, he was not really saying anything new, he came across as patronising, self-promoting and his research was flawed. Perhaps this external needed to build a stronger relationship with the internal consultants through which he would have tapped into their knowledge of ADs, learning that ADs are not uncritically receptive and definitely do not respond well to a person who makes out he has all the answers.

 

What outcomes has the programme produced?

Generic feedback from the external coaches, suggests ADs appear to be handling the transition well. Those who have adopted an attitude of "business as usual" have found it tougher than others, and many have found it tougher than they expected. ADs are all experiencing different degrees of stretch. They are working longer hours with health and life-style issues becoming more important. It is still unclear how much ADs have adjusted their personal management styles away from detailed management of tasks, towards people-centred leadership and coaching and the ADs continue to work with their coaches supported with information from the Leadership Index.

 External Coach:

As in sport, the most needy are the most reluctant and the least needy are the biggest takers. Feb 99

Most ADs felt the programme added value to them in one way or another. They took hold of the reins from the facilitators, made sure they got what they wanted, and they decided when it should end. ADs have started to project a very strong identity inside the bank: they are seen to be thinking and talking in a different way from others, some of whom wonder with a tinge of envy why ADs were allowed this development programme and not them.

Recent comments from ADs include:

I have been on all sorts of courses, but the October workshop began a different process in which I am challenging myself. No one has been through this before you, so it can't be taught. It told us we were to undergo a fundamental change in the way we do things. This meant we had a larger job, so we had to work smarter and delegate more. I admit that I did not really recognise the importance of this at the time.

I know it sounds a bit "woofty toofty" but it was important at the beginning for us to share our feelings and experiences with one another. One of my colleagues said "I've been an AD for x years now. If they expect me to change, they've got another think coming!" and it is true that last October not all ADs had a mind to change. Perhaps they feel differently now. The workshops helped me get benefit from my fellow ADs, the time and opportunity to ask how are you doing this or that. They also did quite a bit for teambuilding and bonding, taking us faster through forming and storming.

Retrospectively, the period of the workshops was extremely valuable. At the time I did not realise how much my life would change. This gave us the catalyst to change things. The soft skills parts were the most valuable. For me the purpose of the workshops was to understand how I needed to behave differently with 15 very senior people reporting to me.

Going through the workshops I was ambivalent about the soft skills bits. I took the attitude "I am who I am, the product of 52 years of walking on this earth. No one is going to try to change my personality". Since then, I am far more open to changing my behaviours, although at the time I did not buy into this. Coaching has helped me see this differently.

There was a good ripple effect going out from AD workshops into our Area Management Teams and into the BD workshops. All my BDs have got a lot from these. I said to them "at the moment you will see this as just taking on a few extra blue branches, but in time you will realise it is much more that that. You will be redefining your role and approach. Nobody can tell you how to do this because nobody has done this before".

The activity in the first workshop was highly memorable. We posted up key events from the past. Whilst going through this I was not sure what we were achieving, walking away from it afterwards it felt very powerful. It was a defining moment. We felt proud. Very powerful: everyone knew we had to move on, but this gave us a sense of this being real, did not put a total seal on the past but made it clear to us all that it was time to move forward. Realising we were different from the other heritage, we also discovered a lot of common ground between us.

The sense of frustration at the second workshop went across both heritages. We all realised there was a real danger of being on other people's agendas. We wanted to come to meetings on our agenda, and for any meeting to be more of a marriage. This did give us a lasting benefit which you noticed in the last workshop. There was a big debate covering why are we on this earth, what's our purpose. The crisis at the second workshop helped to make us ready for this debate.

Generally this programme took place at a very difficult time. It was not a case of one thing changing, but so many things going on at the same time. It was valuable and especially good that this was not prescriptive along the lines of do 10 workshops and that's it. Through adapting to how ADs responded, then stopping the workshops when ADs decided it was time, the ADs learned how they could start to influence their own destiny.

With hindsight I feel even more grateful, the time spent together in workshops has proved significantly more useful as time has passed.

One AD commented that he can now access a cross-heritage network: he can use the phone when he has a question concerning the other heritage and speak to an experienced AD colleague, to find out how best to tackle it. Other than this informal networking, Area Directors do not appear to have set up Action Learning sets. This may be due to the heavy workloads in recent months, but we also suspect there is ambivalence about spending too much time together and a strong sense of competition between ADs engendered by monthly league tables.

Feedback from the sponsors was as follows:

Colin Fisher, Director of Branch Networks and overall programme sponsor

Thank you, the programme delivered all I wanted from it. As anticipated, the ADs are still questioning many issues related to their new job, most of which they must fix themselves.

Network Director 1

The response from the Area Directors has been very positive although, as you would expect from a group of people at this level, one or two felt the workshops did little to aid their development. However what they certainly did achieve was to build a team and at various levels prepare them for their new role.

Network Director 2

The workshops were well received and largely achieved their objectives in assisting the ADs understand the changing nature of their roles and the scale of their personal challenges, allowing some problem-solving and sharing of best practice, and in building a team around the network and area directorate.

Events have moved on apace since the February workshops. Some 200 Branch Directors have been appointed and have attended Branch Director Development Programme modelled on the AD Development Programme. ADs have played an active part in running these sessions. The ripple effect is working its way through the population of 38,000 people in the branch network, and although this round of workshops are over, the efforts to integrate and bring reality to the new brand image continue throughout the bank.

_______________________________

Choose PRINT or SAVE AS.. under your browser's FILE menu if you wish to read this article later.

Please hit the BACK button on your browser to return to website.