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7 February 2012

Case Study: Creating Collaboration

The lightning road

I signed up as a line manager of a team of business analysts and web developers at a large corporation. My role was to manage the team which had three main functions; (1) identify and implement process improvements into call centres an back office processing centres, (2) co-ordinate communications and training around new product roll-outs, and (3) act as SMEs and process analysts for infrastructure and new product development projects.

The team were, when I joined them a classic case of the “No department.” Business analysts and project managers that had to work with them did so only under sufferance. Frontline business unit managers groaned as the technocrats rolled out a new procedure in an increasing complex and difficult environment. Quality assurance officers and frontline workers, often in dispute over what constituted the right way to do work, cheered them as they ironed out all grey areas in all procedures and work instructions.

I realigned the team structure to mirror the client organisation’s structure and changed the role from one oriented to product and process orientation to one of client focused consulting. The team’s new brief was to spend time in the call centres and processing arras and look at operations from their client’s point of view.

Opportunities for improvement were to be assessed on the size of the problem and the potential for improvement- a minor business case analysis. Candidates for process or system improvement were identified from first hand interaction with users and customers, and from data from operations report. They were then prioritised based on evidence. Solutions were implemented in partnership with the operations managers and their teams.

The consultants’ new role was to help local managers discover the most important pain points and help facilitate the solutions, not to impose tinkering on work instructions and create impediments to capitalised projects. Within 12 months stakeholder satisfaction feedback had increased five-fold, clear and measureable benefits worth several millions of dollars had been rolled out and most of the tinkering had ceased.

My role as manager, after changing the system the team operated in, was to coach the team members in consulting, analysis and problem solving skills, but essentially they created their own virtuous improvement cycles by talking among the team and dealing directly with their own set of clients.