Categories
Agile customer experience

M&A or Stress Test your existing business – How to bring businesses together to create value

M&A or Stress Test your existing business – How to bring businesses together to create value

A lot of M&A activity tends to focus on legal and financial aspects but equally important are the operational and commercial elements, as they often show where the businesses can add value / improve efficiency and effectiveness by coming together (integrating) as little or as much as you believe will create value.

We have conducted many of these due diligence activities over the last few years (both face to face and virtually) and whilst our approach is generally the same, our expertise, findings and outputs are all bespoke to the situation. I thought it would be useful to show our approach and the benefits. This approach can also be used to stress test an existing business to help build a strategic plan for improvements or identify opportunities for revenue growth. 

What approach do we take?

  • We start with a kick-off meeting to understand more about the companies involved and objectives – this will help us to decide where / what we want to see and who we want to meet. We also agree the approach and messaging to stakeholders to maintain confidence (if required)
  • We request information (which we walk through also) – this will be adapted dependent on the organisation we are looking at – e.g. is it multi-site, how do they serve customers, how many years have they been operating etc. The request can be extensive for businesses with high volumes of customer contact, operational activities or customer interactions
  • We begin our stakeholder process (remote or on site) – conducting interviews with agreed colleagues from executives to operational leaders to ascertain insights into the proposition, the processes, people and organisational design, and the priorities – we do this in order to gain insights into how the business currently operates, the future strategy and plans and evaluate alignment or differences between peers, or colleagues within the organisation. Often the stakeholder process also includes interviews with clients, prospects, lapsed clients and partners too.
  • We attend sites and sit with colleagues to find out more about the organisation – getting a feel for how an organisation uses its buildings and runs its operations is insightful. We know what to look out for! We also use a question framework with front line colleagues and first line team leaders which supports the stakeholder interview process.

How does the approach add value?

It is important to have an experienced team leading any activity.  We use practitioners, (people who have run/led businesses and functions) and bring specialists in where required to use their more specific skills to review and interpret information and suggest improvements. This could involve workforce planning expertise (where there are contact centres to consider) and commercial contracting expertise (to review contracts commercially as opposed to legally). The team have well-honed skills in questioning and interpretation to get to what we need at pace.

Importantly, Custerian bring together what we see, hear and can evidence through data and insights and then align this to objectives / priorities and create actionable outputs. This adds another dimension that supports integration planning that many may not consider.

The other way we add value is by working closely with other partners such as legal and financial. By partners sharing key thoughts and risks / issues identified and agreeing the impact, you can really help to inform any offer made or for stress testing, ensure financial targets are achievable and then measured appropriately.

How quickly can this be done?

We have developed draft reports within a 3 – 4 week period for medium sized companies. This tends to be a requirement of due diligence activity, as often Letters if Intent (LOI) as issued with a 30-day window. For stress testing it is actually also useful to conduct the work at pace and then continue this into action planning whilst the momentum is there to deliver.

What kinds of things are considered in the approach?

We have delivered outputs incorporating views on many things. Here are just a few:

  • Commercial risks & opportunities
  • Efficiency & effectiveness of operations
  • Colleague engagement
  • Organisational design
  • Transformation capability and opportunities
  • Technology risks, issues and opportunities

We would also outline the priorities and roadmaps to improve and create further value and can even offer additional solution design if required to get the process of improvements and value creation moving!

The Top 4 benefits of our involvement summarised:

  • You get to understand more of the ‘how’ the business operates as opposed to what the financials say
  • You obtain valuable insights from your clients, prospects, and lapsed clients and partners about your proposition, processes, people and priorities
  • You gain a wider perspective from colleagues, a feel for the culture of the organisation(s), where challenges may lie, or opportunities exist to create better aligned organisations – that can be used to inform integration or business improvement planning
  • You gain roadmaps and prioritisation plans for improvement that you can pick up and start to work on now, with your own teams or with some ‘kick start’ support – especially for stress testing

It would be great to hear of any other thoughts you have in relation to this activity and if you would like to chat, please do get in touch via – beverley@custerian.com or simon@custerian.com

 

Beverley StagCusterian Outcome Creation Specialist 

Categories
Agile customer experience

Changes Done, Well

Change Done, Well

Changes Done Well Custerian

We all experienced (been involved in, or seen) changes that have worked, but often we have seen change done badly (we tend to remember those well) and those are the ones we tend to remember.

Change is a given, a bit like death and taxes, but now the PACE is unprecedented – it’s like a roller coaster of a life time

I often hear people saying well change is a constant, so we just have to embrace it and get on with it, that is certainly true of the last 7 months, however often we are really just adapting to changes that are happening rather than driving it or embracing it.

This is true often in work life and our personal lives. Most people don’t like change, as they want to do what they have always done, it feels safer and so on …. we have all read the book on the ‘emotions’ that people go through during change.

There are a few personality types that thrive on change, but that doesn’t mean they are all great at getting change done well – you have the idea makers (lots of different ideas (scope creep), the planners and updaters (they love excel, to do lists) and the deliverers (who just want to get on and do it, hate all the talk, let’s just crack on).

Leading Significant Change is not for the faint hearted – as you have to be designer, negotiator, counsellor, planner, coach, auditor, communicator, motivator.

Covid created a ‘Burning platform’ – but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was done well.


Recently through discussions with various business leaders I have heard stories about how at the start of Covid there were significant challenges that had to be overcome, quickly and
that the teams: rallied together; were creative; focussed; resilient and got the tasks in hand done with a huge sense of pride.

From setting up homeworking, getting premises changes made, ramping up resources – for those businesses who have thrived (eg. online, distribution, food).

However, some of this now needs to be reviewed, as part of the future operating model not just a ‘temp fix’ – there are conversations about how inefficient or too costly some of these solutions may have been, or that for some it’s not sustainable.

Digital leaders – this put them on a pedestal – this became the only channel or the ‘promoted channel (not always best for the customer) this had a huge step up in focus. Many digital projects fast tracked and delivered from concept to production in a matter of weeks, some of which had been fighting for attention for months, even years.

So why don’t changes get done? Or done well?

In my personal experience, and our teams experience when working with companies whether that be for kick starting an existing change, or a new change there are many reasons as to why change fails from: cultural; leadership; governance; lack of focus; resources; skillsets; inadequate support, too complex, and many more.

However based on a recent poll that I did: 50% said this was due to inadequate change leadership; 25% due to the Purpose and Outcomes not being clear; 17% poor planning, 8% due to lack of engagement or support.

Adapting something should be simple, and often is, little adaptions feel easier. Changing is much more challenging but not impossible – often we make the change impossible


Change should be delivered with PACE, and this is not about the methodology you are using, which could be agile, prince and other methods. Using PACE framework is at the start, throughout and the end of change – ensuring that you have done this with PACE.

So, I will explain a bit more about this.

Custerian 4 P's approach

Purpose – creating a clear sense of why we are doing something – it’s about creating understand (if we understand it, we will get it quicker) – the reasons as to WHY we need to change. What’s the problem / opportunity? What do you want to achieve (objectives/outcomes), how would you describe once you have achieved it (Vision).

Agility – often mistaken for getting on with something quickly. That isn’t what working with agility is about. That would be like saying right we need to run ….. setting off running before you heard the end of the brief ! You still need a clear purpose, the journey of how you are going to get from A to D (depending on the change, this doesn’t always need a detailed line by line plan), break it down into bite sized chunks of time (so in the next 2-3 weeks we need to), and then having the ability to quickly react, adapt and evolve in response to circumstances – which maybe a business need, the effects of part of the change, or user research.

Contribution – three things are important about contribution.

1. Change Lead/Owner – at the outset it is important to define who is the change owner, some companies are calling this a Product Owner – this is the person who is accountable for making the change happen – they are there to who is going to give support, break down the barriers, galvanise the team. They are the Change Lead and Champion, typically there are less than 10% of people in businesses who can fulfil this role – this isn’t the project manager! Someone with a successful track record of delivering change, well.

2. Getting the Right Contribution at the Right Time, so who needs to be in the team? and when ? SME’s, partners, suppliers, who is the change impacting? What are their persona types – how do we get their input & involvement? Identifying some of this at the discovery sessions, and then ensuring you are reviewing this throughout for the weeks ahead.

3. Governance – where do you need to update or get contributions from the wider
business ?

Empowerment – often leaders and teams make the mistake of saying off you go you are empowered to make this change happen, or even worst just assuming the team knows what they can and can’t do.

It is important at the outset to decide what level of empowerment it warrants ?

a. Tame problem/Minor step change – something you can just let people sort it out

b. Wicked problem / new product – lots of collaboration to master the resolution or delivery

c. Critical – to the survival of the business, product line growth – important that someone take the lead and tells the team what they need to do now, next

and then what level of support do the team, members require…

 

So if you want change done well, remember PACE: Purpose, Agility, Contribution, Empowerment or if you have a struggling change programme or project – in order of priority CPAE ! 

Often an Outside In view can help – to get a fresh set of eyes, a different perspective, not teams who are familiar with your ways of working. 

That is why our clients get in touch with Custerian to work with a clients teams to get the right stuff done, brilliantly !

Categories
Agile agile business align business intelligence customer experience empowerment engage new ways of working operating model proposition thoughts value

Agile – But where are the people?

Agile - But where are the people?

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. 

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. The team at Nimble have provided their thoughts on this at: https://www.nimbleapproach.com/thoughts/tips-for-remote-working. We have also been practicing far more virtually than in the past an have honed our processes accordingly.

We are big advocates of working with Agility, almost as much as we are fans of getting the most done, with the least amount of effort. Creating great outcomes by liberating the people potential contained in all business, within a very commercially orientated framework. So as you might imagine I have a view on this debate.

A view does not mean I think I am right by the way. A view is a way of looking at something… I just thought i’d say that before getting to the meat of this post… which is many of these things sort of miss the point for me.

It’s not the methodology. It’s the people

One of our meme’s is “In this increasingly virtualised world – It’s people that  make (and will continue to do so) the biggest difference”. I introduce this as the Agile Vs Prince – which may or may not encompass Waterfall etc – debate often seems to exist in a process vacuum and therefore misses the things that for me define the very essence of a successful project or not.

Leadership style

 

Before you look at which project method to adopt, consider what the leadership style (which by the way will define the culture – it always flows top down) is. There are two simple camps on this, and this has also been done to death by a lot of people, but you really should consider the following:

– Purpose driven – Is the business driven by a common, widely understood (this is different from agree with by the way) sense of what the business exists to do, that people feel able to contribute to and understand their role in creating value for Customers, Colleagues & other stakeholders. People here come to work because they feel they make a difference. 

– Process driven – Is the business focussed on how things are done, with people having an understanding of what their specific role is and are measured and rewarded on the basis of delivering tasks that they, and the teams they are accountable for, need to get done. People here come to work to move things along.

I don’t really have a strong view on which is better of the above in terms of achieving outcomes, and in effect most business’ don’t present in such a black and white manner. I do however know which I prefer to work in.

What I would absolutely say is one of these requires less management effort (which means cost by the way) and is in my business experience more likely to create sustainable value over time. It does this because it is built on emotional engagement and as I said at the head of this an emotionally engaged team can move mountains. I will leave you to work out which one it is.

Context

In my humble option Context (capital ‘C’ of course – I used to run a Direct Marketing Agency, what can I say – type as you speak!) is more important that talent, insight and process for creating correct outcomes. Again though this has been done to death by a lot of others, which of course may not mean we take heed of it.

But here are two factors that again get missed by many in the which approach wins debate (either, neither, or any combination being the real answer of course). Again I think these should be understood with crystal clarity before you ascribe any approach:

Technology – Put very simply the cost and consequence of any change – which of course will involve technology as almost everything does – has fallen though the floor and is continuing to do so at an accelerated pace. Business used to be quite rightly very risk averse as you were often banking the business future when making service/operating model changes. That is very often not the case today. Interestingly though it is mostly people capability that holds this one back – Legacy Systems = Legacy Mind/Skillset.

Enviromental – When you look at how business is being done today, it is at a crossroads, with the internal ways of working increasingly looking at odds with the widely connected, personalised and increasingly ‘try, keep, dispose’ culture. The important it here is not that people who have been in work for a while need to change. It’s bit about the fundamental shift that new (and not so new) work entrants are bringing with them. For them it’s not a change. It’s how they expect things to be.

Final thought

I remember sitting in a board meeting when I was working in Home Shopping (subsequently re-invented as on-line, then e-commerce and now morphing into Digital first) and presenting about the potential impact of a new retailer called ZARA (yep.. that long ago). We were talking about how the pace of things were changing – Zara had 4 week lead times, ours were 18 months – and that we needed to adapt or die.

So perhaps the question is not what methodology, but do you understand the leadership style and the current context you will be delivering in.

What ever you decide the one thing that is absolutely certain is if you don’t approach change with agility, then there is a high chance you will not adapt in time and the business could die.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too. LinkedIN www.custerian.com