How we helped a global engineering company address a number of serious management and cultural challenges that were vexing them and risked leading to its gradual decline.


The challenge

Halcrow was very used to addressing engineering challenges, but less adept at solving other issues. Clients were demanding greater innovation. Their work-winning process was not effective. There was conflict in their global strategy development process, poor collaboration and communication, and senior management seemed increasingly ineffectual.

How we made a difference


We began by introducing the company to the concept of ‘wicked problems’ (difficult challenges characterised by their ambiguity) and the need to adopt and gain acceptance of a new problem-solving approach. Namely:


Develop people whilst developing the business to enable self-embedding

We got the company to recognize that in a change-resilient and change-capable organization, change is a constant and people learn how to self-embed change. 


Accept everyone has their own path to high performance

We introduced the company to a psychometric called VIEW. It outlines three critical dimensions of people and their preferences for change:


  1. Orientation to Change: Developer or Explorer style

  2. Manner of Processing: External or Internal style

  3. Ways of Deciding: Person or Task style


Using VIEW lead to a more effective understanding of what it would take at Halcrow to embed change.


Build in commitment not compliance using fair process

Everyone needs to be engaged in the process of change and it must be fair.

High levels of engagement produce discretionary effort (anything over and above required effort) which is estimated to account for as much as at 40% of total effort. To build the type of engagement that produces discretionary effort, you need both rational and emotional commitment. 


Research suggests emotional commitment is worth about four times more than rational commitment.


The key to fair process are the three Es (Kim and Mauborgne, 2005)


1. Engagement = asking for input and allowing ideas and assumptions to be challenged.

2. Explanation = everyone should understand the logic and reasoning behind any decisions.

3. Expectation = once a decision is made, leadership clearly states the new rules of the game.


With fair process, the chances of embedding a change rise significantly.


The results


The company used these tools and processes to help address its challenges.

In the work-winning process alone, the win rate went from 1 in 3 to 1 in 2 and was estimated to have saved £15m in bid costs in the first few years.

In summarizing the contribution we made to turning the company around, David, one of the Board Directors said “Challenging me and the company to hear and see what we sometimes didn’t want to deal with was one of the key changes. We became better able to figure out many of the challenges ourselves as we developed our ability to address wicked problems.”

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