Ann Francke: A change has got to come

16 March 2017 -


In her latest column for Professional Manager magazine, CMI’S chief executive focused CMI members on the demands of constant change

Ann Francke

The latest issue of Professional Manager is all about change – why it’s needed and how to manage it. And this focus is more important than ever; it seems that the more prevalent change becomes, the worse we are at it.

Indeed, CMI’s Quality of Working Life study showed an increase in the frequency of organisational change between 2012 and 2015, and yet a marked decrease in managers’ ability to handle it well.

So it’s a source of great pride for me that Professional Manager has interviewed Paul Geddes, CEO of Direct Line. Long ago, I mentored Paul at P&G – even then it was clear how talented he was. We were both involved in executing great change programmes on the P&G Pampers brand.

And many of the lessons we learned then remain valid: a clear vision, and communicating it openly and consistently, even if the news is bad, is absolutely essential to any change programme’s success. Paul has certainly mastered this at Direct Line.

Interestingly, it is exactly this open and honest communication that managers want most from their leaders overall, and yet far too few leaders understand this and involve them in the communications process.

The 5 greatest examples of change management in business history

Shockingly, only 9% of middle managers we recently asked said they were actively involved in the communications process of their leadership. Little wonder the trust of middle managers in their leaders is so low, with only 36% trusting them highly.

But, unsurprisingly, trust is critical to success and growth.

Our recent survey found a direct correlation: where trust was high, business was growing; where trust was low, business was declining.

We at CMI believe middle managers deserve a break. Far too often they are seen as permafrost. But it’s the leaders who have the issue – not the managers.

Read More: Love your middle managers

Excellent operational leadership at every level is key to the success of any corporate change programme, and the behaviours of sharing your thinking and admitting your fallibility are crucial to building trust.

In future, building trust, sharing our thoughts and admitting what we don’t know will be more important than ever.

Our political leaders do not exactly have a surfeit of these qualities – all the more reason for us managers and leaders to assume the mantle.

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