MN6003 Strategy Choices and Change

Summative Assessment 4: Individual Strategy Assignment Briefing (40% of module mark)

Introduction

You are required to produce an analytical paper of up to 2,500 words, based on the Ascension plc case study and the 3 questions shown below.

Your paper should demonstrate your ability to apply a range of strategic change models to gain constructive insight about the change process within the technical engineering division (TED).

The 3 questions which you must address:

  • Apply Balogun and Hope Hailey’s Change Kaleidoscope model and Lewin’s Forcefield Analysis to the case and use this to discuss the strategic change context in December 2012, at the start of the change process.

Note: you should discuss what the most challenging aspects of the change context were and what were the most enabling or helpful aspects.

  • Apply Johnson’s Cultural Web model to the case and use this to compare and contrast the culture of TED before the change (2012) and after the change (2014). You must create a table so you can apply the web once for 2012 and once for 2014.

Note: you should discuss the most significant similarities and differences between 2012 and 2014 and how the cultural changes were achieved. In addition, you may use any other relevant academic theory to develop and support your ideas.

  • Critically evaluate the change process that took place at TED during 2013-14 by applying Kotter’s 8 Change Steps model.

Note: you should discuss what seemed to work well or not so well, did the process follow Kotter’s change steps or was there something more they might have done to ensure the success of the change?

Learning Outcomes addressed by Individual Strategic Change Case Study Analysis

The Learning Outcomes addressed by this assessment are:

LO3: Identify the main issues confronting an organisation when developing and implementing strategic change and make recommendations for managing and implementing change effectively

LO4: Demonstrate an understanding of a range of different approaches to the process of strategy development and be able to critically discuss the limitations and relevance of different approaches and practices for a particular context, such as a very fast-changing environment

Points to note about the case study

The 3-page case study is attached with the assignment brief

You must base your analysis on the case study: you are NOT required to do any additional research on the organisation or industry. The assessment criteria, report structure and some suggested reading can be found on the following pages of this briefing.

Use of tables: For each question you must apply one or more change models (as per the questions on the next page). You must create a table or diagram containing each element of the model and populate it with data from the case study using bullet points. The information in tables, diagrams or the end reference section will not be included in the word count. There are marks awarded for “application of key models using relevant data from the case”.

Discussion of table content: It is not enough to just populate the tables. For each model you must also discuss your findings (in full sentences after the table). Do not mention everything in the table. Tell the reader what the most important factors are based on your analysis. You can use the prompt notes in the questions to help e.g. to focus your discussion on the most challenging aspects of the change context for question 1. There are marks for “Discussion of findings demonstrates depth of understanding of the case and the theory and some originality in thinking.” So, if you just have the table and no discussion or discussion but no table then you will lose valuable marks.

Evidence of academic reading: for every question you must demonstrate some academic reading about the model you are using (academic text books or academic journal articles rather than internet sources). However, you should not describe the models in detail e.g. you don’t need to explain what Johnson means by ‘stories’ or ‘symbols’; it will be clear from your analysis that you understand this. However, you should summarise each model in 2 or 3 lines in order to introduce it. You should reference your academic reading using the Harvard system (at least five different academic sources). An example could be to use the core text book and find a quote where the authors explain the purpose of the change kaleidoscope. Books and articles that will help with this are listed on the page 3 of this briefing. There are marks awarded for “evidence of academic reading. At least five different academic sources cited” so you will lose marks if you don’t do this. You must use in-text references (in the main body of your report) and an end reference list. You will lose valuable marks if you simply list five different books at the end of your paper.

Conclusions: Marks are awarded for “evidence of critical reflection on the theory and the case”. The conclusion section (see ‘paper structure’ on next page) provides a good opportunity to reflect on the main points from each of the three questions and to reflect on how well the change was managed and the usefulness of the models e.g. any strengths or limitations.

Indicative Structure for Report

Please note that the front pages of the report should be the Student Self-Assessment and Feedback Coversheet specific to this assignment which has been posted on ICMS.

Each student must complete page one of the Self-Assessment and Feedback Coversheet. The completed form should be uploaded to your Personal Journal on ICMS together with the report which follows on from the Coversheet.

Contents page

1.0 Introduction – briefly introduce the purpose of your report (approx. 100 words)

2.0 Case Study Analysis – 3 sub-sections, one for each of the 3 main questions

(approx. 700 words per question plus diagrams or tables)

3.0 Conclusions – summarise the main points from section 2.0 (approx. 300 words).

4.0 References – there should be at least five different academic references from text books and academic journal articles

Assessment Criteria for Individual Strategic Change Case Study Analysis

Report Presentation: follows recommended structure. Logical and persuasive writing style. Well presented with good grammar and spelling. Harvard referencing style throughout. Submitted on time.

Case Study Answers: all questions answered fully. Application of key models using relevant data from the case. Discussion of findings demonstrates depth of understanding of the case and the theory and some originality in thinking. Evidence of critical reflection on the theory and the case.

Scholarship: evidence of academic reading. At least five different academic sources cited.

How achievement of Assessment Criteria translates into Grade Bandings

Class

Mark %

Comments

Mark Awarded

1st

70 +

Excellent in every way. Knowledgeable, incisively analytical, conceptually sound, widely‑researched and well-structured. Displays a critical and sophisticated understanding of ideas, debates, methodologies and principles. Comprehensively cited and referenced. A degree of flair apparent in the work.

2i

60 - 69

Very good, well-researched, solid. Addresses question. Sensibly structured and well presented. Evidence of analysis, reasoning and evaluation. May have some errors in emphasis but not in fact, and may be limited in terms of supporting material and breadth of coverage. Appropriately cited and referenced.

2ii

50 - 59

Average to good. Reasonable bibliography. Signs of effort, though more descriptive than analytical. May have some errors but balanced by sound work. May not fully address the question with deficiencies in knowledge and understanding or directness and organisation.

3

40 - 49

Pass. Descriptive narrative. May be partly irrelevant. Indiscriminate. Lacks structure. Could be more direct and explicit. Little independent research evident. Short bibliography.

Bare pass. May be confused or irrelevant. Heavily based on lecture notes, but a minimum of understanding to justify a pass. Answers by inference.

Fail

0 - 39

Poor. Does not answer question directly. Little evidence of independent reading or lecture notes. Major errors or too brief. Unstructured.

Very poor indeed. Fails in every respect to answer the question effectively. No evidence of learning, reading or knowledge. Largely irrelevant. Very brief.

Recommended academic sources:

ALL THE MODELS REFERRED TO IN THE QUESTIONS CAN BE FOUND IN:

Johnson, G. Whittington, R. and Scholes, K. Angwin, D. and Regner, P. (2017) Exploring Strategy, Edition 11, Pearson and in session 17, 18 and 19 of the module. We also discussed merger success in session 15. Kotter’s Change Steps is not listed in full in the book so a better source for that is:

Kotter, J. (1995) 'Leading Change: Why Transformation efforts fail' Harvard Business Review, March-April 96 Vol. 73(2) pp.59-67 (available online through the library catalogue)

Some further suggested sources of academic reading include:

Hailey, V. H., & Balogun, J. (2002). Devising Context Sensitive Approaches To Change: The Example of Glaxo Wellcome. Long Range Planning, 35(2), 153-178. (further reading on the change kaleidoscope - available online through the library catalogue)

Balogun, J. , Hope Hailey, V. and Gustafsson, S. (2016) Exploring Strategic Change, 4th edition, Prentice Hall (further reading on the change kaleidoscope)

Johnson, G. (1992). "Managing strategic change— strategy, culture and action." Long Range Planning, 25(1), 28-36. (further reading on the cultural web - available online through the library catalogue)

Johnson, G. (2000). "Strategy through a Cultural Lens." Management Learning, 31(4), 403-426. (further reading on the cultural web - available online through the library catalogue)

Kotter, J. (2012) Leading Change, Harvard Business Review Press (further reading on Kotter’s change steps)

Nguyen,H. and Kleiner, B.H., (2003) The effective management of mergers, Leadership & Organisation Development Journal Volume: 24 Issue; 8 pages 447-454 (referred to in session 16 of the module)

Haspeslagh, P (1999) Managing the mating dance in equal mergers, Financial Times Mastering Strategy, October 25 (from Nexis database – referred to in session 16 of the module)

Strategic Change Case Study

Signalling Change at Ascension plc

This case explores the changes that took place in the transport engineering division (TED) of Ascension plc, a construction and maintenance company, between 2012 and

TED was established as a division of

Ascension in 1994 following the privatisation of the UK railway system. The division handles track and signalling maintenance as well as larger transport engineering construction projects. The largest current project forms part of the London Crossrail development.

Ascension’s main competitors include Balfour Beatty, Babcock International and Carillion plc.

What problems did the company face in 2012?

Ann Hingston, the Finance Director of TED: most of our revenues before 2008 were from track maintenance and repair which produced a steady income stream but little growth, so the

business had started taking on larger projects which, with hindsight, it did not have the systems and processes to manage. As a result, costs rose and the new projects were loss making. In addition the costs were badly monitored. The projects were being managed by a team of project managers and there was a lack of clear ownership and accountability. Managers also struggled to cope with a new information system that Ascension had introduced company-wide in 2010. Despite lots of different change initiatives within TED, by 2012 we were on the brink of financial meltdown. The Ascension board were running out of patience and we were told very clearly that, unless we could turn the division around quickly, it would be sold off or closed.

What was working at TED like in 2012?

Alik Rana, the Commercial Director of TED: in 2012 the situation was actually getting worse not better. The Managing Director at the time decided to close projects that were loss making and not to bid for any new large-scale construction contracts. This had a huge impact on turnover. It was hard to recruit because people had heard that Ascension might sell us off. Staff motivation hit rock bottom and some of our best people left us. They could see that we were not winning new contracts. They could also see a lack of collaboration and camaraderie in the senior management team. Staff talked openly about the company problems and speculated about whether the business had a future or not. There had been lots of change initiatives but they did not achieve very much. The whole service ethos was wrong; we weren’t listening to our customers and we thought we knew better. This attitude was damaging our daily interactions with customers. There was very little knowledge sharing internally between people and very little transparency or trust. Effectively it was a fear culture and project staff avoided giving bad news to the senior team. As a result, bad news tended to come as a surprise and late in the contract. Finally, we lost a major maintenance contract and that was when Ascension plc decided to act. They very publicly terminated our CEO’s contract and brought in Jack Warner as the new Chief Executive in late 2012. Jack had worked in a number of Ascension divisions and had a good track record of managing change.

So how did you assess the situation at TED when you arrived in 2012? Jack Warner, TED CEO from 2012: Ascension was ready to close the division if I failed but they also understood that, if I was to have a chance of turning the business around, then they would need to invest. So there was money available but not a lot of time. I also found very different views within TED about how much change was needed. Some people were in denial and thought that things could just continue. At the other extreme there were people who were certain that the decision had already been taken and the division was going to close and most jobs would be lost. When I talked about change there were people who just thought it had all happened before and never made any difference and others who knew change was vital but just weren’t sure if we could do it quickly enough.

I felt that the core business was reasonably sound. There were issues in terms of project management skills and team-working but technical and engineering capability were all there. The way people were talking about the business was much worse than the reality. So, for me, the real challenge was to turn things around financially, but without losing things that were working. Some change experts tell you to fire the entire senior management team so that you break with the past and people realise there is a need for change. But that wasn’t needed here. There were very good people at all levels but they just weren’t working well together or were not being listened to.

The senior management team were frustrated because they did not trust or support each other, so it was hard to initiate anything new that had any real impact. There were lots of disagreements and very little sense of unity or common direction. At middle management level they were less sure about why change was needed; some blamed the senior management team and others the customers. There was a lack of agreement about what changes were needed and gossip about which jobs might be axed. The attitude of staff to each other and to customers needed to change and that required a significant cultural change on top of the financial challenges.

So how did the change take place in 2013? Jack Warner TED CEO: I began to understand the problems and action required by consulting with key stakeholders e.g. customers, senior management, key middle managers and front line staff. This resulted in a list of key issues which were then discussed and agreed with the senior management team. We called the change programme ‘Future First’ and it kicked off in January 2013. It was a three-year plan consisting of three major phases: phase 1 – six months rapid turnaround, phase 2: 6–18 month return to profitability and then phase 3, long-term growth. Phase 1 was the most significant as this would determine whether Ascension would let us continue or not. We deliberately developed a plan that had manageable chunks. We communicated a clear change strategy to people. Change involves a lot of fire-fighting and can look like disorganised chaos, so it’s helpful to show that you have a specific approach that you use and that it’s worked for you before. I also spoke to everyone face to face to be honest about the problems and what change was needed, and what I needed from them. I needed them to see I was in charge and, as a senior team, we knew what we were doing but I also needed

‘buy-in’. Then we broke each phase down into a set of clear goals that everyone understood and could work towards. We just focussed on 8 things that we felt could make the biggest impact; we gave each of those a named individual and then focussed them on delivering. Once they were completed, we had another 8 but, at any one time, there were just a small number of key goals that were clearly communicated and understood. Once we had our 8 priorities we introduced a short fortnightly review process. For each objective we had a one slide PowerPoint with key dates, a red, amber, green progress indicator and key issues or risks. The owner would provide the one page report and a face to face verbal update every two weeks to a steering group. A business plan was also produced and distributed to employees and customers with the key challenges and priorities.

Early on we had a big setback when a major contract went out for renewal and we lost the business to Carillion. It was one of our largest contracts so we had to do something radical to reduce costs quickly. The size of the TED senior management team was reduced by half and we reorganised the entire management structure down to supervisory level, so everyone’s job role changed. A whole layer of management was removed creating a flatter organisation with more devolved responsibility. We also moved managers out of their private offices and into more open shared spaces. Teams that needed to communicate regularly were physically close. The moves were practical but also symbolic of the shift to a more open and sharing organisation.

Everyone’s job was at risk so we interviewed all the managers and reappointed people we thought would be able to adapt to the changes that were taking place.

One benefit was that our industry has a reputation for tough unions but, given the loss of income from losing the contract, they accepted the cuts, even though it was over 400 people (about a quarter of the workforce). The unions accepted that cuts had taken place at senior level as well as front line staff and that, if we didn’t turn the business around, closure was a very real possibility. The structure of the business was also changed. Some areas that had operated as stand alone business units were actually quite small, so some of these were grouped together and this resulted in further savings through middle management staff cuts.

A major priority was to improve relations with customers. Some of these problems seemed to stem from the previous CEO. People told me he was rather distant and unapproachable. He had his office door permanently closed and officiously guarded by a steely personal assistant. People saw this as symbolic of his general unwillingness to listen to staff or customers. All I really had to do was to open my door and tell the senior team that I would support them in any way they needed in order to better serve our customers. I was also able to help by managing our interactions with Head Office, the group level executive team at Ascension. By dealing with them myself I was freeing up my senior team to fix problems with customers.

The transformation required a widespread attitude change and my belief was that better two-way communication would lead to this. I had to believe that, deep-down, people knew that the business needed to improve and were looking for a way forward, even if they were not sure what the right solution was. Face to face communication matters because people want to see your face and want to ask you questions. Smart memos and company newsletters are just going to be ignored or misunderstood. You need to put the kettle on and sit down with people in their own working environment and talk honestly without using management jargon, so that’s what I did.

In June 2013 we got some good luck for a change. One of our biggest competitors, Park Life, filed for bankruptcy. We did track renewals for roughly half the country and they did the other half.

Network Rail immediately asked if we could take over their track renewals program. It provided about £50 million a year additional turnover,

about the same as the major contract we had lost six months earlier. We wanted to make sure the new contract was profitable so we hired some Park Life people, but not all of them, and we closed two of their depots. The transition went very smoothly which also helped us to build trust and openness with Network Rail, a major customer, and to show we could deliver on our commitments.

It’s July 2014 now, so how are things going?

Jack Warner TED CEO: By the end of 2013, the change programme had been running for a year and the division was receiving top customer ratings and customer feedback is continuing to improve. In eight out of ten categories we are ahead of competitors. We have recently heard that we have been nominated as a Network Rail supplier of the year. Our 2013/14 turnover of over £160 million means we are back in profit. In our business margins are low so we are doing very well. Ascension plc is delighted and the threat of closure is off the table for the moment.

There is certainly less sense of fear of redundancy in the organisation but also less fear of speaking out or challenging senior management. We have an employee led,

‘Ministry of Fun’, which runs social events for all employees and we recently entered a team of 10 for the London Marathon, a mix of everyone from the senior team to the front line. They have raised £7000 for charity so far. We provide resources for them such as a meeting room for events and some funding. We have also agreed a discounted rate with a local gym so it’s not unusual to find me or my team in there. All these things have helped to reduce the sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’ between different parts of the organisation. There is much more sense now of one company and one team. People are proud to work here and they are showing off to their friends about the customer feedback we have received and the money they have raised for charity. 18 months ago all the talk was about closure and who was to blame for poor performance.

We instigated a series of project management training events and there is much better coordination and clear ownership and accountability. There are still challenges though. We couldn’t make changes to the company wide IT system that was introduced in 2010. It seems to work well for some divisions but it’s not tailored to our needs. Project administration is taking longer than it should because so much tinkering is needed to get the system to do what we need it to do, like track performance measures in the format required by Network Rail. But we are back in profit. It is an amazing achievement to turn things around in such a short time frame. Phase 3 of the plan is growth, so we are bidding for new contracts at the moment and looking to expand in 2014/15.