Case Study: Expansion

Some years ago, I joined General Management Services*, a division of General plc*, a full-services IT company (long gone).  I was happy to be sold out after only twelve days of hanging around the office.  I spent almost two years working full time for my first client.

So, I wasn’t really aware of any dissatisfactions other consultants and colleagues might have had.  Indeed, it turned out that that was a symptom of one of General’s problems.  Having sold me at, I am sure, a decent rate, they just let m do my own thing for as long as the client didn’t complain—which they never did.  I became much more attached to the client organisation, a rather urbane enterprise, than to my employer.  I was visited twice in two years by my line manager who had more pressing problems than me.

And, when that contract was concluded, I was sold out to some other company for another long stint.

The problem was that I had zero commitment to my employer other than that it had found me full time assignments in other people’s businesses.  One day, I received a memo asking those of us who had company cars and whose petrol costs were paid by General to be mindful to buy fuel cheaply.  Needless to say, no-one I knew took a blind bit of notice.

After I had been working for General for some years (almost entirely on client sites), management decided to acknowledge that, yes, there was problem.  So they sent round a staff survey, promising to publish the results in due course.

Of course, the results were never published and many cynics were only too ready to provide an obvious explanation.  To my amazement, I learnt that this explanation was accurate:  trawling the company’s intranet one day for something completely different, I found a report on the survey.  It was devastating.  Clearly it couldn’t be published, so it was suppressed.   The door had simply been shut on a huge problem because that was an easier thing to do.


I don’t think there was any malice in the management, just an unwillingness to be sufficiently interested in the business to see its problems and therefore an inability to do anything about them.  It was short-termist, head-in-the-sand stuff.  One thing that was noticeable was that the business, although 500 strong, was being run as if it were fifty people.  Channels of communication were completely inadequate and rested on assumptions that were no longer relevant.

In short, the business was being run as if it were still in start-up, when actually it was in healthy growth.

What would People are the Key have done?

Ideally, we would have liked to be called in before the survey crystallised people’s dissatisfaction.  Following a thorough evaluation of what the issues were in the business—as opposed to what the board thought the issues were—we would have put in place a staff engagement programme which would have included a survey designed to meet the staff’s needs:  it would empower respondents to define how the business would change.

Work with individuals and small groups at board and senior management level would have focussed on both behavioural and emotional intelligence issues.  Crucially this work would be integrated with the engagement programme (after all, board members and senior managers also need to be motivated and engaged).


* Not real names.  The rest of the story is true.

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    After you work with us…

    We will help you to design and deliver a solution which improves most, or all, of the areas below.

    Your organisation

    • growth in size (clients, staff, services/products, etc)
    • growth in income (if desired)
    • other types of growth, as deemed important to the client
    • financial security.

    The people in the organisation

    • engagement
    • communication
    • teamwork
    • respect
    • well-being
    • productivity
    • insight
    • initiative (being proactive
    • motivation (wanting to be proactive).


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