I have been working with staff from an international development organisation to review a new service that they set up a year ago. For them this involved creating a new department, launching a new vision and strategy, and team building within the new entity. There were a number of away-days and launches. Inevitably there were glitches, miscommunications, lacunae. Additionally, the ambitious work plan of creating the new department, with new policies and procedures, has been run over by events. So staff were running around trying to set up something new at the same time as they were responding to business as usual. Everything has taken much longer than anticipated.
The new department comprises people who work in the UK and overseas. Some of these latter were doing a similar job to the one they were doing previously, but were now considered to be in a different department. Some of them are not clear that they have become part of a new department – their everyday reality is much as it was before, although they might be reporting to a different manager. For staff in the UK the changes have been more obvious and more talked about. They are engaged in struggles with the old department from which the new entity has been carved concerning who does what, who takes responsibility.
Members of the new group make observations which seem very familiar to me from previous similar situations. The first is to criticise the senior management team who set this process going in the first place. Why didn’t they plan this properly – why didn’t they foresee some of the difficulties which were going to arise and pre-empt them? The second is to bemoan the lack of clear communication. If only we could communicate clearly, or even design a better system of communication, then some of these problems would not have arisen. The third is to draw attention to the feelings of demoralisation that some people feel: they complain that they have not been sufficiently consulted, or they may have been made anxious by the turbulence of change, or they may have lost out in terms of power and autonomy in the new department. Some people present have been moved out of the new department, and are now only loosely connected to it, and are feeling excluded. Continue reading