I have been with the Barclays Group for more than 35 years, and during this time the business has changed out of all recognition. I have certainly lived in interesting times, during which I've participated in and led all sorts of changes - from completing the first Sources of Profitability study (only 20 years ago!) to reshaping the branch network into 'clusters', and more recently in creating Business Banking as a world-class business from the wreckage of the recession of the early 1990s. Managing change is a key component in the life of any successful manager today, and we all need to get good at it.
In today's business environment, the demands for change are unrelenting.
With competition increasing all the time, our customers are driving the need for Barclays to be faster to market with new or improved products and services at prices that represent good value for money. And we live in a time when the impact of changing regulation and compliance is unprecedented.
A tidal wave of legislation, rules and regulation is heading our way in 2004. The Government is planning a dozen bills that, if they become law, will have a direct impact on the Barclays Group. On top of that, there are European Union directives and major reviews of the Consumer Credit Act and the Financial Services and Markets Act to contend with. All of which adds up to the need to be able to handle multiple change programmes - often across business units - while still delivering on corporate objectives.
There seem to me to be three main elements in managing change successfully: the first is preparing to succeed; the second is delivering the change; the third, realising the benefits.
In preparing to succeed, it is crucial to have clarity on the objectives and to create the plans, the environment and the skills to make successful execution possible. This means establishing a structured framework for delivering change and assessing the risks, as failure to recognise and manage them will have serious implications, which may be both financial and reputational. Change must be kept as simple and focused as possible in order to succeed and derive the greatest possible value.
Within Barclays we have developed a system for managing change through well-defined project management processes. There are always several major change projects running at any one time, so it is important to ensure that these schemes feed into a co-ordinated programme. This enables executive management to assess the risks at group level, ensuring that nothing either falls between the gaps or is duplicated, and to maintain the control over the delivery of the bottom line that is vital in creating shareholder value.
Of all the skills required in managing change, the ability to interpret and manage people is the most critical. At every stage, people skills are at a premium, whether in working to define the project for multiple stakeholders at the outset, in managing highly motivated colleagues engaged in the project work, or in ensuring that the outcome of the completed project will meet the expectations of those who have committed the resources and whose businesses need the change to happen. And it doesn't end there: behavioural change will be essential too.
Identifying the stakeholders is vital: if you can predict stakeholder behaviour, it will help you to develop a management strategy and ensure that they are involved when necessary in the change, and encouraged to become its committed advocates rather than spectators waiting for it to happen to them.
One of the most difficult things to do is to halt a project. It is important not only to set key milestones but to ask searching questions about the progress made. It is not difficult to read the signs that a project is getting out of control - information at progress reports not available, significant staff shortages, milestones missed, and instability in its scope - but failure is harder to accept. The professional change manager must keep track of progress against target and not be afraid to make the difficult decisions in sufficient time to prevent wasteful underperformance.
Once the rapids have been navigated and the project is nearing completion, the endeavour moves into - in my experience - one of its most testing times, when an effective handover from the project to the line executive responsible for implementation and securing the benefit is achieved.
To ensure that the business realises the full benefit of the change, you must sustain the behavioural and process change in business operations and measure performance continually.
Target benefits must be defined and managed, but the most important element is the transfer and acceptance of ownership among the business leaders.
Change management is at the heart of modern business today. It is the lifeblood of the company operating in a competitive environment. As always, success requires determination, professionalism and practice, coupled with a recognition that it is people - the stakeholders - who determine the ultimate outcome.
- CV Chris Lendrum is vice-chairman of Barclays Bank Plc. His responsibilities include overseeing strategy and policy in the area of corporate social responsibility and international governance committees. He is also chairman of Barclays Africa and a director and trustee of the bank's pension fund.