UK: British Telecom turns its thoughts to internal communication. (2 of 2)

UK: British Telecom turns its thoughts to internal communication. (2 of 2) - The Project Sovereign guidelines about management layers are clear - a maximum of six layers between the chairman and those below management level. This is not a universal parad

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Project Sovereign guidelines about management layers are clear - a maximum of six layers between the chairman and those below management level. This is not a universal paradigm; in many cases fewer layers are found to be necessary, and in a handful of cases a seventh is added. The process of building the new divisions during the 1990 financial year has given BT time to review critically every aspect of the planned structures and to identify unnecessary and overlapping roles. Already BT is seeing the benefits of fewer layers: fewer blockages in communication, more honesty, more debate, and more responsiveness when action is urgent.

Project Sovereign also helps BT to understand the different needs of its senior professional staff. Historically, managerial and professional people have been part of a common pay and grading structure. Now, through different norms for everyone in its structure design, and through a companywide programme of job assessment, it will be able to recognise the different contributions which each group makes.

BT's use of clear, simple structural rules has allowed no ambiguity about Iain Vallance's intent, but has not removed the pain from the change process. Many of its people were very comfortable in their former posts and found it a personal and professional challenge to face up to the changes. Some - around 5,000 in total - will have left the company by March 1991 through an Early Release Scheme. For others, major change has brought new opportunities and career development.

So much change in such a short time puts a premium on good, honest communication. Understandably, the prime concern for each individual is "What will it mean for me?", and it has been difficult to express the full import of the changes quickly enough and personally enough to satisfy its managers. BT has sought to balance speed with equity of treatment across its very large managerial workforce. I now think that it has struck a fair balance.

What it will have created by April 1991, throughout the company, is a platform fit for the decade ahead; an underpinning organisation which will bring benefit to its customers and provide sharpened, more rewarding jobs for its managers.

Of course, it expects to be held accountable for what it is doing in the most public way of all - by the customers to whom it answers.

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