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Change Case Study (Baker Tily)

This case study was completed in 2001, and is obviously a little old. What makes this very interesting is that we have worked with this client regularly since this initial assignment. We have just completed the first phase of their 2006 strategy review and you can see here what their leader said to his team about the journey to date, and the challenges to come. It shows very clearly the benefits of this approach and the need to keep doing the work!

Client:

Baker Tilly are a top 10 firm of Chartered Accountants with 15 offices nationwide, employing over 1,000 people. The Guildford office is the second largest after the London office in size, with a turnover of approximately £10 million.

Situation:

The office has a very good local reputation, successful, busy, and enjoying very high staff retention. However, it was also the case that the focus of the tax department was more towards technical solutions than on building a profitable business. This meant that issues which were of strategic importance or involved the people side of the business tended to ‘fall between the cracks’

They wanted help in defining and creating a more dynamic, profitable business in which clients, staff and the partners were all winners; ie. better service, better staff morale, even more satisfied clients and more profit.

Approach:

We worked with the partners in the tax department and the office managing partner to define their vision and goals, and a set of measures and criteria to enable them to tell if they were on track. We then involved staff at all levels from partner to the secretaries to see if this delivered for them too. The next step was a workshop that involved the entire team in identifying ways to improve their business. People volunteered to develop these ideas in the areas that were important to them. A series of teams were set up to maintain focus and momentum in these areas.

Results:

The tax partner group is now running the practice as a business team with a clear strategy and a matrix of functional responsibilities as well as their technical roles. The managers have taken much more responsibility for running the day-to-day business freeing the partners to develop the client relationships, to sell and to work at a more strategic level. Morale is up (as measured by the new staff survey). Four separate offices have now co-located. There has been an infusion of ‘new blood’ as people who were unwilling to be part of this new way-of-working found opportunities that suited them better and new recruits were added.

What the Client said :

"There have been significant benefits right from the start of the change process.

Just spending time looking at the way the business ran rather than focussing solely on business delivery has given us all a new lease of life. We now have a clearly defined set of overall objectives that we and the team can all clearly understand

Day to day decisions concerning the operation of the department are made with the overall objectives in mind so that we are all pulling in the same direction. More importantly, we each know the roles we have and there is less duplication of effort leading to greater overall efficiency.

Richard guided us through the process and made sure we were on track at all times. Without him we might have got there eventually but it would have been far more painful and might have taken several years rather than a few months."

Joe Burnie, Head of Tax at Baker Tilly Guilford

"The results of this project have far exceeded our expectations. Richard's mix of people skills and experience of "hands on" change management took us through the process of change step by step, encouraging buy-in and accountability from all involved."

Martin Rodgers, Baker Tilly, Office Managing Partner, Guildford & member of BT's National Management Team

This the Office Managing Partners introduction to his 2006 strategy workshop:-

WHY ARE WE HERE... again?

It is a truism to say that we live in a changing world, but it is very necessary to understand this to recognise that change is unavoidable. If we aren’t leading change and making it happen, then someone else is ‘doing it to us’!

Our competitors are not standing still so we must continue to change or risk not surviving. It is very unlikely that they will just let us retain our existing clients and win new clients without putting up a fight.

The journey from 2002 to today has had many ups and downs. Many small but important changes have been made to the way we work, how we communicate with each other and with our clients. No one changes stands out; I guess the truth is that change is seldom about one or two major changes but usually is all about a myriad of little changes.

What we do know is that since 2002 our profits have increased. This is very good! The opposite would be bad. However, though very pleasing to see increased profits, that alone is not enough for me. What I find even more rewarding is the improvement in teamwork and all round good vibrations in the office. It is not perfect but it is certainly better. One reason I find this rewarding is that I believe long term successful business is all about teamwork and fun and that sometimes things that maximise profits at the expense of teamwork and fun in the short term can be detrimental to longer term success.

Systems and businesses are just like people; like it or not, they grow older and begin to work less well if not cared for.

I think that most of us would agree we all should invest in keeping our bodies fit by spending some time exercising – walking, running or cycling. Sometimes exercise alone is not enough and it is necessary to seek medical help when our bodies go wrong. The combination of self help (exercise) and outside assistance (professional healthcare) keeps us fitter and healthier than if we did nothing at all to look after our bodies.

Similarly, we have to invest time and effort in keeping our business fit and healthy. This may involve actions we can make happen ourselves or it may require the involvement of outside assistance.

The similarities between caring for our bodies and caring for our business go even further:

  1. It is often painful,
  2. It takes up time you would sooner invest elsewhere; and
  3. Generally we would avoid doing it if we could.

No one likes the personal trainer who makes them get up early from a comfy bed and work-out. It is painful even though we know it is ultimately good for us. Similarly, there is a tendency to turn on those who promote change and attack them as the apparent cause of their discomfort. Leading change is no way to win a popularity contest. As John F Kennedy once said:

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future”.

Change is painful. It takes up time, effort and money. I believe it is also unavoidable. We are all the leaders of this business and it is our job to decide where to invest time and effort; what to maintain and what to develop. It is human nature to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. However, as mature humans we can choose to accept less gratification now, in the belief that we will have more tomorrow. As leaders we have to explain to our staff why we have to invest today (by being less comfortable and making necessary changes) in order to benefit tomorrow.

Of course, we all need to understand ‘What Is in it For Us’, before we are prepared to move towards this risky less certain future. No matter how senior, everyone needs to know why they are being asked to change and how it will benefit them.

The job of a Leader in Change is to:

I need your help in all these areas.

A true leader is always gong to be making some people uncomfortable some of the time as people move from their comfort zones in the process of change. Change is how we grow as human beings and this is how we grow our business. Of course, we all want people to like us, but sometimes, as leaders, we have to settle for their respect, because the job of a leader is “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted”.
Office Managing Partner, Baker Tilly Guildford

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