Case study: Primary Colours® Leadership Team Impact Monitor

Post-merger development of a new leadership team

About the client

Our client is a leading player in aerospace power systems. The leadership team was engaged in a challenging transition: formed a year earlier by the merger of two complementary technology teams – one a controls manufacturer and the other a software developer – the business was behind schedule in its drive to create a new set of integrated condition monitoring services. These new products had the potential to transform the business of both our client’s parent company, and its own clients, by harnessing ‘big data’ to enable improvements in the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of the highly sophisticated power systems it produces.

What did we find out?

Although a new strategy had been created and communicated, we found that there was limited shared understanding of the purpose and mission for the business, the critical steps required to reach them, or confidence in success. Critical skills were leaching away, specific development projects which had been instigated were running over budget and behind schedule, and doubts were emerging about the ability of the team to deliver the capabilities that customers were so keen to buy.
There were also come challenges associated with integrating a business which had a long and proud history and had, until the merger, been structured as a joint venture between its new parent and another engineering business. Although cultures were in many respects compatible, the different histories and identities of the two groups which had been brought together created the potential for frictions. We focused the purpose of our work on addressing the challenge of aligning strategy and planning, increasing confidence, and supporting integration

What did we do?

Phase 1

We began our work in our usual way: we conducted in-depth developmental assessments of the leadership capability of each member, against the Primary Colours® model. We found a fair range of capabilities, and some examples of individual excellence, but also some clear gaps, especially in creating alignment and team working. The good news was that there was at least one team member who excelled in each of the other leadership tasks. We helped each individual to identify the top priorities for their personal development and an initial development plan.

Our next step was to examine the team’s current impact on those they led. We used our Primary Colours® Leadership Team Impact Monitor, a multi-source feedback tool, which is designed to provide a leadership team with feedback on their performance as a collective, rather than as individuals. The feedback enables the team to learn more about its overall strengths and weaknesses in each domain of the Primary Colours® model and the impact that the team’s overall leadership has upon others. This showed that the team was seen to be doing a good job of defining the strategy and goals, and of driving hard for results but, unsurprisingly, weaknesses were evident in creating alignment and commitment to the strategy, and in team working. The impact on levels of engagement were clear, with scores typically around 10% below our industry benchmark.

When we fed this picture back to the team, they were not surprised by the weaknesses that emerged, but they were shocked by the extent to which they were seen to be falling short of what their people expected of them, and of the impact this was having on the confidence and engagement of the wider business. This provided a spur to action.

Phase 2

Following this review of the report findings, the team came together for an initial two-day alignment workshop, at which they spent most of the first day creating a much clearer statement of the purpose and mission for the business and the team’s strategy for achieving them. They created a gap analysis by assessing the current state relative to their stated ambition, and a force field analysis, describing the helping and hindering factors which would influence their ability to move forward. Information from the individual assessments was shared to expose the strengths and weaknesses of the team’s members and to create a basis for a new approach to working together. Finally, the team explored the effectiveness of its approach to collaboration and identified a set of development goals for the team. At the end of the workshop, each team member committed themselves to refine their personal development plan to align it with the needs of the team, and to take responsibility for one of the team development actions.

Two months later it was apparent that whilst most members were taking action on their own development plans, it was proving more difficult to move the team plan forward. The team had found itself drawn into the challenges of delivering the new products and consolidation of the operations at a new site; perhaps unsurprisingly, they were not giving the necessary attention to changing the team’s way of working.

Phase 3

Several months later, the move to the new site had been largely completed and key milestones achieved on core product development workstreams. Customers were able to see signs of progress and were better able to appreciate the benefits that would become available with the new generation products. We also heard anecdotal evidence of improving confidence among staff in both the strategy and the leadership of the business. However, there were also indications that the leadership team itself had settled into a way of working which appeared somewhat independent and lacking in integration and cohesion: accountability was reported to be driven by the leader rather than members being held to account by the team. This was reflected in a continuing sense that the departments were working in silos and that challenges in coordination and prioritisation across departments and workstreams was slowing progress and inhibiting innovation. One member of the team had been replaced by a newly promoted individual, whose appointment created a better balance of members form the two pre-merger organisations.

At a follow-up team away-day, the team focussed on team roles, culture, and dynamics. After revisiting their assessment reports and discussing team roles, they developed and committed to a new way of working together and undertook to repeat the Leadership Team Impact Monitor after four months of working in the new way. This revealed significant improvements over the picture from the first iteration, with notable shifts in alignment, commitment and team working, and an engagement score in line with our external benchmark

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What was the outcome?

The business has continued to implement its strategy, weathering significant challenges in its markets, not least those occasioned by the pandemic and the associated impacts on air travel. It has successfully launched a suite of new offerings and is now a substantial contributor to its parent company’s growth. The leadership team has been relatively stable in its composition over the intervening years, which has contributed to its maturing into a strong, effective, and committed team leading an engaged, productive, and effective workforce. Its members know that it takes time and continuous effort to build and sustain a high performing leadership team, that the journey is never as straightforward as one might wish, and that the rewards are worth the effort.

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