Burning Platforms and Buy-In for your Urgent Change Program

Burning Platforms and Buy-In for your Urgent Change Program


Core inflation is eroding margins, future earnings, and P/Es.  

Rising bond-yields are leading to a higher cost of capital and further pressure on P/Es. 

Given these and a multitude of other geopolitical factors, businesses may need to urgently consider Change or Transformation programs to weather a potential and impending big-debt crisis.

In our series of 19 posts and articles in the “Change or Chance” series, we’ve discussed the critical importance of stakeholder buy-in for any Change or Transformation programs, not least “restructuring”.

So, let’s examine at least a few scenarios an organisation may consider in dealing with an “urgent” Change or Restructuring (eg a pandemic, a recession, full-blown depression, or “other”):

Scenario 1

The Burning Platform

The organisation’s senior leadership team (SLT) work with HR and a small team of trusted specialists to formulate a strategic plan that involves site closures and redundancies. 

HR and Legal are tasked handle the redundancy process. 

Employees receive an email from the CEO inviting them to a (one way) “conference call” where it is announced that there will be several site closures and that the company will be consulting employee representatives (unions) and that the substantial cut in headcount is critical to the survival of the company.

Without these measures, the CEO stresses, the company cannot survive more than a few months at the current rate of cash attrition.

The company meets with the employee representatives, tells them that without these cuts, the company will close or lay-off and rehire on new terms and conditions.  The representatives push back, but the alternatives are simply restated. 

Consultation over.

All employees receive an email from HR advising them that they are at risk of redundancy.

Redundancies start on a site-by-site basis.

Scenario 2

An Alternative

The company’s SLT identify the crisis and the likely scale of the organisational restructuring required to survive. 

It formulates a strategic vision of what the restructured company will look like and the urgency of the timescale to achieve it.

It also identifies the opportunities it and its stakeholders can derive as a result – including future workforce expansion and improved corporate performance down the line.

The SLT immediately forms a coalition of employees who are trusted by both the company and their peers, and who come from diverse areas of the business. 

The coalition has a dedicated SLT executive sponsor for whom the program is a primary focus.

This guiding coalition sets about actively recruiting volunteers from all levels around the business who are charged with delivering the path to the strategic vision.

The volunteers organically organise into task groups that are linked to other volunteer groups within the creative network and to the “main” organisation itself.

This “creative network” coordinates with the guiding coalition to work on the strategic vision and the mechanism of any lay-offs, closures and future rehires. 

Employee representatives form an integral part of the network.

The SLT, led by the CEO, meet with as many employees as possible at town halls, webinars and on the shop floor to explain the vision, which has by now an engaging an empowering title behind which stakeholders can rally. 

Individual questions are invited and answered honestly by the SLT and line managers and turned into a company-wide FAQs.  Questions raised on-line are similarly handled.

Town halls and webinars are recorded and made readily available on the company’s intranet and via employee email and company internal social media.

The Executive Sponsor and SLT work with the creative network to ensure that obstacles to successful implementation of the transformation program are removed, and that systems and structures are aligned with the emergent strategic plan.

The creative network (now numbering a significant percentage of the overall workforce) also works to minimise the impact of layoffs by creating initiatives such as re-deployment, co-ordination with companies in the industry to employ leavers, early retirement, and re-skilling. 

A transparent future re-hire plan is put in place.

People who must leave the business are recognised and their contribution to it celebrated.

The SLT and creative network energetically pursue the strategic transformation objective and stakeholders are communicated with on a very regular basis.

The messaging is relevant, meaningful, concise, informative, and honest.  The post-transformation the opportunities are restated.

The momentum of the process is maintained until the strategic vision (revised as strategic change emerges along the way) is fully institutionalised, complete and sustainable, with the benefit of these revisions.

The creative network and guiding coalition participants are refreshed by new intakes at least yearly, to ensure fresh energy, insight, innovation, and to avoid burnout.

The network operates collaboratively alongside organisation’s hierarchy to work-up opportunities, whilst the hierarchy maintains stability and reliability of operations and output.

Scenario 3

You’ve already used the mechanisms of Scenario 2 for potential fire-fighting scenarios, so that if they occur, you have previously engaged your creative network, and have support throughout the organisation for these contingency plans.

If they occur, you already have a guiding coalition, creative network, and processes in place to deal with them per Scenario 2.

The rest of the time they are energetically working on and up organisational opportunities.


Which of these scenarios is likely to result in a more sustainable outcome for stakeholders (remembering that shareholders are also stakeholders)?

I look forward to reading your own view and/or chatting about it in the comments below, via InMail, email or phone.

Kindest regards

Barry Eustance CMgr MCMI

Principal Change Practitioner & Kotter Change Leader Certified




#thesixsessconsultancy #change #transformation #kotter #leadership

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