When Top-Down Change Isn’t Working, Hand the Keys to Frontline Staff A Q&A with the World Bank’s Kyle Peters
“Kyle Peters is a World Bank veteran with 35 years of development experience. Currently, as the senior vice president for operations, he supports the bank’s goals of ending poverty and promoting shared prosperity, globally. His top priorities: delivering the bank’s lending and knowledge program to client countries, driving improvements in the bank’s delivery model, and finding ways for the bank to be more effective in achieving its development goals.”
e faced the need to be more cost-conscious and implemented a new matrix structure, which made it harder for people to collaborate, particularly across sectors.
We figured out that frontline managers manage an average of 30 people, 50% of whom were five to seven time zones away. We are a knowledge organization, but we had spans of control for managers that were equivalent to those of call centers. We also looked at workload analysis, and we found that we didn’t have enough transparency into how we managed workload. A lot of work was concentrated among a small number of task team leaders or project managers. We did an analysis of meetings and found inefficiencies and a lack of attendance discipline.
We had spent years trying to do simplification from the top—I would change something, and people would say “Oh, that’s good,” but when we really implemented the change, we found in many cases either that it didn’t work or that other changes complicated things further and overwhelmed any positive impact.
So I decided, let’s let the staff guide changes from their vantage point. I took a bit of an institutional risk. I got in front of the staff and I said “Okay, I’m going to give you the keys to the car. You know how to drive and you know the rules of the road. You know that we have certain rules and policies that we have to follow. But I’m going to get out of your way and let you just start these experiments. Start changing things, and let’s see what you come up with.”
You have to let each group solve real problems and find the right solutions. But as we continue, we’ll learn to communicate, communicate, communicate about what we’ve learned, and our successes will make other groups less skeptical and more open.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.