Building an agile company: the case of McDonalds

Every business needs to be able to keep up with market changes in the face of widespread upheaval. Maintaining this organisational agility isn’t easy, especially for large companies with an international outlook.

Building an agile company the case of McDonaldsbWhile there are plenty of examples of industries that have been up-ended as a result of new competitors and changing conditions, there are also many that have managed to respond to these changes.

Among these is McDonald’s – one of the world’s largest and most iconic fast food brands that has reinvented itself in recent months by focusing on agility and innovation.

Meeting the challenge of a competitive marketplace

The food sector, and fast food in particular, has traditionally been one of the most competitive industries. The relatively low barriers to entry and large customer base have seen organisations compete on price, convenience and the shortest possible wait between ordering and eating.

While these factors have traditionally underpinned the industry, evolving market conditions and increasing competition from “fast casual” dining experiences that focus on quality have changed the industry.

For companies like McDonald’s, international economic conditions, such as slow spending in Europe, have affected sales while a generational shift away from fast food has decreased the number of young consumers dining beneath those iconic golden arches.

In the case of McDonald’s, the result has been slumping revenue and profits. The company’s revenue has dropped 11 per cent, resulting in a 30 per cent decline in profit, according to a report in Fortune Magazine.

To address this, the company has embarked on a strategy to become leaner. This year alone, the company will close around 700 under-performing stores around the world – double the original predictions. However, this shift is going much deeper than simply closing stores – the company is moving quickly to redefine its dining experience.

Reimagining the consumer experience

To reinvigorate global sales, McDonald’s has unveiled a number of new dining experiences that aim to reconnect with younger patrons, while also creating a higher-quality and more personalised product.

One such innovation has been the introduction of the Create your Taste experience in Australia, giving diners the opportunity to build their own burger from a range of 30 different ingredients. This new way of ordering uses touch-screens in participating stores that patrons can use to customise their meal.

This innovation is currently available in around 30 stores, but will be rolled out to 700 stores over the next nine months – underscoring how quickly this service is being scaled across the business.

While the Create your Taste product has been adopted across a large number of stores in Australia, other innovations have also been launched.

In Sydney, McDonald’s has launched The Corner, a redesigned McCafe that is styled to resemble an independent cafe rather than a chain. The design plays down traditional McDonald’s branding like the golden arches in favour of gourmet, personalised offerings served with metal cutlery and a range of cafe style hot beverages.

While the company has no plans to roll The Corner out nationally or internationally, it highlights the creative directions the company is pursuing in an attempt to reinvent its dining experience. This isn’t the first time Australia has seen the trial of new experiences from the company either – the first ever McCafe opened in Melbourne back in 1993.

Has this shift worked?

Transforming one of the world’s largest fast food services into an agile company that embraces modern trends is no easy undertaking. For McDonald’s, it’s too early to tell whether these organisational shifts will reverse the company’s financial position.

At an organisational level, there are signs this move is being embraced, with the company’s Australian CEO Andrew Gregory stressing these changes are designed to build a more transparent and responsive dining experience.
For other business leaders, the McDonald’s experience underscores how it is possible for even the very largest enterprises to become more agile and innovative. As market conditions continue to challenge organisations, developing, testing and implementing new strategies across multiple branches and departments will be a defining feature of successful companies.

Is your leadership style appropriate for managing change?

Is your leadership style appropriate for managing changeEvery business leader will be familiar with the notion that the corporate world is changing rapidly – faster than at any other time in human history. Faced with this evolving landscape, CEOs now need to think about how they are handling this change to position their company for future growth.

Of course, navigating this landscape also calls for leaders to evaluate their own skill set and determining whether or not they have what it takes to lead a business through a significant change.

Getting the change process right

The pace of change within a company has obviously increased, placing new pressures on organisations to adapt. Rather than simply evolving over time, many businesses are now treating widespread organisational change as an ongoing, permanent process.

While this is certainly the new reality for companies, that doesn’t mean business leaders are responding fast enough. A recent study from McKinsey and Company found that 60 per cent of respondents within businesses have seen an organisational redesign in the last two years, while 85 per cent have experienced one in the last three.

Even though organisational redesigns are occurring regularly, the ability of companies to achieve their outcomes is still muted, with the study suggesting only a quarter of organisational redesigns achieve their stated objectives.

To address this, McKinsey suggested the following nine steps to help navigate this process:

1.    Focus first on the longer-term strategic aspirations
2.    Take time to survey the scene
3.    Be structured about selecting the right blueprint
4.    Go beyond lines and boxes
5.    Be rigorous about drafting in talent
6.    Identify the necessary mind-set shifts – and change those mind-sets
7.    Establish metrics that measure short- and long-term success
8.    Make sure business leaders communicate
9.    Manage the transitional risks

While each of these offers a different angle that companies can use, among the most important steps is step eight – communication from business leaders. Fortunately, this is also the area where CEOs can most directly affect the success of a change strategy.

Managing change from the C-Suite

For leaders that are committed to improving their change management processes, there are a number of steps they can take to begin this process.

Among the most important comes from recognising current limitations imposed by existing workloads and then taking steps to address these so that staff can commit to a major shift in corporate direction.

In fact, research by the Corporate Executive Board found that 88 per cent of workers have seen their workload increase to the point where they are unwilling to put in more work to met organisational objectives.

There are a few other features that can also set a strong change management effort apart from the rest. The Harvard Business Review suggested that staff workloads are just one of four parts of the equation, with the remaining three covering project duration, commitment from senior management and the technical capabilities of the teams involved.

Put simply, companies that embark on short change management strategies, with buy-in from the C-Suite and a highly technical staff who also have the time to commit to a project achieve the strongest results. Those with the opposite qualities on the other hand, proved more likely to fail in the research.

Change management the sign of a strong company

While leading a company through a major organisational change places new pressures on a CEO, there are benefits that come from getting this process right. Business leaders that can actually achieve their stated goals will be able to set their company up for future growth, while standing apart from their competition.

With research from the Project Management Institute last year finding only 18 per cent of companies are successful at leading change initiatives, the opportunities for companies that can make this change will be in a much stronger position long-term.

Are you a successful leader of change?

It’s certainly true that in order to evolve and adapt to an increasingly complex future, businesses have to be constantly changing. Whether it’s implementing new technology, processes and ways of working or seeking new markets to explore, companies need to continuously think about the routes they’ll take.

Of all the major organisational projects that business leaders have to oversee, one of the most challenging can be change management. How do you promote a culture of constant, productive change, while still keeping everyone on board and without jeopardising the harmony of your organisation?

Change management is therefore one of the skills every executive should work on developing, given the massive implications it can have on the very future of the business. As recent research suggests, however, today’s organisations, managers and employees may not be entirely ready to embrace change.

Change still a stumbling block for many

Of course, to enable smooth and effective organisational transformation, a culture of change must be embedded across the enterprise. This involves having the people, strategies and tools required to drive change – but how many companies today can claim to be adequately equipped?

According to an Association for Talent Development survey of 765 professionals, 60 per cent of respondents said their business faces “three or more major changes” every year. Meanwhile, one out of four respondents said they face twice as many changes than that per year.

Despite this obvious need to make change management a top priority, the survey went on to reveal that fewer than one in five (17 per cent) said their organisation is effective at managing change.

Furthermore, less than a third (30 per cent) of respondents reported that their company actually has a change management team in place, while twice that proportion pinned their hopes of successful change on the CEO. With so few organisations having the necessary personnel to lead change, this signals a clear area for improvement for companies across the board.

However, that isn’t the only thing preventing many organisations from successfully enacting change.

What else is holding them back?

As outlined in the Katzenbach Center’s comprehensive 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey, there are myriad factors precluding modern organisations from fully embracing the prospect of change. The survey, which polled well over 2,000 people around the world, canvassed their opinions on the importance of transformation in the organisation, who is leading it and the obstacles that hamper lasting change.

When asked about the top barriers to change, the two most prominent responses were that clashing priorities lead to “change fatigue” and that the systems, processes and incentives in place do not support change.

A large part of the problem may also be behind the attitudes of the employees themselves. The survey revealed that the top three reasons staff resist change are because failed efforts in the past have made them sceptical, they don’t feel involved in the process and they do not understand the reasons behind the change.

All in all, half (48 per cent) of respondents said the critical capabilities required to sustain change are not in place.

Business leaders who can relate to these challenges and feel they are present in their organisation may want to take action immediately, as ineffective change management can have dire effects.

The consequences of poor change management

So what are some of the things that can happen if change is not properly managed in an organisation?

This was explored in Right Management’s ‘Ready, Get Set…Change!’ study, which provided some damning findings on the potential consequences of poor change management. As expected, the majority of the impact falls on employees – according to the study, companies that don’t manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent.

Additionally, of the respondents in the study who said their organisation’s change management is poor, three-quarters (75 per cent) reported being concerned with the company’s ability to attract talent in the future. A third (32 per cent) said they harboured negative feelings about whether they could hold on to their job in 12 months’ time.

As can be seen here, poor change management can have pervasive effects around the organisation, and business leaders need to think seriously about whether they are directing change in the right manner.

What are the best steps forward?

Of course, getting on the right path to change management can be a long process that takes time and effort – but it can help to know where the best places to start are.

McKinsey & Company provides one such perspective. Following extensive global research into the subject, it has come up with a list of what it purports to be the keys to transformation success.

According to the firm, companies that have been successful in transformational change have traditionally demonstrated behaviours such as making roles and responsibilities clear, engaging continuously through ongoing communication and tasking the organisation’s best talent with the most crucial change activities.

Leaders, obviously, have an important part to play too – they should make sure that frontline staff feel ownership for the change and role-model the desired changes.

Change should not be daunting to any organisation – in fact, if managed right, it can turn into a massive step forward for your company. Are you making sure your business is primed for change management success?

Breaking bad: Are you approaching change management the right way?

Maintaining business success is impossible without change.

Whether it’s advancing technologies, shifting market conditions or a stuttering economy, there are many factors that can make or break an organisation in today’s rapidly evolving commercial landscape.

However, many leaders are guilty of a common misstep when approaching a change management project. They fail to identify and eliminate negative behaviours in the workplace.

While senior executives are keen to spread best practices and streamline existing processes, these efforts are often undermined by destructive influences.

An expanding body of research is showing that the first step in any change management project should be to curtail these damaging factors before embarking on organisational improvements.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Effective change management can achieve excellent results, but CEOs may need to dig deep and uproot legacy issues that are contributing to disharmony.

This can be an ugly process, and can even highlight failings at the upper echelons of management. Behaviours such as jealousy, laziness, dishonesty and fear are not only destructive at an individual level, they can spread like wildfire through an organisation.

A recent American Management Association study showed colleagues heavily resent employees who dodge their duties. Furthermore, nearly 70 per cent of respondents claimed this laziness damaged overall performance.

What is more worrying for senior executives is that 44 per cent of respondents said it diminishes engagement in the workplace. Half said it reflected a lack of shared responsibility.

Sandi Edwards, senior vice-president for AMA Enterprise, said: “Employees understandably become resentful when they see co-workers shirking responsibility without accountability – in such a situation, organisational morale and, ultimately, performance cannot help suffering.

“A culture that tolerates ‘passing the buck’ alienates those employees who give everything to their job on a daily basis. A few shirkers can snowball until the dominant culture becomes one of risk and responsibility aversion.”

These types of working environment spell bad news for any business implementing a change management project.

Ways to stop the rot

Once you have decided to target negative influences, there are several ways of breaking bad habits and promoting a positive atmosphere in the workplace.

This may involve dealing with problem employees, revitalising out-dated processes or re-adjusting unrealistic expectations. Here are three tips for approaching change management the right way.

1. DO sweat the small stuff

Even relatively minor problems can become major headaches if left to fester, as the “broken windows” theory suggests.

This popular proposition put forward by criminologist George Kelling and political scientist James Wilson in 1982 suggested that in neighbourhoods where a single window on a building is left unrepaired, other broken windows and structural damage soon follow.

The idea is that even a small unresolved issue indicates a lack of care and attention, eventually leading to widespread apathy and escalating destructive behaviour. The premise has been supported by several studies.

Business leaders should take note. Identifying small, yet persistent problems within your organisation can drastically improve productivity, boost morale and keep workers engaged and motivated for change.

2. Separate bad apples

Every company has bad apples and if your business is big enough there could be several. As a CEO or director, the temptation may be to leave the task of dealing with disruptive employees to line managers or department heads.

However, what if the problem is company-wide or involves the line managers themselves? Coming up with a solution may require a cross-departmental strategy that is outside the scope and responsibility of individual managers.

One approach is to collect all of your bad apples into one or multiple teams and assign them new leaders. There is likely to be a few big personalities involved, so they will need to be headed by strong managers who are up to the challenge.

Channelling their negative energy towards a common goal could have surprisingly beneficial outcomes. Even if a team continues to underperform, the damage will be limited to one area and other employees won’t be affected.

3. Build an effective change management team

Who you assign to a change management team is vital. The leader of this team needs to be high in the organisation to indicate the importance associated with the task.

However, seniority is not the only factor. They must also be well respected and have a good relationship with employees who, ultimately, are the driving force behind effective change management.

Getting popular staff members on side with a change initiative can drastically improve its chance of success. But recognising these employees can be difficult for directors who have little contact with personnel outside of senior management.

CEOs and directors should take the time to do research, improve communication and be objective when building the best change management team.