Staging a transformation, and trusting the executive team

by David Lancefield Partner, Strategy&


In the sixth podcast in our Transformation Talks series I talk with Dame Moya Greene, DBE, former Chief Executive of Royal Mail, a non-executive director at airline EasyJet and miner Rio Tinto, as well as a trustee of the Tate. We discuss how to approach a complex transformation involving multiple different stakeholders such as unions, government and regulators - and how as a non-executive board member, it pays to recognise the intellectual and emotional “smarts” of your company’s executive team. Listen to the full interview on Soundcloud, iTunes or acast.

It’s not often that one gets to talk with a person who has tackled a large, challenging transformation from start to finish. This is why I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down and learn first-hand from Dame Moya Greene about the way she approached transformation of the Royal Mail. It is a unique institution with a history going back over 500 years. Transformation was therefore an enormous undertaking.

Take a look at the main themes from the discussion below and then have a listen to the podcast.

1. Take the time to find out who locally, regionally or departmentally you will need to help you bring about the change you want.
If you’re a in large, complex organisation you need to recognise that you’ll need a lot of people to help you have very local discussions about the transformation that’s envisaged. That may be a union representative, or the local manager. Sometimes it will be a peer, a coach, who is widely respected. At other times it is going to be an old hand who has seen a lot of change. But the important thing is to be visible and out there, to help you identify who can help.

Moya says: “I think you need to be committed to going out there and listening and trying to sift through all that you are being told to, to find out what is the roadmap that I need to put in place here? What is the staging that I need to do, and that will be acceptable to people? So you do have to immerse yourself, get out there and talk to people.”

2. Be yourself in a negotiation and know when not to be in the room.
There are times you shouldn’t be in the room, and when somebody way better than you, with specific expertise, should be there instead. But whatever room you’re in, if you are there, be yourself and state the facts as clearly as you know them.

Moya says: “Try to tell people: ‘Here is what I am trying to do and try to work toward it and know that there is not just one route, there are always two or three ways to get there’”.

3. Executive teams should know what they’re doing; leave them to get on with it. 
Mostly executive teams don’t need much advice. The truth is, they are - generally speaking - very good. They’re very competent, they run the show and they will likely have the intellectual capital and emotional “smarts” to figure it all out. And every transformation is different.

Moya says: “What you’re doing as a board member if they present [a] plan to you is, you’re just looking to see [if there] is something missing. And with the right executive team, nine times out of ten, there isn’t.”

For the full conversation where Moya Greene tells us about her transformation journey, click here.

If this has been of interest to you then you might like others in the series:

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by David Lancefield Partner, Strategy&


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