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Curium Solutions – Simplified Change Management, Birmingham, West Midlands

Andy Street’s first 100 days: the verdict

Curium Solution’s Andy Dawson joins a panel of business leaders discussing Andy Street’s first 100 days as Mayor of the West Midlands.

I recently took part in a round-table discussion looking at Andy’s Street first 100 days in charge as the Mayor of the West Midlands. Chaired by Alex Turner, editor of The Business Desk WM, the discussion proved to be lively and positive.

The panel consisted of prominent local business people including IoD regional chairman Jason Wouhra, CBI regional director Richard Butler and Ninder Johal, who sits on the boards of the West Midlands Growth Company and the Black Country LEP.

This milestone has received a lot of coverage following the high profile given to his 100-day objectives during Andy Street’s campaign. These included 10 clear commitments, examples being:

  • Appoint a leadership team and agree action plans on transport, housing and jobs.
  • Find Mayor’s Mentors for 1,000 young people in need of guidance and help to get into work
  • Bring the Brexit cabinet ministers to the region to meet businesses and the public

There have been a lot of interviews, comment and articles written about whether he has or has not delivered. From my perspective, he’s done a pretty good job.

As I commented at the round-table: “He is effectively a very high-profile start-up with a very high-profile business plan. Everything is constantly changing, so that cultural decision-making process is key. It’s a huge challenge with a not-yet-complete leadership team.”

Like the canny business leader that he was, it is his approach that has impressed me. We help lots of businesses, and when leaders are facing a significant change or transformation there are a few things that they could learn from Andy Street’s approach:

  1. Focus on building your leadership team as they will ultimately be responsible for delivering the plans and setting the cultural heartbeat of the organisation. In appointing Deborah Cadman as CEO and Sean Pearce as Finance Director, he has brought two highly capable and popular individuals, who I’m sure will set the right cultural tone for the WMCA. In this sort of environment, politics and red tape will be a hindrance to getting stuff done. Therefore, having the right culture and leadership will be essential.
  2. Generate momentum. It is critical to demonstrate some momentum behind any change, and once elected he was quick out of the blocks, showing that he could deliver and make things happen. One example was to promote the Mayor’s Mentor scheme early on, quickly reaching the 1000 mentor target. The point here is that he has got some momentum behind his change programme and has progressed every one of his 100-day pledges. As we know in change, momentum needs to be maintained and delivering against high-profile commitments is key to establishing his own credibility across the region.
  3. Over communicate. He is an excellent communicator, using a variety of channels including social media and the press. His campaign contained a clear vision for what he is seeking to achieve. He seems to manage his stakeholders well and like any good leader he is not afraid to use his little black book, which included the Prime Minister and must have helped cajole the Brexit minister to visit the region!
  4. Story-telling. When he tells his story about how the change programme is progressing, he seeks to associate good news stories with everything he is doing. For example, he has quickly aligned himself (rightly) to Coventry’s City of Culture Bid in 2021, Birmingham’s bid for the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and the change of operator on the West Midlands rail franchise. All the decisions would have been in train prior to his arrival but, by aligning himself with these high-profile bids, he is helping to position the WMCA and his role as a key player. I’m not saying that he is taking the glory, merely that he is purposely aligning himself with some high-profile good news stories: never a bad thing in change if done sensitively!

Andy Street only has three years to make a difference. This is not too dissimilar from many business transformation programmes. By establishing the right behaviours early on, you give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding.

As ever, things are never straightforward, as you can see if you read our report, ‘Failure to change: how business transformation can go wrong’.

I’d say so far so good for Mr Street, but all eyes are watching this one!

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