Brexit and Change Management
As has been pointed out several times over the course of Brexit negotiations, ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. However, following on from the announcement that we can expect the transitional agreement between the EU and UK to last for 21 months from Brexit day, in this article, we’ll look at how this affects the landscape occupied by financial services and what it means for change management programmes going forward.
Firstly, the fact that there is now a degree of certainty surrounding the short-term future post-Brexit, will provide financial institutions with a small amount of confidence in that they have a target date in which all changes deemed necessary for Brexit must be implemented. Targets give banks and other institutions a base upon which to build plans and operational goals. However, since the transition period only becomes concrete once all other arrangements are agreed, this provides little in the way of confidence. At best, the date may come shortly before ‘Brexit day’ and at worst, it may never come at all. So, whilst organisations may breathe a small sigh of relief, there is still an unnerving amount of risk surrounding the subject.
We previously pointed out that the UK aimed for a 2-year transition period, whereas the EU was more inclined to a period of 21 months. This could then, be interpreted as a small victory for the EU, one which will leave many of those yearning for a soft Brexit and a lenient approach from the EU wondering whether this will set the tone for future negotiations. From this revelation there will be a large domino effect in terms of the organisational decisions we can expect firms to make. However, MI-GSO | PCUBED has aimed to condense these effects into comprehensible, noteworthy points from a change management perspective and this article will seek to explain them and articulate the reasons why we believe they are so important.
According to our custom 8E change methodology, this initial phase where the landscape is still being negotiated by government would be classed as the ‘identify and define’ stage of the programme. During this phase, a project manager would seek to on-board stakeholders by engaging with them and generating excitement. However, this would likely be one of the most difficult areas of the project, generating several pain points due to the complex nature of the rhetoric surrounding Brexit and the competing views of stakeholders and the wider community. It is also going to be the most important phase as without effective engagement, the programme cannot then progress to the ‘deliver’ stage.
What needs to be done from a bank’s perspective to get to the define stage?
The second point is that 21 months is more than likely an insufficient amount of time in which to successfully deliver and close a change management program of this magnitude. In the previous article, we argued that even 24 months was likely to be insufficient for a change management program of this size. This presents a huge problem for banks and their programme offices who are now facing stricter time periods in an environment where regulatory changes and ‘business as usual’ activities are already consuming vast resources. Without efficient planning and a high level of commitment from senior management, banks seriously risk having inadequate measures in place come 29th March 2019.
We recognise that many institutions will have implemented plans already, firms such as Goldman Sachs have announced that they will generate a larger presence in Frankfurt. However, unless a firm is willing to take on a significant amount of risk and begin change programmes before a full deal is announced, the 21-month period is the only time they have to deliver changes. This is the reason we are seeing the likes of Goldman Sachs having to mitigate risks by moving jobs to Frankfurt before a deal has been announced; they are not willing to wait until the decision has been made for them. At MI-GSO | PCUBED, we expect to see a pattern like this begin to emerge as we approach Brexit day with multiple questions marks over the financial passporting rights of the UK post-Brexit.
This is where we can help. We have designed a custom diagnostical health check to be carried out on the current maturity and effectiveness of Brexit change management projects. We feel it would be particularly important to run a stakeholder assurance assessment, with the output being a stakeholder heatmap. We would then use the map as a springboard to onboard stakeholders and align the motivations of all those involved in the programme.
How can government help?
In an ideal world, the government would provide an exact date by which the deal will be signed, and organisations can transition into the ‘deliver’ phase following any final changes to plans. However, this seems unlikely to happen. So, in the next best scenario, government should seek to agree negotiations as quickly as possible, whilst providing a positive assurance that a deal will be reached before Brexit day, avoiding the possibility of a ‘no-deal’ scenario.
To do this, the government needs to establish a robust communication platform that outlines who will receive correspondence and when, how they will receive them, as well as the methods that will be used. Government must outline this plan soon and stick to it. The material that they distribute must also engage readers; readers mustn’t get bored of seeing the same rhetoric and format, business leaders should be engaged, and the risk of the correspondence being lost in the hundreds of other emails they already receive should be minimised.
How else can MI-GSO | PCUBED help?
We have a variety of change management products that can be tailored to individual circumstances by our highly trained professionals. We offer a ‘Brexit’ Readiness Assessment which evaluates a firm’s capability to implement a change management program with the aim of adapting to Brexit in mind. This assessment makes it easy to identify any areas in need of greater project maturity, which we can assist with.
Secondly, MI-GSO | PCUBED have a custom designed Impact Assessment which specifically identifies the impact that Brexit will have in different areas of your business and the specific pain points of your staff. It will involve reaching out to departments to understand the answer to the question ‘Do we really understand who is impacted by Brexit?’, and how they are impacted, and finally what can be done to help.
Within project management and general business circles, agile and agility is one of the hot-topics currently. Whether talking about the methodology or the sense that businesses must be more responsive to changing markets, we understands better than most the benefits of agile and how firms can get there. With a vast amount of resources available to coach and implement agile practices in businesses, we are capable of transforming any business into a more reactive establishment that can cope with large and fast changes, such as that of Brexit. We believe this is possibly the most valuable of our service lines as not only will it assist businesses in coping with Brexit, but it is a status that once reached, will continue to deliver value and improvements throughout a company.
At MI-GSO | PCUBED we would also advise firms to establish a portfolio office with visibility of the whole business’ Brexit projects and can take decisions on resource allocation depending on which programmes and projects provide the best value; particularly banks who may find that certain areas of regulation are far more cost-effective than others to adhere to.
Other useful strategies we believe that international businesses should consider include a platform on which companies can manage their international travel. Travelling within the EU will potentially come with added admin from now on and will need effective management within a large establishment.
Jack McAuliffe is an APM PFQ and SAFe SA trained Project Analyst working within financial services, most recently within the investment banking sector. Jack has 2 years’ experience manging projects ranging from large scale engineering to IT portfolio management.