Transcription of Employer video case study – Rolls Royce Interim Manager of Global Transformation and Compliance – Racheal Urwin
Interviewer – David Fleetwood-Walker – Lecturer – Coventry University – Post Graduate Strategy Unit
David – My name is David Fleetwood-Walker and I am working with the University of Coventry and we are looking at consultancy and leadership and communications in organisations and you are…?
Rachael – So my name is Rachael Irwin, I am the Transformation and Compliance Lead for Rolls Royce on an interim basis.
David – Ok alright. So I have got a number of questions I want to run through. If I could start with the first. Could you tell us a bit about your organisation and what it does?
Rachael – So we are a fairly well know brand. We aren’t actually the car manufacturer which is obviously a disappointment to everyone that I speak to. What we do is we design, we manufacture and we sell very large engines to a number of different industries, including defence and the civil.
David – So this is the Trent engine I assume.
Rachael – It is. Yes
David – So could you tell us briefly about what the organisation, sorry… how the organisation is structured?
Rachael – Yes, so it is a global organisation of just over 60,000 employees, we are split currently, into an organisational structure which is linked to business, to our core businesses or our business units, so we currently are structured with defence, civil and innovation.
David – OK
Rachael – As our main streams, with a business services function, a large business services function both in-sourced and out-sourced sat underneath and feeding up into those business units. That’s a recent change actually, that only went into or moved into practising in October/November of 2018.
David – OK
Rachael – Where we moved from a regional structure where there was much more interaction and ‘in tact’ teams from a leadership and technical perspective in region, as opposed to aligned to businesses but in order for us to better understand our customers globally and provide consistency and ensure governance, we decided to shift.
David – OK. So can I ask you to tell us about a current and potential future, let me start that one again…? What can you tell us about current and potential future issues, the organisation is facing?
Rachel – I’m sure in the news people will have seen some of the challenges that we have around the Trent 1000 engine and that’s an ongoing technical challenge which is being faced into very strongly actually by our technical and leadership teams. There are a number of more extraneous challenges that I think every business will be experiencing particularly one as large as ours. The core challenges, I would say are going to be embedding that change of structure because it’s still very very new, and there are still a number of processes and behaviours that need to shift in order to, for us to see the positive impact of that every day. The age old war for talent, we are fishing in a very very underpopulated, pool from an engineering perspective, particularly when looking at diversity and inclusion aspects and we are up against some pretty stiff competition. We are a very recognisable brand but because of the size and scale of what we do, the speed at which we can work and the length of projects is much slower and much larger than other organisations, which if you look at employee trends at the moment particularly in the engineering or digital space, isn’t always a direct match between what candidates are looking to do and how long we would want them to be with us for. So finding the right talent and then keeping them for long enough and maximising their potential, I think they are kind of the talent streams, and finally in terms of delivering to our customers it’s not just understanding our customers, which I think our businesses do fantastic job of, the level of interaction, dialogue, understanding is phenomenal, it’s about how do we as a business services organisation ensure that those businesses have what they need in order to deliver to our customer and I would suggest that that’s going to be challenges around our organisational design, our training and also our engagement.
David – Excellent. Thank you. Very interesting. So how are leadership strategies applied and how do they impact on the organisations direction?
Rachael – So leadership strategies are generally speaking communicated down through a fairly dense hierarchy. They do impact on the organisations direction. I think again because of the scale of our operation it can take a long time for change to cascade so it would be unusual, so a) it would be unusual and slightly worrying if we took a complete ‘u’ turn in terms of what our strategies are or how we wanted to deliver, which has not happened yet fortunately, but if we were to do that, I still think that there would be quite a lot of, of… I’m trying to think of the right word, manoeuvring that’s required in order for the understanding of not just what that strategy means day to day but also why that strategy has changed and what else, that could possibly mean in order for it to actually take root.
David – So is there a particular sort of leader that you need in the organisation?
Rachael – Yes, a brave one. So one of the things I love actually about Rolls Royce is they have some relatively new behaviours that have been launched. It was about 18 months or so ago, I think. They are called their ABCS. This is why I can remember them. A is for agility, B is for bravery, C is for collaboration and S is for simplicity, and actually in a vuca environment, which we all are, those aspects, those behaviours, are genuinely what is required in order for change to happen and for us to be able to respond to what the market is doing now and what the market will be doing going forward. So I think because of the legacy of the organisation and because of the structure and the hierarchy etc seeing those every day is less regular and so either finding externally, or allowing people internally to operate in that way and rewarding it, in the right way, I think that would generate the kind of leaders that we need and I do think agile, brave, collaborative and I won’t say simple but who can keep things simple is really important.
David – So if I can just… I wasn’t sure about what the vuca environment is… remind me.
Rachael – So volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
David – OK
Racheal I need to remember that too.
David – So the challenge of working in a volatile, uncertain, complex…
Rachael – I think one of the … certainly, and forgive me, my background being in talent I always going to the people stuff, but the core challenge that is facing a number of businesses now is the previous training or leadership or learning and development, process or programmes, or activity that organisations felt that they needed to give their people or offer to their people, were primarily designed to facilitate moves up a fairly clearly linear or clear linear career path. What we are finding is that because the wider environment is moving so quickly, is developing so quickly, developing people for what was right 5 years ago or is right now for the position above them won’t necessarily equip them with what they need to be successful when they then actually move.
David – I see
Rachael – And so the aspects we’re now trying to develop in people are less specific skills and more skills that will enable them to learn regardless of what that environment gives them or puts their way so learning agility for example, the ability to be put into a different context or a different situation learn quickly ask questions, be curious, they’re the things that we are trying to develop in people so that regardless of what comes their way they are in a good space.
David – Excellent. Thank you very much. So could you describe the culture of the business?
Racheal – I can. It’s difficult and the reason I’m smiling is because I think it’s still a legacy culture at the moment and I think they are trying to change the culture but because that takes so long, you don’t necessarily again get to see that in all facets of the organisation. I would say the business as I see now, the culture is traditional, quite hierarchical, which everyone always takes as a negative thing, and it isn’t necessarily. In some areas it creates bureaucracy and in other areas, actually it allows for really clear line sight of responsibility, it allows for quick escalation and its I guess where we are trying to work out is where that positive hierarchy is working and where the negative side of it isn’t and what needs to change there. I would say it’s an organisation with heart, in our, sounds really ‘cheesy’ but they are an organisation who do genuinely like looking after their people and I think they find it quite hard when there are commercial decisions to be made, and people decisions to be made and the 2 are in competition and… careful. I think, because, they will need to, because of what we do, we put people in the air. We want to protect them, so that aspect of care and consideration, of making absolutely sure, filters out across the whole organisation. The responsibility we feel is felt across the whole organisation.
David – Very interesting. The next question is talking about change so when change has occurred, how does the organisation approach it.
Rachael – So in terms of approach from enacting that change, they will more and more they will look to engage externally with consultants. From an advisory perspective partly because the insight that external consultants can provide, to what else is going on in the market and crucially what’s gone wrong in the market for other people is invaluable and gives us confidence that we are doing things that are going to allow us to be successful.
David – So this is getting external consultants to give a view on the company.
Rachael – to give a view of the company in the context of the industry or our competitors or a completely different set of organisations if that’s what we so wish.
David – Yes
Racheal – From a how is change dealt with perspective I think with reticence is the honest answer with a little bit of suspicion. It’s been such a static organisation for so long as in a secure organisation and a solid organisation, that there has been a cacophony of change over the last 3 4 5 years and a level of fatigue with that. I would say.
David – So people are busy and tired of change?
Rachael – Yes.
David – So at a strategic level, how are decisions made and communicated?
Rachael – So I would say actually at strategic level decisions are made in a very similar way to the way decisions are made elsewhere in the organisation, which is through consensus and collaboration. Sometimes too much. I think from a strategic perspective there are times where we would really benefit from not incorporating everyone’s view or not taking the level of time we take to incorporate everyone’s view. But then at other levels in the organisation, the communication of that and the opportunity for people to add their input into that is what creates engagement where we actually then see things acted out so perhaps at a strategic level we could perhaps do with a little bit more focus or clarity is the wrong word but I think focus whereas the way of making decisions and communicating them further down the organisation actually really works.
David – So in a very large complicated organisation with so many people, is there a challenge in getting decisions made and a strategy communicated to people?
Racheal – Yes…decisions, one of the most common challenges which I come across in my role, because my role is purely project and programme led. It is global. Every single project I work on is global and the vast majority of projects I work on are cross functional and multi-functional to deliver to 3 different sets of businesses, with different sets of priorities etc. The most difficult thing from my perspective is pin-pointing who the decision maker is for each piece of the project. How they like those decisions to be presented to them and how they will make those decisions and in what timescale. It’s quite an alien thing for Rolls to be that prescriptive. Especially up front in a project but without that because there is this focus on collaboration and consensus pace gets lost.
David – OK Very interesting. So what would you say, are the most communication … that didn’t make sense…?
Rachael – The irony of it being a communication question…
David – Let me rephrase that. So what are the most effective communication strategies do you think in the organisation?
Rachael – So I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a strategy, but I would say the activity that works the best is getting people in a room together, which is virtually impossible in the context that we are in but because of that, because we are so well digitally set up to be a global team, I live in the Netherlands and I work for a site in Derby, you know predominantly, there is, it means that a lot of our interaction is over the phone or over skype, or occasionally FaceTime things like that. The rarity of that face to face interaction makes it more valuable. But actually the value of that interaction is the unintended communication. The communication that happens without, well not necessarily without purpose but to give you a practical example, I was running, we were reviewing our on boarding experience as programme of work at the moment and there were a number of different projects that sit into that. There are 13 different teams who all sit with business services that have responsibilities or actions or activities that sit within that process with multiple different systems etc. I got a number of people over a series of facilitated sessions in a room together to talk about pain points. Not solutions because that’s difficult to reign people back but to just talk about why, what is wrong from different customer viewpoints and why are those things there so that we can start establishing root causes. Now ostensibly and as it happens quite handily the outcomes were going to be a consistent understanding of where our pain points were, a clarification of what the root cause issues are, so that when we are creating solutions we can have a bigger impact earlier because those solutions feed into more than one pain point at a time. The unwritten benefit of those sessions, was that actually one of our biggest challenges and biggest root causes is that we don’t know what each other do, because there isn’t that visibility and interaction between those teams. They operate very much in silo and so my favourite piece of feedback from the day was the person who came up to me afterwards and said, “This has made me realise, actually I don’t understand my colleagues. I understand my customers but I don’t understand my colleagues.
David – Gosh
Rachael – So from a communication point of view that’s what I would say I see as being most effective it’s just not perhaps, I don’t think it’s always realised that that’s the case.
David – So it’s something that’s very valuable to get people into the room together and very rare so you have to choose very carefully when you do it and
Rachael – yes in order not to create the fatigue oh my goodness I’ve got to spend the next 3 hours doing a post it exercise with HR.
David – So from the entrepreneurial perspective. How is risk managed?
Racheal – What do you mean from an entrepreneurial point of view?
David – So we talked before about the organisation has many competitors who are all looking at the same market and clearly there’s a lot of risk in the business, flying people from place to place safely, how is the organisation managing that risk.
Racheal. – Very carefully. And with a lot of respect. I think.
David – Yes.
Rachael – Competition will always be important I mean no public listed business is not going to want to deliver results in the City but there is no way that we will deliver results to the City if we are not safe. And so I think the way that risk is managed is by recognising it and talking about it and I think being respectful of it is the best way to describe it. It is always giving time.
David – ok
Rachael –to consider risk, whether that’s people risk, whether that’s financial risk or technological risk whatever that may be. It’s a much larger part of the daily vernacular here than it has been in any other organisation I have worked for.
David – Ok alright. Fascinating. So what is that potentially slows down growth of your business?
Rachael – Our agility as an organisation. I can’t remember the word so unwieldy, but it can be unwieldy at times because of the size of it and because it has grown so much over an extended period of time, organically and through acquisition there is for example a part of the business which was acquired a while ago. We owned part of it and then we fully… it then became a full subsidiary of ours about 4 or 5 years ago and fundamentally, they still operate as their own business. Their own systems, their own communication structure, their own leadership etc and that can create challenge.
David – Ok alright. So from a coaching and mentoring view, does your organisation develop managers by coaching and mentoring?
Rachael – Not as much as they could. There is, I think I’m being careful of my words here not to be diplomatic but because I think this is endemic whereas I have not come across any organisation where particularly senior managers who have been in the business a long time and have that level tenure of within the organisation they may have been mentored by individuals within the organisation but it’s very rare that you come across someone who has been properly coached and by properly coached I mean coached by someone who understands what it is that they are doing and that they are doing it intentionally. I think there happens to be a small pocket of wonderful leaders and I call them leaders deliberately, who naturally have a very coaching style but I also think the organisational design and structure hasn’t necessarily driven that because with the level of hierarchy and the level because of the risk and the sign off processes that everyone has to go for a technical piece that has to be delivered, for example, the coaching approach or mentality, which typically would be you know, giving someone more freedom or more opportunities for continuous improvement especially in the safety aspect, we don’t want them to do their own thing, we want them to comply, so I don’t think necessarily the kind of context of the organisation and the size of the organisation and the legacy of it had been set up for that. Equally there’s been a very strong focus on the importance of coaching and mentoring for our emergent talent programmes coming through.
David – Yes
Rachael – So well I think there’s this poor forgotten mid manager level who kind of just missed that recognition and understanding and shift in HR that happened in the late 80s to the early 2000s towards the coaching approach who haven’t had access to that. But our emerging talent programmes are all assigned a coach for professional development so for example so if they are going through IMECHE or if they want to become chartered they have a particular mentor or coach associated with that. They have a coach who is associated with the graduate population in general so there will be one person for perhaps 40 individuals who is there as a sounding board if they need them.
David – Ah Ok.
Rachael – But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s formal.
David – So that leads me on to ask about how that is part of the development side of leaders and leadership in the company.
Rachael – So there’s quite a distinct split between technical leaders and people leaders and actually that recognition, I do think is quite rare in the engineering industry especially. Every so often you come across technical specialists who are wonderful at what they do and have no interest in developing other people, which is fine. In a people leadership role because that’s the only way that promotion or salary increase or increased responsibility has been structured so they do have some very defined career paths which allow you to associate more with one than the other if that’s their wish. Erm, sorry I have forgotten the question now.
David: So this is how far does, how far has the coaching and mentoring become part of your leadership development?
Rachael: So I think I would probably say with limited visibility admittedly I would probably say that in the technical area you tend to see more mentoring, it’s more approach of … more of an approach from a leadership perspective of this is how I would do it these are the types of resources you can use you know a guidance to specific resources whereas I would say in the people leadership side, certainly the external courses etc are more focused on look inwards, let’s look at you how you need to develop ask you questions and allow you to get to that level of understanding yourself.
David: So there’s different needs for different types of people. Ok alright.