The client was a medium size logistics organisation with a history of poor performance, low staff engagement and sub-standard customer service. They were in the midst of something of a crisis. They had been directed to substantially down size, two recent reviews had condemned them for their inefficiency and appalling service and a recent reorganisation appeared to have made matters worse.
One of the first things I did was to talk with the senior leaders. The CEO explained that they had reorganised twice, reviewed and substantially modified all operating procedures and introduced new and more efficient technologies to support their work. And despite all that he explained with frustration, nothing had improved. Most of the staff were "hopeless" and he thought the best thing was to replace them all. He had introduced a compliance team to monitor staff adherence to the new rules and processes, but despite many staff being caught and punished, they hadn't improved.
I gently explained that there was no point changing structures, processes and technology if people continued to behave as they had in the past. They had neglected the people bit of their change agenda. I was mildly surprised when this explanation appeared to come as a revelation for them.
My surprise was short-lived as I observed the way they talked about their staff and behaved over the next few days. I wish this story had a happy ending. I also wish it were an isolated incident.