Customer Service Network: Organisational Transformation


The objective was to transform a Customer Service Network.  This entailed the closure of 39 offices across the UK; redeployment or redundancy of 170 employees; relocation of 100 employees to nearby offices; re-grading of 270 employees to a lower grade; introduction of new roles; introduction of remotely managed ‘flexible teams’; and centralisation of services.

Each of the areas above are being run as separate projects within a change programme, which is due to be complete within 18 months from the time of announcement. This change is also happening at the same time as a series of organisational restructures are happening in parallel; some of these changes are part of the overarching programme and others are being delivered independently


The biggest issue faced by the change programme was an announcement of the change was made to the organisation without a plan or strategy on how to implement the actions required.  This was the first large scale downsizing the organisation had ever implemented.  There was no precedence on how it should be led and managed and the staff were very shocked – redundancies had not been part of the working culture.

  •  This meant the staff felt the psychological contract had been broken.
  • There were extremely high levels of resistance at all levels including throughout management in and outside the scope. Effectively, once the big decision had been made that this change was to happen, people buried their heads in the sand hoping it would go away.  This delayed any decisions being made on any strategy or planning further.
  • Middle management also did not engage with staff on issues. This meant the only messages staff received were by senior management which created a vacuum on people management.
  • There were further issues in the location of staff as geographically they were spread across the UK in small offices of 6-8 people. Many of these offices were being affected by the change, which meant the office they worked in was being closed and they were being either redeployed or made redundant.  With middle management not engaging with this staff, all people saw was redundancy and closure.
  • As a result, people became very angry and were left alone with these emotions.
  • Therefore when middle management did arrive at the office, they were faced with highly charged negative emotions. Hence they started to try and create false realities to appease staff and get out of the firing line.


They applied the ABChange Model© , which helped them re-consider the entire change programme.  They started to have conversations on why the change was necessary and how it fit into the future of the organisation.  The biggest impact the model had for the team is it re-defined the change programme by definition and scope from an exiting of logistics and resources to managing people through redeployment and redundancy.  Previously change had been defined by the organisation as removal of IT and sending out communications, not about people.  The ABChange model highlighted change is about people not IT.  The model also helped the team:

  •  Confirmed the overall scale of the change facing the existing network in becoming the new customer network. It focused discussion on the entirety of the activity rather than individual projects;
  • Focused discussion on the lack of a combined and bought into vision for the end state of the transformation;
  • Drove discussion about the complexity of communicating an unclear vision and the relationship between projects in and outside the programme;
  • Helped focus discussions on the visibility of senior management and the levels of trust in them from the affected employees;
  • Enabled discussion on roles and responsibilities for delivering change between line managers and projects;
  • Began conversations on how much information and support is required to enable managers to deliver change;
  • Focused thinking on the resources required to support employees through this change.


After applying the ABChange model to the change, the team decided the organisation had to start to create a vision for itself and how this significant change impacted that vision.  This vision then gave people who were left behind and still working in the organisations a true vision and picture of the organisation, thus re-assuring their personal futures within the organisation.  This was achieved by:

  •  Driving formal decisions on the design of the end state;
  • Centralising communication messages;
  • Re-focusing project activity to better support line managers rather than staff;
  • Increasing the visibility of line managers rather than project resources;
  • Working with the Director of Operational Change to plot and align related changes across the organisation.

The real added value the team believes the ABChange model gave them was the ability to uncover the root causes of the issues they were facing.  The model highlighted the need for the change team to stop managing staff directly.  Instead they needed to provide support with strict instructions to managers to manage staff directly.  By looking at the leadership styles and how to manage and lead people through this specific change made the team realise they needed to change their style and the way they interacted with staff in leading this organisational change.