Case study - Leadership development

Deutsche Bank

What they said

Thanks for running a successful high performance programme for our Directors… we’re excited that they pinpointed 106 potential barriers to high performance throughout our global organisation. How would you suggest we deal with these?

After the financial crisis broke in 2008 our client had completed a number of restructuring projects in order to cut costs and improve oversight. These actions left managers bruised and lacking confidence in the future. Promontory addressed this by designing and delivering a confidence and capability programme for Managing Directors in eight different markets called Inspiring High Performance. 

As this programme drew to a close, we identified two issues which we reported back to our client as part of our programme debrief:

Employees at all levels across all functions of the bank wrestle with similar issues. We identified 106 specific issues which we distilled down to a dozen. These issues - we called them ‘interferences’ - were so embedded in the organisation’s culture and processes that they weren’t perceived as issues any more. They were business-as-usual, and yet were costing the bank millions of Euros every year.

Our senior leadership programmes were effective but we felt the client should also be investing in developing leaders as much as current leaders. We wanted to create a sense that the bank was future-focused and looking to build talent for its future.

The primary challenge was to save the bank money by removing the interferences, in a culture that was badly damaged by the crisis in a commercial environment suddenly awash with regulation. We wanted to address the secondary challenge of developing leaders at the same time.

What we did

We developed and implemented a programme called Project Delta (change) which embraces the fundamental principle that those most affected by interferences, are most likely to know how to solve them. Delta takes an organisation’s brightest minds and applies them to its toughest challenges, using costs saved to fund investments in new people, programmes and infrastructure. 

In Deutsche Bank’s case, this meant looking deeper into the organisation at more junior staffers whose roles - and their ability to perform them well - were directly affected by the interferences. We chose junior managers identified by their performance appraisals as ‘high potentials’ to form small teams of six to eight in each critical Deutsche Bank market. Then we offered them the opportunity to fix a problem that really mattered to them. 

With sponsorship from the Managing Directors who had experienced Inspiring High Performance, our proposition was simple: which interference would you most like to remove, and how do you recommend we do it?

We worked hard to free our young teams from the shackles of conventional thinking, to be creative, to use the bank’s resources effectively. We coached them on how to construct and deliver their solutions, and arranged for them to present them directly to the most senior leaders in the bank. This was an opportunity they could not have received under any other circumstances.

We moderated the ensuing discussion with the objective of having each proposal approved for implementation and properly funded. Three months later, we examined the implemented projects against their pre-defined metrics. 

What happened next

In eight international markets we brought together 24 teams and made 22 proposals, of which 19 were approved for further consideration and 12 approved for investment. 

Within three months every one of these showed a positive return. About half focused on cutting costs, in one instance saving 48 FTEs by developing a reliable automated process for previously manual work. 

The proposals focusing on income improvement were equally as effective, with one client-focused ‘opportunity identifier’ initiative generating £7m in incremental fees from the bank’s largest client.

Overall we calculate a net return of just over £12m in the year following the programme. 

What we learned

Delta is a very dynamic programme where we bring together individuals with high levels of energy to form cross-functional teams that are overtly empowered to deliver measurable results. It works best when those most affected by the issues are given responsibility for solving them… this adds a personal vested interest in the solution and leads to practical, actionable proposals.

It is necessarily short-term, both to maintain focus and because participants' contributions to the programme are incremental to their day jobs. They work extremely hard, over a short period. It’s not for everyone. One or two of the Deutsche Bank proposals that did not progress were led by teams who felt unable to add to their day-to-day pressures.

Applying ‘internal consultants’ in this way requires genuine empowerment and sponsorship. The organisation must be prepared to say ‘yes’ to brave proposals, and invest in them. Even if they do not succeed, there is much benefit to be derived from giving young managers the opportunity to show what they can do to make change happen.