As the Senior Manager for R&D at AG Barr, I had to recognize new realities in the market based on product developments. For instance, Barr had to create a wide range of product portfolio to meet specific health and wellness needs – functional and adult products; acquire brands when appropriate – Strathmore and Rubicon; and assess markets to understand consumers’ needs and focus on product quality, especially taste.
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This implied that organizational R&D processes were complex in a dynamic business environment. As such, I noted that there were increasing management challenges as AG Barr continued to grow by developing new products, acquisition of new products, and understanding customers’ needs across different markets in the UK and other markets.
I realized that the R&D manager had to coordinate different functions and processes, such as harmonizing product development processes, assessing and supporting new markets, leveraging organizational technical capabilities, eliminating potential inefficiencies, and managing organizational knowledge.
Likewise, in a changing business environment, I realized that R&D functions were significantly understood to enhance product innovation and development in response to market pressure and consumer needs while controlling costs of research and product developments.
Further, in a changing environment, I learned that the R&D manager had to balance multiple conflicting strategic issues. For instance, AG Barr had to focus on its short-term and long-term strategic investment decisions, regional expansion, developing internal capacities, and focusing on incremental innovation to create a competitive edge.
Given these complexities and other emerging roles of R&D, I observed that AG Barr had to change its R&D department to address some conflicting issues and changes in business practices. AG Barr operates in the multi-domestic and other regional markets, such as the English, Scottish, and Welsh markets. Thus, the R&D department should use information obtained from various markets to develop products that appeal to various consumer segments based on geographical attributes. Moreover, a simple approach would fail to meet the specific needs of customers as fierce competition continued in the industry. In this regard, I noted that the department had to focus on a lasting change that met current needs and was sustainable over the years.
Overall, as R&D senior manager, I learned that change management that involved product portfolio development, market assessments, and coordination of internal affairs were highly significant and, therefore, the R&D department should be flexible and responsive to account for possible future changes in a dynamic, competitive business environment.
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One major challenge that the R&D department faced within the group was a clear lack of well-defined roles in the wider innovation and change efforts. In some organizations, the R&D manager is usually the innovation leader, but some firms may have different arrangements for leading innovation and change. For instance, a marketing manager, technology officer, or innovation team may lead the change.
Coordination of group roles is critical for change management. From the R&D perspective, numerous functions and support with different processes are necessary to advance change. However, when clear guidelines are not available on leading change, then the initiative is most likely to change. For the R&D manager, I expected defined roles, strategic and operational interfaces, and overall organizational support from senior executives.
The group had to design and agree upon various interfaces during change management. Moreover, a full engagement of leaders from other departments was also important to avoid change resistance.
I also noted that change in AG Barr involved mission-critical decisions that centered on investments in a state-of-the-art new factory, acquisitions, mergers, and expansion among others. In this regard, stakes were higher for many managers and senior executives.
It was, therefore, important to diffuse tensions through effective communication, transparent and systematic processes. All persons involved in the change processes participated in the identification of viable options and assessment of how every option would deliver against specific measure indicators. I also noticed that the group worked better when evaluation criteria were derived from AG Barr’s strategic objectives and operational needs. As such, we are led to rational decision-making rather than decisions based on feelings.
I had observed that a single department alone could not accomplish AG Barr change management initiatives. Instead, change was considered as a function of cross-functional innovative processes for the entire company. For the project to succeed, multiple operational and strategic initiatives from different business units, markets, and employee training and development among others were reviewed and coordinated to advance change.
AG Barr realized that it was essential to create a change agent, which was a team consisting of influential individuals from various business units, including R&D. I observed that the approach adopted could offer several benefits if implemented effectively. It offered efficient cross-functional management of issues, coordinated project interfaces, broader involvement of key stakeholders, and enhanced strategic alignment with organizational expansion strategies. Besides, it was simple to identify possible resistance from any business divisions and develop an appropriate mitigation strategy.
The project progressed significantly well because of the involvement of senior executives who communicated the overall aim of change, encouraged employees to embrace change and advanced resources to related efforts.
As the R&D manager, I was focused on aligning R&D functions with other organizational needs. As such, I focused on assessing existing business strategies to ensure that they were aligned with R&D functions, as well as change efforts. I had to agree with other stakeholders on R&D functions meant for the change project. For instance, I preferred an incremental approach rather than a radical one, set quantified targets, and explain the intended product research and production efficiencies.
Another major contribution involved assessing anxiety and fears brought about by the change project. Every team member had to understand that change initiative aimed at improving business processes, promoting R&D, career growth, and operational efficiency to realize low costs.
Communication was an important area of consideration. I ensured that all team members were informed, and they had to receive feedback appropriately. Moreover, the realignment of processes did not only focus on organizational processes but also personal initiatives and work practices. We had to propose the most appropriate reward systems to promote change efforts.