Rickert Allen - Just call me Doctor
As senior general manager group human resources and facilities division, with more than 2,500 staff members under his employ at the National Commercial Bank, it's remarkable that Rickert Allen was not only able to pursue doctoral studies, but also achieve the designation with high commendation.
Speaking with Outlook from his office at the bank's headquarters, Dr Allen, who was also recently appointed the organisation's cost tsar to manage efficiency and is currently chairman of the Jamaica Institute of Financial Services, said he completed his thesis titled: 'Towards the development of a model for improving employee readiness for corporate transformation at the Mona School of Business Management in March.
His research is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, earning the commendation of his mentors - Professor Mary Jo Jackson, executive director of graduate and professional education at the School of Business Administration, Stetson University in Florida and Dr Trevor Smith, senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies.
Having an extensive career in both the bauxite and financial industries, Dr Allen reviewed the business landscape in Jamaica noting the effects of downsizing. He said that he had participated in a number of restructuring exercises over the years which resulted in downsizing, but often failed in successfully transforming the companies involved.
"In such exercises, three parties are affected: those who leave the organisation, those who remain behind, and the individual who has to perform the separation process. I began to think that with the process being so stressful for all concerned, there must be a more effective way to do it," Allen said.
The new holder of a doctorate of business, said that studies have shown that despite evidence pointing to the need for fundamental transformation, less than 40 per cent of transformation programmes are successful. This, he said, proved that there is a gap in the understanding of how to successfully plan and implement successful transformation programmes.
"As technology advances, companies are forced to revise their business models in order to effectively respond to globalisation and aggressive external competition. Therefore, businesses cannot continue to respond to disruptions in the usual way and they have to understand what is required to be ready for corporate transformation." Allen shared that his research took four and a half years to complete.
"It was a long journey, but one I couldn't do without the support of my family, friends and work colleagues," he said.
"Luckily, I don't have school-aged children, so I didn't really have to find time to help with homework, but truthfully, my studies took over all my free time. Weekends were non-existent." He said that his extra-curricular activities had to be put on hold even as he continued to be inspired by the support of his colleagues and particularly, NCB chairman Michael Lee-Chin and group managing director, Patrick Hylton.
"It's a blessing to serve an institution where both the chairman and group managing director were so vested in how I was doing (in the programme). There wasn't a time when they didn't ask me how my studies were progressing. So, even if I wanted to quit, knowing the confidence they have in me led me to finish."
Their confidence in him, he said, along with an innate desire to better define, understand and execute corporate transformation, fuelled this labour of love. Describing his research as ground-breaking, Allen said that trust in organisational leadership is a major factor in influencing employee mindset, and is critical in assessing readiness for organisational transformation.
WORK ON DOWNSIZING
"I have seen ravages of downsizing, its impact and how we can deal more effectively whenever it occurs," he said, noting that sadly, downsizing has been used as a method to remove people from an organisation.
"This is not only a Jamaican problem, as many other countries like us have not gone about transformation the right way," he said. "Most of our changes can best be described as either developmental or transitional. To achieve total transformation, broad-based behavioural change must be achieved and not just improve performance."
Allen's words, that in this ever-changing world, organisations must not only explore best practises but also next practises, serve as a fitting segue into thoughts on his own future. He plans to offer consultancy services to organisations as well as lecture part-time.
"I want to further the discourse around organisational transformation by giving back through mentorship and lecturing," he said, adding that, he will also be exploring publishing his work through scholarly journals.
"It's important for us to move from anecdotes to evidence-based decision-making," he shared.