What Other People on the Web are Saying
PLUS
1. Recognise the Need to Change
2. Share Your Jigsaw Lid
3. Invest in the Right Capabilities and Competencies
4. Allow Enough Time
5. Authentic Leadership
6. Communicate and Engage
7. Use a Governance Framework to Manage the Delivery
8. What Else?
9. Evaluate

What Other People On The Web Are Saying

One thing is crystal clear – there’s no real agreement between a variety of consultants and organisations as to what the components of a successful business transformation should be. The reason for the disparity is also fairly obvious. Much of the research is observational and no doubt coloured by the views of the researchers. It also tends to offer rather abstract ideas and concepts, whereas there needs to be concrete understanding by those in charge about what to look for and include. Also a lot of what is published has looked mostly at large corporate transformations but the world is full to bursting with the small and the micro.

So where does that leave you? Hopefully, after reading this, no longer in the dark. I’m going to set out the practical things that should be dealt with and explain how they fit with change models and creative approaches to make sure that what happens is transformative. The background to all this was over 16 years working in a Business School looking at the theoretical aspects and relating those to the practical consequences. Add in years of practical experience in the field and the key components begin to stand out.

1. Recognise the Need to Change

This is crucial. Under this heading I include the need to recognise that you don’t know all the answers up front. The change here isn’t just about what the organisation is going to do, it is about how the leadership has to change to allow for success. It is a requirement that you push for diligent root cause analysis, followed by creativity and innovation in the solution design. Ignore either of those at your peril. This is not Business As Usual with direction from the top down – THAT is the change you need to recognise for the leaders to embrace.

This also covers the reasons WHY things need to be done differently. The core rationale that is driving the intent for transformation. If you haven’t got them, then there’s little hope of getting out of the starting blocks.

2. Share Your Jigsaw Lid

You are no doubt familiar with jigsaws and the collaborative approaches to doing them. One thing they have in common is the picture on the box. Everyone knows what the end result is intended to look like and can see how their own contribution fits in.

Running major change (for that is what a transformation really is) should have its own “Jigsaw Lid”. If you can’t approach anyone involved and get them to show how what they are working on fits – then you haven’t got a common view or vision. As a consequence people and teams are going to go all over the place trying to imagine how their efforts are doing the right thing.

It’s no surprise that this description of a vision can only come after due diligence into the problems that you are trying to solve and a detailed analysis of what the solutions might be and how it will all fit together. Sharing the Jigsaw Lid comes at the end of the initiation but it is a vital component after you have scoped the WHAT and the HOW of what is about to happen. First because in order to portray it you have to have got all the other bits right beforehand. Second because it creates the background vision for what is going on as you move through planning and implementation.

3. Invest in the Right Capabilities and Competencies

It is hopeless just to expect a random group of people to have either the capabilities or competencies required without having had some preparation. That means you should invest in developing these things even before you embark on a transformation programme. But what skills? What competencies? Does your organisation have the bandwidth to do what is proposed?

There are three areas that the transformation is going to pass through. First, is it desirable? Is it the right thing to be doing and is the rationale understood? That requires the analytical and creativity skills important in the early stages through to the solution design.

The second is one of feasibility and viability. Can this be done with the resources available? That means planning and evaluation. Planning for certainty to make sure the likelihood of success is high. Tying this in to the Governance framework to ensure it is properly managed. The skills here are very project focused but require that additional global oversight.

Finally there is the transition from project to a new way of operating. The test is whether it is going to survive and embed or whether things will degrade and revert. That needs competencies in keeping things on track. Stopping people from unwittingly or otherwise taking it all apart again. So there needs to be a body who owns the outcome and nurtures it going forward. That’s more a mentoring and coaching role to keep things on the straight and narrow.

Do you have those skills and competencies in abundance? In most cases the answer is going to be “NO” so here’s the nudge to do something about it. I’ve heard it described as “getting a proper handle on transformation capability”.

4. Allow Enough Time

This is a tricky one. How much is enough? Well it is closely related to how you plan and how you govern the process end-to-end. There are occasions where some real pace may be required but that needs to be understood as an outcome of the planning and how the various dependencies fit together.

On the other hand transformation failure often follows as a consequence of pushing ahead too fast. The moral is take enough time to get it right first time but not so much that you lose impetus. The alternative is vast amounts of rework and costly delay. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. This means that in order to get this component to work your people have to understand its implications. Keep talking.

5. Authentic Leadership

Major change requires leadership. It’s not enough to have resilient and proven processes. Don’t forget that you are dealing with people and they always want to see leadership, especially during the uncertainties of a change programme. However that also has to be believable and inspire confidence. So being authentic is hugely important.

What that means is that you and your leadership team should behave in ways coherent with the direction being set. That should be accompanied by a set of values and aspirations that are not only enacted by the leaders but conveyed sympathetically to the workforce.

6. Communicate and Engage

Every successful transformation programme has really good communications. Not just memos from the top but dialogue. Feedback is important to clear the air. Allow for questions and be responsive and timely with the answers. Get groups from across the organisation involved in running the communications but also have someone keeping an eye on it all for consistency.

It’s not just the message but the way it is transmitted. Workshops. Q&A forums. Bulletin boards. Periodic reviews of progress. Short reports. Presentations. Openly celebrating successes along the way. Being honest about what hasn’t gone so well and asking for help in getting it right. (Back to authenticity again!) Then, when you think you have got it right – ASK FOR FEEDBACK.

7. Use a Governance Framework to Manage the Delivery

No matter how big or small, you need to make sure that you actually have a discreet framework for governance of the programme. You simply cannot rely on normal business controls to have any real effect. On the other hand, those organisations that go overboard with the bureaucracy are going to stifle the programme.

Make the effort to understand what this governance should entail and then dovetail it to fit your own organisation and scale.

8. What Else?

There are commentators who say that you should spend time and effort building and aligning incentive structures with the end goal. That smacks very much of using a carrot to lead a donkey and is questionable in terms of authenticity.

Does this really help the new world you are aiming for or is it merely bribery to keep people from disrupting things?

In a well-designed organisation of course there are remuneration and incentive structures that complement the operations. On the other hand one of the biggest motivators of people is simply the work itself. Get that right and the other stuff, while helpful, is of secondary importance. People need to have control over their work – so factor that into your thinking as you develop.

9. Evaluate

When you think you have finished – remember this is only the start line of the future. It’s a common mistake that organisations take their foot off the pedal once the deliverables are finished. You need to focus on embedding change for at least a year post-transformation and view the end of a programme as part of a much longer journey.

Let’s Talk

One good piece of advice is to talk to non-competitive organisations who have gone through or are engaged in much the same things. It’s good to be able to ask them with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight the hard questions they wish they had asked at the same stage. However that isn’t always easy to do. We are here to help and advise because we have worked through many of the same scenarios with other clients. So get in touch and let’s get the conversation started.

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Rob Wherrett can be contacted at https://robwherrett.com/contact/

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