Where to Start

Setting out on a business transformation can be something of a minefield. At the very beginning you might not even know how to get started. So here are some ideas on where to find appropriate help and what to look for.

What Areas Should be Covered?

My recommendation is that you need to set things out in a logical order, covering the likely progression of the transformation journey. That way you can start to identify where you or your organisation need particular help. It’s unlikely you will need assistance everywhere but at least knowing how it all fits together is going to be a good thing.

Getting Things Set Up

Setting up any programme of change needs great care and attention to detail. It’s the foundation for what follows. So get a checklist of the things that you need to pay attention to and, preferably, speak to people who have set up successful transformation or change programmes before.

You want evidence that the set up process was both thorough and designed to fit the organisation. Advice should take this into account – you don’t want a generic approach. So if a potential consultant or adviser is just promoting their pet method – then the chances are that it may not work for you. Be tough on them – this is the critical phase of your programme and getting it wrong is going to have huge cost implications.

People – Skills, Styles and Preferences

How do you know which people to fit into the various slots and roles? If you haven’t had a grounding in psychometrics and managing culture and preferences then you definitely should be asking for it before you get started. It’s not massively expensive – in fact much of it boils down to some basic understanding of how various types interact. However most managers have never actually had formal training in this area.

Far too often there is reliance on technical specialists in the area that is going to be the centre of attention, whereas you actually need to be looking much wider at the whole group. How their skills and preferences complement each other. Where are the detail-oriented people? Who are the idea-generators and so on.

What I recommend is spending some time getting a good basic understanding within the core team who are working on the set-up phase. That may mean getting them appropriate training or at the very least carrying out some basic tests using self-assessment tools. I use these all the time with clients to help them get a handle on this area. Once people understand how the various types and preferences (which we all have) can interact then it becomes much easier to build functional and functioning teams to carry out the transformation processes.

What is key is developing common understanding that there is no such thing as a *wrong type*. What makes teams fail is the lack of understanding of how to build on the differing strengths and compensate for weaknesses.

HR professionals ought to be able to help you out here. What you are looking for is advice that is relevant to the size of your organisation. Some Business NLP Practitioners can be useful sources of advice in this area because it’s all about getting people to work together and do the right things. What you won’t want is a team that is constantly at war with itself – believe me this happens far more often that you might imagine.

Instead there needs to be a common set of values and a developing culture that moves the change process forward. It will take more than a little patience but once you have got it settled down, the benefits will be worth it.

Analysing the Reasons

Nobody sets out on a change programme, let alone a major transformation, without having a good reason to do so. However you should also make certain that those reasons come under proper scrutiny. It’s often the case that they have come from outside. The boss may have seen a competitor doing something and thinks you should do the same. An adviser is punting the idea that you should engage in their proprietary programme.

Stop. Work out who, in your own organisation, is going to be kicking the tyres on all of this before it gets commissioned? Do they have the skills and backing to be rigorous over all of this? Are they going to be allowed to question right to the top of the organisation?

If that’s all positive – then they may still need help in learning how to apply a variety of analytical techniques to test whether what they are hearing is real or just fantasy. Make sure that they have access to a technique library that is shown to work and that they have some solid training in how to execute them. Oddly, most organisations simply overlook this area – assuming that people know how to dig for answers. Yet unless this is part of the routine of everyday work, how do you expect them to get it right when it really matters?

Look for some basic training on root cause analysis. That way they are going to be able to understand how to get right down to basics and really understand what that problem really is. If the answer isn’t what everyone thought it was in the first place – then you have to deal with the truth. That may be uncomfortable for some people to handle. Senior people don’t like being shown to be wrong in their assumptions or statements.

Well – here’s the deal. They HAVE to get used to it and actually encourage the questioning. So if that’s not something they are used to handling, they will also need help in setting a culture of openness and questioning, how to support it and nurture it. NLP practitioners can be great at this kind of thing.

Communications in a Change Environment

Do you have an internal communications specialist on hand? If not then find someone who has experience of setting up communications for a successful change programme.

Communications cannot simply be top-down dissemination of information. Moreover they should be multi-faceted, using different styles and channels. Someone needs to take hold of this area and map out what is going to be done, by whom and through which channels and media? Got it? Then great. If not then talk to internal communication experts to get a good overview of what is needed and why. They don’t need to come in and run things for you but you should get the bases covered and have a communication strategy that is designed for what you are about to engage in.

There may also be a need for quite a lot of external communication – with suppliers or external stakeholders. In addition the team that is going to be working on the transformation may not all be in the same location. Some of them may even be outsourced contractors. Get someone to look it all over and identify the gaps before you start. Ideally that person is going to run the communications but they may need a hand getting their ideas straight.

How to Design a Good Solution

Unless your business is in designing processes or change, then this is unlikely to come readily. You really do have to invest in some training in how to go about this. Getting your team to understand the techniques they should use to get creativity working. Staying open to ideas and not closing things down too quickly.

There really aren’t many places you can turn to for this kind of training. In truth we don’t know many consultancies that either offer it and of those that do, not many use robust techniques and processes that will deliver all the time. It’s one reason why we do what we do. Having world-class creativity practitioners at your side can be a real game-changer. The key is not to let them be the source of the ideas.

Why? Because your team need to own what is coming. So you need them to be coached through how to do it but then let them take control.

Planning for Certainty

Who does you normal business planning? How do they go about it? Unless they have had formal project management training and are used to Backcast planning (planning right to left in some descriptions) then you are heading into uncertain territory from Day 1.

So, get your planning team some training in how to do this properly. We can recommend several techniques they should use and have the tools to help.

Building Great Governance Structures

This is another area that is frequently overlooked. The assumption is that senior management will use the normal tools and processes to oversee what’s going on. Big mistake!

Make sure that as part of the set-up process you build a Governance Framework that is both transparent and measurable. There needs to be a simple process that controls each stage of investment in the underlying change or transformation programme. Included in that will be the requirements for the levels of planning for the upcoming stages and the authorities who will give permission to proceed.

It will be crystal clear to everyone once good governance is in place because individuals and teams will be able to know whether what they are doing is authorised, by whom and to what extent. They will also know where to turn to ask when permission is going to be required for a forthcoming step.

Good project management practitioners ought to be able to advise you. Also Stage-Gate processes are fairly easy to find. We provide clients with a practical model that reduces bureaucracy to the minimum.

Managing Risk

Every good project or programme manager will tell you that planning for and mitigating Risk should begin right from the start. However it rarely features in the everyday activities of most managers. The risks inherent in a transformation programme can also be quite different from the normal business risks that you understand and mitigate.

Your programme will have to expend resource (and that means some money) on mitigation – irrespective of everything else. So that will need to feature in the planning, the budgeting and the communications and governance. We normally talk clients through this at each stage.

You can also talk to project management professionals about what might constitute best practice for you and your organisation. My take on this is that risk management has to be both realistic and taken seriously. In recent years businesses have had to deal with a host of major impacts that have been completely outside their control. Those fortunate to have made good preparations have been able to adapt rapidly and keep focused on where they are going. That’s why we help client teams to understand proactive dependency management alongside everything else. At least it keeps surprises to an absolute minimum.

Is There a One-Stop Shop For All of This?

That’s a great question but in truth the answer is “it depends”. You can get in touch and we can help you fill in the gaps with the right resources. It’s part of a template for going forward that comes with a free consultation. We have been here many times before and remain focused on helping clients to take control and get it right first time. If you’d like more information, then you can also follow this link.

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

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