12 Things to Effectively Manage Business Transformation

  1. Recognise the need
  2. Assign a Sponsor
  3. Assign a dedicated project/programme manager
  4. Build early awareness
  5. Identify cross-organisation stakeholders
  6. Include stakeholders in solution design
  7. Create a change management plan with a roadmap
  8. Build a communications plan that shares mutual benefits
  9. Use a strong governance model paying especial attention to dependencies and risk
  10. Develop appropriate training programmes and associated course materials
  11. Define clear outcomes and measure them
  12. Embed the resulting transformation as Business As Usual

Recognising the Need

Strangely many commentators don’t include this element. However it is very important that senior management do recognise the need for a transformation. How they do that is going to vary but essentially this will be in response to an identified problem for the organisation. Merely launching into any transformation programme that isn’t rooted in some form of problem identification and solution is very unlikely to succeed. It would be carrying out transformation on a whim and the chances of getting adequate buy-in from stakeholders in such circumstances is pretty low.

Assigning a Sponsor

How often do we see organisations setting about changing things without first sorting out who is going to sponsor that and act as champion for the teams who are subsequently engaged? Don’t underestimate the responsibility here. I’ve seen a CEO appoint a series of sponsors to a key programme without any of them buying-in to what it was all about. Hardly surprising that her efforts went astray. Sponsor is THE key appointment – even though they may not actually have to do a great deal, handing over the reins for action to others. If your transformation is truly critical then the CEO ought to act as sponsor and get right behind the teams.

Assigning a Dedicated Programme Manager

You can go the whole hog and appoint project and programme managers left right and centre. The key is to have at least one person who has overall charge of the programme activities and is able to relate those to appropriate planning and governance.

Ideally this will be someone with business programme management skills. Even in a technology business the focus needs to be on the business activities (which might include IT development or similar things) rather than the technical content of those activities. It’s pretty rare for IT Programme Managers to make the grade as effective Business Transformation Manager. On the other hand someone with a business-oriented background also needs to have expertise in programme management. The two are not necessarily coincident. So go and look for someone with a real grounding in Programme Method but who is definitely business oriented and has practical experience of managing business operations. People with a solid Marketing (not Sales) background do well in this role as they have a good overview of the interrelationships between Products, Markets and Stakeholders as well as how those products are administered or produced. They are also used to engaging with disparate groups and bringing things together.

Building Early Awareness

Do you like surprises? Well setting aside birthdays and Christmas often these aren’t very nice. Now take that through to your programme and make sure you aren’t springing surprises on your people. You can get over this by raising awareness at a very early stage. Talk to people about what is being considered and why. They have a right to know and it makes for a better culture and environment of trust. The business leaders who keep things hidden are acting out mistrust and that is easily recognisable by everyone else.

The better you establish awareness early on the more likely it is that issues will get raised and can be dealt with effectively.

Identifying Cross-Organisation Stakeholders

There are several key groups you need to consider. Staff; Suppliers; Customers; Investors (shareholders); plus possible others such as Regulators or Unions. Which of these apply in your organisation? Now go and find out who might represent their views.

Sometimes this isn’t straightforward and you have to use substitutive methods to work out what those views might be. For instance you can get some people to role-play a stakeholder which might be a large organisation itself and doesn’t have a single person as mouthpiece.

The main thing is to go through the entire list for your transformation and make sure that every one of them can be represented in what follows.

Including Stakeholders in Solution Design

With internal stakeholders this is relatively easy. Volunteers can be called for or work teams can be asked to provide a delegate to the programme. It gets messier once we are outside our organisational boundaries.

Do you have good relations with some key suppliers who might be affected? Can you engage with them to get an understanding of how they view your Solution Design? What about customers? Who can you talk to, in order to get their views taken into consideration?

With a publicly-owned company there are mechanisms to consult with shareholders and investors. How does that work in your situation when you want to think about the impacts on your investors? It may be said that company directors are supposed to enhance value for their shareholders but that cannot simply be at the expense of everyone else involved. So part of this exercise is making sure that your investors recognise that fact and step up to support what is being proposed and are happy that their concerns are being taken into consideration.

Creating a Change Management Plan and Roadmap

As part of designing a solution there should evolve a roadmap to the final destination. However you need to make sure that map contains not just the ideas of how your business transformation is going to play out but also the detailed plans for each step or phase.

You may build a broad plan of execution but that will also require side plans working out how each phase is going to implement and what other things will need to be done to facilitate that. For instance, if there are going to be new processes, how are those going to be trained for and how is the cutover going to work?

Building a Communications Plan to Share Mutual Benefits

I’ve said this many times in different places – the best people to work at the heart of your communications are those at the bottom of the organisation not at the top. Why? Because what they deliver will be so much more believable by the vast majority of those affected. Cynicism about what is going on is a real threat to effective change so your communications need to be so good that cynicism can’t take root.

Anyway it is a good thing to make sure that everybody can relate to what is being done and can see the mutual benefits that are intended to accrue.

Using a Strong Governance Model with Attention to Dependencies and Risk

Here’s where a good grounding in Project Method can really help. The biggest failing even of those who profess to be good at this is to overlook the detailed management of the dependencies. So make this a number one priority. It should be a given that there is an independent overview of the dependencies and not simply to rely on project managers dealing with them. That never works well – there is too often a tendency to assume that a couple of days delay or alteration to a deliverable isn’t critical. Don’t allow them to assume – get your governance on top of this and make sure the information about dependencies and the hand-offs from one place to another is right out in the open where everyone can see it.

The same comments should apply to how risk is being considered and managed. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that identifying risk is all that’s required. Actively manage it – and that means allocating resource to doing just that. Think of the cost of doing so as an insurance premium. The costs of ignoring it can be catastrophic.

Developing Appropriate Training and Associated Materials

People need to be trained in new ways of doing stuff. That isn’t just a matter of them “sitting next to Nellie” as the saying used to go on the factory floors years ago. They need good instruction that takes account of different learning styles and has dedicated training materials alongside. Good transformation managers know how important this is and in very large programmes there is often a team whose sole task is to develop and deliver the training on the back of what is being delivered by way of changes to process etc. Of course this isn’t one size fits all. You have to develop things according to the scale of the organisation and sometimes that means people are operating with several different hats according to the situation. Be clear what that means and make sure those who are operating with a training hat on also have access to support and materials appropriate to their needs.

You cannot assume that someone who is delivering training is also expert at developing the course materials. So get a dialogue going and make sure this isn’t a poor relation when it comes to resource allocation.

Defining Clear Outcomes and Measuring Them

You are managing a transformation for a reason – to deliver specific results. Those should have been identified as part of the design phase and there should be a good handle on WHEN, WHERE and HOW MUCH those results should be. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can get to the end of the journey and then look back. Good management of the programme will want predictive indicators that are measurable. If you don’t put these in place you are asking for trouble because you won’t know things have gone wrong until it is way too late to do much about it. The consequence can be massive rework or complete derailment of the intended outcome.

Embedding the Resulting Transformation

This is a bit like burning your boats behind you, stopping the almost inevitable creep back to the old ways by some people. Do you have plans for how this is going to happen? How clear are you that this can be done without allowing plans to be backed out if the unforeseen happens and you have to revert?

Get this on the agenda and make sure that at the top level you understand what and why. Then make sure that gets implemented with a deal of rigour. Moving premises to a new location is an obvious one-way transformation. Getting people to do different things at the same desks they occupied last month is quite something else.

How are you going to switch off the old processes? What can you do to encourage early adopters to spread the word and get more people on-side? These are just the sorts of questions you need to be asking and for which there have to be demonstrable answers.

What Should YOU Do?

We know how complex all of this can get and we have devoted a lot of effort into getting things straight for clients to manage their way through the whole transformation. So contact us to get the conversation started on how you can learn to deal with the challenges facing your own organisation.

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