What’s the right mix for business transformation to work?

Three Big Things to Get Right

I thought I’d keep this one quite simple. There are three big things to get right if you want a business or organisational transformation to work well. That said, of course you need to pay detailed attention to all of them.

1.     The People

Before you set out to work on a transformation you should consider the people. Who are they? What are their innate styles and tendencies? Are they detail-oriented or those who make great leaps of imagination?

The answers to these and similar questions are going to define, to some extent, how you approach the whole exercise. You need to assemble a core team appropriate for the task and that’s not achieved simply by calling for nominees from various departments. Instead take the time to assemble a good cross-section of styles and competencies.

To help with this we recommend maybe starting with some simple assessments that take only a few minutes but that can give great insights. Make sure that you also start out by being open with the communications. People need to believe and be believed when a transformation is underway. So your people need to include some sceptics who can and will challenge assumptions. The boss doesn’t own either the truth or all the answers.

Does your list of people contain a sponsor because it really should? They have the ongoing task of making sure blockages to progress are removed and have sufficient authority to do so.

Note we’ve said nothing about technical experts. They may or may not be required – it all depends on the outcome of the solution design. However they are never the ones to be leading the overall transformation. That’s a very common mistake to avoid.

There’s more on people, styles & innovation in the next article in this series.

2.     The Problem

I’ve said this many times but any transformation has to be in response to solving a particular problem or group of problems. It’s never just a decision to charge off in a different direction on a whim. So what exactly IS the underlying problem? Can you define it precisely and does that stand up to peer scrutiny? Does your proposed transformation team leader agree and do they actually understand it?

You have to be rigorous in checking this out. The risk of not being sure is that your teams are going to start working on solutions to the wrong or misidentified problem. Obviously that’s not going to be a great help in getting you where you really want or need to be.

3.     The Planning

There are two completely separate planning stages to work on. The first is a rigorous plan of how your teams are going to analyse the problem and refine it to a crystal clear definition. This is followed by a stage of exploring possible options for a solution and then bringing that together as a proposal that is possible and within resource constraints. Make sure that there is plenty of time allowed for the analysis and design phases. Rushing these is never a good idea. The old saying “act in haste – repent at leisure” springs to mind!

The second stage is an execution plan that may have several phases. However for each phase this should start with a Backcast process from a defined future state. It must contain dependencies and detailed risk mitigations. It also should contain metrics on when things are expected to happen and how they will be visible on normal indicators. These can be events scheduled or occurring, key items commenced and also when completed, or external things like planning consent or media commentary.

Importantly the planning needs to be done to a really good level of accuracy at the beginning of each phase, with Class 1 Estimates (+/- 10%) where possible. Don’t do what has been attempted by several large organisations – where the plans are fudged to fit a defined budget. They never work and it’s a guarantee that there is going to be some serious overspend but that won’t surface until the sunk costs make a U-turn difficult to negotiate.

I once saw a major retailer planning a very large programme of work and trying to fit that into a fixed budget which had been defined before the exercise had started. In one afternoon they went through 19 iterations of the plan and budget.

The programme team couldn’t keep up with the changes and it was building change upon change with assumptions all over the place. Finally they came up with an answer that fitted the budget – but it definitely didn’t have any quality about it at all.

However it was also a reflection of the corporate culture – say what you think the management want to hear. That is a real indictment of corporate culture that has spread from the very top.

Mixing Them Together

If you get these three components right then mixing them together will deliver. The right people working on the right problem and developing the right plans. Of course there are a whole raft of tools and techniques that you can use along the way but try and keep it simple. There are too many instances where the tools and techniques obliterate the input of people. Yet people make organisations, without them it is just technology and process.

Would it Help to Consult?

This is a deliberately simple description of what can turn into a very complex transformation process. So would it help to consult on the early stages to get things on the right track? If the answer is YES, then take the time to have a free consultation with people who can coach you through it all.

With decades of experience in making great things happen we’re happy to share insights and engage. So get in touch and have a conversation. We look forward to helping you get set for your journey.

For more insights click here.

Master Coach can be contacted at https://robwherrett.com/contact/

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