Get your ducks in a row
Be clear
Make engagement a constant
Plan for certainty
Make your governance process transparent
Be meticulous about managing dependencies
Practise what you preach

Get Your Ducks In A Row

When you start the transformation journey there will be lots of things to consider. What to change? How to go about it? Who to involve? When and where to start?

So even if you are clear about the various steps that will need to be gone through – spend some time on working out the who, where and what involved. That will also help you identify who your core group of people needs to contain. Let them into your early thinking and ask them to help from the outset.

Remember the adage about building organisational development – to cycle often and each time increment the numbers of people involved whilst maintaining the majority pushing for the agreed outcome.

Also consider how you are going to bring in the disparate views and needs of the various participants. Think carefully about what mechanisms you are putting in place to manage conflict of ideas and recommendations. (That can’t be a top-down decision by the way.)

Be Clear

Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve, the reasons why things are changing and how these changes will benefit everyone. People definitely don’t like surprises so communication and engagement are key. To lessen any resistance it’s better to put things on people’s radar as early as possible and make them aware of changes happening.

Make Engagement a Constant

Identify and cater for different people involved in the change. There are different audiences involved in any transformation, who sit at different levels in the hierarchy. It’s key to identify them and engage them appropriately. They need to take on certain responsibilities and take ownership.

Leaders need to be clear on exactly what the strategy is and the reasons for change. They also need to buy in to the outcomes. This will make everyone’s life easier and reduce the chance of surprises further down the line.

The transformation or project teams are responsible for delivering the different workstreams.

The ambassadors are influencers who are admired or respected by others. They can relate to others and have the ability to convince them. They can be people either from within the organisation itself or may be external stakeholders whose opinions are valued and trusted. Ambassadors are one of the key ways of making sure people embrace change, so choose them wisely.

Understand your work colleagues, they typically need a lot of information and reassurance. Any product or piece of communication relating to the transformation has to put this group at the heart of it. That’s one reason why we recommend getting junior members of the staff to be part of the communications team – to ensure it is presented in a way that they find believable and honest.

It’s crucial to understand the different groups of people and disciplines and the characteristics of each within your organisation. There are quick and easy ways to look at personal styles at both an individual and team level. Don’t ignore this aspect because getting the people to react in predictable and helpful ways will make life a lot easier. How you approach them should rely on the understanding of styles and what they mean.

You may create personas by carrying out research and conducting interviews to get under the skin of different groups of people to identify their needs. This is important not just in identifying user needs but also giving people a sense of involvement and ownership.

Provide regular updates. Your employees need to be aware of changes not just before and during the process but will also require help post-launch with things like training and guidance on new tools and new ways of working. Whatever you do, make sure you do it with clarity and users in mind. Make it clear what exactly is expected from them.

Plan For Certainty

You have got your core team together. You have identified the reasons and the underlying causes that are to be remedied by the transformation. Finally you have settled on a proposed solution that has been validated against your available resources. Now is the time to plan and do it very carefully and methodically.

The first imperative is that the plan should work backwards from the envisaged target state, taking into account the methods and tools of the proposed solution. If anybody starts by planning from today and working forwards then stop the planning right there and make sure they understand why they should be using a Backcast process.

The analogy is that of moving house. If you know what the moving-in date is going to look like then everything required to get there can be worked out by moving back one step at a time. Most folks will have had some experience of that particular complex of actions and dependencies. So they will be able to relate that to what is now before them and plan accordingly. It becomes second nature after a while and will make the journey a lot easier to predict and follow.

Make Your Governance Process Transparent

People are much better at following guidelines and keeping within boundaries if they know what they are, why they are there and how they are going to be judged. Governance in a successful transformation programme isn’t a subjective matter. Instead the rules and judgments should be set against an open framework that everyone can understand.

There is no personality about all of this – the objectives are to deliver the transformation with the least disruption or misalignment along the way. (There’s bound to be some – nothing ever goes exactly as predicted.) So it is easier to deal with individuals who are not delivering as required by benchmarking what is happening against an objective set of guidelines. Then correct what is being done without penalising the individual. You will build more allies and ambassadors that way as they understand that what they do is merely being adjusted to fit the overall plan and objectives.

If you come across instances where one or more individuals refuse to play ball – then quietly take them to one side and explain how what is being proposed will benefit them and their career. We don’t always get to do just what we would like in life and being part of a transformation team is no different in that regard.

Use your internal ambassadors to help deal with those outside the immediate project grouping to take what is being done into their own areas and work out how best to adapt. That might involve external stakeholders like key customers just as much as groups within the business.

Being transparent about the governance should also apply to how you deal with third parties like outsourcing contractors or maybe the company doing the office refurbishment. Let them see how their contribution is being measured and managed against the overall plan.

Be Meticulous About Managing Dependencies

If you have planned for certainty then you should have a good handle on the various dependencies that are going to arise. How these fit together to make the final delivery is a key piece of common understanding. So share the picture. Let everyone know how and why the components deliver and therefore what the impacts of those dependencies are.

Then spend time and allocate dedicated resource to managing them. Don’t rely on project managers or individual heads of team to work this one out for themselves. I know they should but – believe me – they won’t. The result is delay and sometimes utter chaos. However it is so easy to get this right with a little bit of rigour along the way.

It will also help to keep out unwanted diversions to the overall plan and delivery. Being clear about what is required and by whom means that stray items appearing on the radar are quickly identified and dealt with.

Practise What You Preach

It is highly unlikely that a business transformation is not going to require a change of behaviours or attitudes at the very top of the organisation. You are trying to change the paradigm of what went before – so make sure your own actions and outpourings are consistent and aligned.

The idea that something “doesn’t apply to me” is completely the wrong attitude for anyone in the organisation but especially from those at the top. Transformative outcomes have their roots in transformative people. They have to really walk the talk at all times. So if, as is likely, communications are paramount, then make sure you communicate regularly and clearly

It’s really important that senior members of the organisation embrace the change and demonstrate that they are doing so. If you have introduced flexible working, make sure people feel free to become flexible workers without being penalised for it. If you’ve introduced a new technology, make sure your leaders use it. Stay consistent, work on convincing those who are resisting and rapidly you will have a place where people are happy and settled in their new ways of working.

How We Can Help

We’ve got a reputation for getting things absolutely right when it comes to transformations. So contact us to get the conversation started about how you can do the same.

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The author Rob Wherrett can be contacted at

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