At the IQPC 2012 Process Excellence Summit in Sydney this week I was part of a panel discussion with over 50 years transformation experience. We shared mistakes we have commonly come across in transformation initiatives.
Anyone who’s been tasked with transforming a team, a business unit or a whole organisation typically has a few battle scars. Accepting the challenge to lead a change in behaviour, processes and often systems while simultaneously not allowing performance to slide is a tough gig (and often a thankless one until the changes have occurred). What I found most interesting was that none of us on the panel had ever closed down a transformation initiative. We’d all been part of narrowing its focus, delaying or slowing down the pace of change, but never had we actually said stop.
So what three things should senior leaders look to do if they want to give their initiative the best chance of success?
Success Factor for tranformation #1: Be crystal clear about what the transformation is going to deliver (and why)
If you want a team of people to do things differently, it needs to be crystal clear why they need to change and it’s easier to get everyone moving in the right direction if the messages from all leaders are consistent. This means leadership teams need to put in effort up-front to clarify their expectations, understand how they will measure the success of the transformation and set targets for incremental change.
Having an elevator pitch that explains why the transformation is needed and a vision of the future will help communications and understanding. Having a diagram or picture to show the journey and what the incremental milestones are also helps people understand that transformation is a journey over time rather than an overnight change.
Success factor for tranformation #2: Get the right people involved
Too many times I’ve seen transformation teams made up of people that other teams could afford to spare. Transformational change it typically significant and therefore it’s important to have a A-team leading it. There are two roles that are critical on the transformation team that often get forgotten:
- The Voice
This person is socially networked in the organisation… you know the person who always knows what’s going on and who people turn to to hear and tell about changes in their area. They’ll help you communicate messages and get the right feedback from all levels over the course of the transformation. And, they’re the person people turn to for the inside scoop, so it’s better to have them well informed than spreading mis-information.
- The Influencer
The Influencer is the the person who has the ear of the key decision maker (usually the CEO or business unit head). If The Influencer isn’t the person leading the transformation then it’s essential to have them on the team to help push through decisions and make sure the transformation stays high up on the priority list.
Success factor for tranformation #3: The leadership team needs to be aligned
Too often transformation initiatives are started with the objective of changing the way a business operates (see 1 above) but then transform into just a mechanism for getting other projects done. If all that’s needed in the business is support to prioritise and complete a set of existing projects, then it would be more cost effective and a whole lot faster to bring on a program manager or two (or up-skill/replace existing ones if they’re not delivering what’s needed) than it is to implement a full transformation program.
Furthermore, I’ve seen a lot of companies try to attack the same problems from many angles – transformation, HR, IT, communications – in an uncoordinated fashion. This confuses everyone, wastes time and effort and demonstrates that the leadership team aren’t working closely together… and if leaders aren’t clear about priorities and how they all work together, how can they expect their teams to be?
The larger the scope of a transformation (and company) the harder it is to get these three things right – there are more people involved, the business segments are bigger and there are usually more competing priorities – but it’s not impossible. No matter what size an organisation is, transformation is achieved by people. So if you have the right people in the right places with a clear message and objectives, you’ve set a solid foundation for success.
- Janeece Keller (Katoka)
- Christine Hawkins (HP)
- Air Commodore Dennis Green (Australian Air Force)
- David Tarbotton (Interglobal Associates)