Driving change: in-real-life interventions.

Change is a one-stop-shop word to describe the impact to business processes, people and target operating models deriving from new strategic directions, new technology, new contexts. It describes the transition to the new stage and the management practices to land it there.

Creating an even vaster array of complexities at a client’s is an expectation that people affected by change must be processed through a series of ‘cultural interventions’ to see them through the transition.

It is my view that change management practices must be ‘plugged’ into the heart of the delivery. The management of change cannot be restricted to cultural interventions or be an afterthought, restricted to communications and training. Only if ‘plugged’ into the heart and mechanisms of the delivery, transformation is achieved.

Three case studies follow, evidence of the change management practices and interventions that produced effective results at the client’s, my own credibility in designing and delivering them ‘pegged’ onto a functional, technical and programme delivery understanding developed during all the career steps that got me here.

Case study 1: Demystifying methods

This is how the client described my interventions: A breakthrough moment on this huge transformation programme.

The context? A global programme of transformation to implement the new target operating model and technology. Notwithstanding the client already operating a mature delivery methodology, an inability to bring the business community to align on strategy and plans persisted. The outcome of my interventions? I made the change workstream the focus of the delivery. The practices I introduced demystified the change methodology, narrowly focused on people’s feelings, and brought us to conflict-less sign offs. Through the business-focused governance I instituted, the ‘business acceptance group’ took on greater accountability for the delivery and gained a highly effective voice, within a structure that effectively elicited input to the new processes and ways-of-working. This assured a timely launch and, crucially, adoption, the holy grail of all transformations.

Interventions - in close collaboration with programme director and teams

  • The ‘business acceptance group’ was created by identifying the right people within the appropriate layer of management, set up in a business-focused governance structure and made a key player in the delivery and sign off.

  • Change workstream was positioned at the confluence of project and business teams’ activities, its role that of facilitating collaboration and driving progress against plans.

  • Change management practices were ‘plugged’ into existing programme management and governance structures.

I suggest… Be credible and authoritative - always!

  • Use an effective toolkit to gather data that will drive the transformation (the Change Management Network, the Impact Assessment, the Business Readiness Criteria). To discuss the toolkit contact us.

  • Have the ‘business acceptance group’ take ownership and operate the toolkit.

  • Select the best and most appropriate people to populate the ‘business acceptance group’ where ‘best’ = in possession of a good level of competence and ‘appropriate’ = in closest proximity to the transformation.

  • Engage the leadership and ask for speaking parts at executive forums to communicate progress and re-state what the programme will achieve, their support essential.

  • Supplement the comms strategy with the judicious use of locally effective social media.

Case study 2: Demystifying the experts

This is how a business analyst described my interventions: Sweeps everyone up towards the delivery goals.

In a complex global business architecture implementation to bring about a single system, a streamlined target operating model, smarter marketing practices, new cloud technology, mine was the programme director role. The programme was ambitious and exposed the risk of an over-reliance on external expertise. The outcome of my interventions? I introduced a tighter delivery methodology, based on integrated plans across technology, IT, programme teams and external partners. This demystified the hitherto unchallenged external expertise, unsupported, as it was, by evidence: even the experts need a plan if one must trust the delivery date! In this case study, an effective PMO also meant we had a grasp of key performance indicators that drove progress. The programme remained challenging but interventions gave it credibility and authority.

Interventions - in close collaboration with all programme workstreams

  • Pursued and assembled cross-vertically integrated and calibrated plans (schedule, budget, risk and issues to support their robustness and introduce financial management plus calculations underlying the estimation of duration of specific phases).

  • Brought into the planning practices all external partners and obtained their buy-in to agreed milestones.

  • Established governance, tracking of progress against plans and KPI-based reporting in collaboration with the PMO.

I suggest… Go after plans. If they do not exist? Create them!

  • If an integrated and calibrated plan does not exist, go after it. Create a dynamic environment in which workstream leads, experts, internal and external, produce their own delivery-focused plans and collaboratively work out the dependencies so that the launch date is agreed with everyone’s input and support. This last point is essential: without it, failure looms.

  • Collaborate effectively with PMO. They do have many effective and valuable skills!

  • Never be afraid to challenge the experts. If they truly are experts, they will have the facts, the figures and the plans to prove it.

Case study 3: Demystifying statistics!

This is how a consultant described my interventions: ‘"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Ali could very easily have been describing Francesca’ (still, self-indulgently and unsurprisingly, one of my most favourite recommendations. EVER).

A new solution, processes and technology would transform the relationship to the customer through smarter billing and relationship management. The programme suffered from an impasse that had revealed itself at the software testing stage. The outcome of my interventions? The impasse that had been stopping progress of testing – and consequently of the programme – was overcome. This demystified the tendency programmes have to bury themselves in statistics that cleverly mask an unfortunately superficial understanding. The solution is often under your eyes: talk to the teams. They know where the issues are. Trust them to indicate the most effective path to the solution. In this case study, once the programme obtained support from stakeholders, based on demonstrated evidence of progress, a further round of funding was obtained that took us to launch.

Interventions - in close collaboration with the Board, external partners and programme teams

  • Conducted a root cause analysis of the testing roadblock by enlisting the view of testers and developers in interpreting the testing progress data. Do not just look at the published stats...

  • Brought a critical senior finance stakeholder to the ‘negotiating table’ by providing evidence of testing progress and agreeing on reporting practices, level, templates.

I suggest… Enlist key stakeholders’ support!

  • Go after recalcitrant stakeholders! This might be just those that add an enormous amount of value. Besides, if they are a part of the business governance structure, they have a duty to be there. You need to show you can make yourself accountable and, through the evidence you bring, you will need to show your authority and your credibility.

  • ‘Traffic-light’ testing progress report based on end-to-end processes as articulated by business users. This is a generic point about progress: articulate it in a manner that everyone is able to understand, jargon-free and based on what is achieved, not on what is being done.

In summary

Delivering change is difficult and brings to vast failures.

Methodologies, experts and statistics are necessary and per se insufficient: it takes someone with the right toolkit, a close understanding of context, people and objectives, as well as credibility and authority to deploy what works on the ground.

The practices I take to organisations demystify the complexities of business change. This particular emperor really has no clothes. They are the practices that will see you deliver change and ‘make it stick’ within the organisation. What I describe above are in-real-life examples of my interventions with organisations undergoing critical change. I describe the nature of the interventions, their outcomes and give tools and tips that have worked well with me, time and again.

To discuss how to deliver the transformation successfully, and without complexity, contact us.