How to fail quickly (and re-mobilise quickly to get it right).

Part 1. How to get business change right.

The Board is looking to you to make this change happen. They are worried about the competition, an obsolete operating model, burning platforms. Change is not an option. You are worried about the progress of your change project. The progress report feels like wishful thinking, indicators ‘green’ but, scratch the surface, and you discover an over-reliance on the need to ‘catch up’ and roadblocks are everywhere. 

If this is you or someone you know, you are right to be worried. This project is failing. Projects of transformation fail because business change practices are inexistent, governance is weak and the mechanics of the delivery malfunctioning. In this first of a 3-part article, I offer a ‘change in 3’ method to deliver change, with a focus on business change. This method lacks the complexity and the fancy practices associated with business change. We make change so difficult. It doesn’t need to be. 

Change in Three.

Out of the universe of methodologies, I have come up with a combination of tools, practices and plans based on my best-case studies. They are business-focussed, business-devised and will see you quickly re-pivot a failing project and put it on the path to delivery.

I am indebted in particular to the work with the Diageo team in a global project that has allowed me to establish their criticality for the successful delivery of business change.

It is these tools, practices and plans that give the business community a voice and create a collaborative, transformational culture. Are these the totality of the tools, practices, plans you need? Well, they are the necessary and sufficient ones. You can do more but you absolutely cannot do less. Here they are.

The Tools.

Geographical scope, legal entity scope, the identification of the impacted business community often remain hazy until late. The impact assessment of the change is conducted with little rigour and often remain hazy until late. And yet the business community is expected to sign off the change and adopt it. By then it’s late: conflict and resistance are to the fore. My solution? Put these data gathering tools in place to get a clear grasp of scope, build on the existing definition so that all activities have alignment and continuity and so that the business community can make advised decisions.

These tools are neither mind-blowingly original nor of my exclusive invention. They are easy to set up and operate. They are flexible and can be adapted and scaled up or down to suit your project. This is what they are, and this is their purpose:

  • The Change Management Network stakes out geographical and legal entity scope. It leads you to identify the senior leadership you need to communicate with and to identify the members of the business community that must be accountable for the change.
  • The Impact Assessment ‘plugs’ the change activities, above and beyond training and comms, into the definition documented by the analysts. The business community must then be given accountability for the resulting actions and actions tracked on the change plan.
  • The Business Readiness Criteria tool encourages the business community to set out those criteria which, if met, will facilitate sign off. On the negotiations and debates around meeting these criteria the project team and the business community gather to collaborate. And given the criteria are set up early on, objective closure criteria are established away from the pressure of launch.

The data gathered within these tools form a tangible whole that allows you to have a grasp of the context, the shape and size of the ‘beast’, as it were, to be delivered. 

The tools will be available for download shortly. Get in touch if you wish to have them now.  

The Practices.

Two aspects: the first is that of establishing governance to keep track of progress. The second is that of constituting a specific body to operate the tools, participate to governance and deliver the change plan. (I am keeping to the practices focussed on the business community working in alignment with the project team).

The governance. There are three parties to this particular marriage: the project team, the ‘mechanism’ for the delivery, the business community, the ultimate ‘adopter’ of change and the change work-stream, whose remit is, I strongly believe, to bring project team and business community together.

Establish a ‘rhythm’, regular-frequency meetings where these three parties collaborate on an agenda focused on ‘how we track against plans’, rather than ‘what we have done’. And then fix, collaboratively, risk and issues and work towards meeting the readiness criteria and delivering the change plan.

The business community, as represented by a ‘business acceptance group’ is key. Without an engaged business community, no change is landed successfully, no change will ‘stick’.

How do you go about constituting a ‘business acceptance group’?

  • Source it from the areas of the organisation impacted by the change. Identify people hungry for doing things better, within the appropriate layer of management.
  • Mobilise it, engage it through participation to governance. Make it accountable for the delivery of the activities on the plan.
  • Have it participate to the impact assessment, have it set out the business readiness criteria and contribute to build and deliver the change plan.
  • Bring the ‘business acceptance group’ and the experts from the project team together to address risk and issues and meet business readiness criteria.
  • Make the 'business acceptance group' your friend. Build on their hunger for doing things better as a way to ... do things better.

The ways of thinking engendered within these practices and applied over the relatively long duration of the project, bring the transformational thinking the organisation needs. It is these practices and collaborative thinking that turn a ‘business acceptance group’ into an ‘asset’ embedded in the structures of learning of the organisation that will remain in place long after the project is over.

For a discussion on governance and 'business acceptance groups' that suits your project, get in touch

The Plans.

I am struck by how inadequate the plans underpinning the delivery of complex projects often are. Unplanned dependencies, lack of cross-vertical integration across work-streams, un-resourced activities: none is uncommon. Here, I am specifically addressing the change plan.

The change plan focusses on the activities to be carried out within the business operations and by the ‘business acceptance group’. This is the moment to loop back to the tools, dust down the impact assessment and the business readiness criteria and use their data to map out the identified activities onto the change plan.

How?

  • Run an ‘integrated’ planning session with the project team, utilising the data and / or the insight provided by the tools. 
  • Assign accountability for actions to named ‘business acceptance group’ members who must take accountability for their delivery.
  • Think reasonably in terms of how long activities take, in the real world. Remember ‘contingency’, holidays and, in a global project, country-specific holidays.
  • Resource it and cost it. State the underlying assumptions, consider the risk and the issues and state their mitigations.
  • At the governance meetings, review the progress against the plan and institute a zero tolerance to delays, unless they come with a substantiated explanation. Address the root cause of delays and roadblocks. Without fail. 

These good planning practices will make a difference between a credible plan and a plan that all stakeholders will laugh right off.

For a discussion on change plan that suits your project, get in touch.

At Chrys we believe in demystifying change.

Projects of transformation fail because business change practices are inexistent, governance is weak and the mechanics of the delivery malfunctioning. With my experience in transformation and my belief that we complicate things extra-ordinarily, I encourage you to get the failure out of the way quickly, quickly re-mobilise by putting the suggested tools, practices and plans in place so that you can get on with it. Be the person in your organisation that stands up to failure and turns things around.

Finally...

Part 2. How to get governance right and Part 3. How to get the mechanics of the delivery right, are to follow.

If you wish to discuss how to get change right in a manner suited to your project, get in touch

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