Nine traits of successful business transformation programmes

11 April 2019

During today’s turbulent political and economic times, many sectors and industries are going through fundamental and on-going change in order to stay ahead of the competition. Successfully implementing and embedding transformation is no easy feat, however. Emanuel Modrovic, an advisor at international procurement consultancy 4C, reflects on nine common traits of successful business transformation programmes.

Clear vision

Define your guiding North Star, which is the single, top-line vision that aligns your organisation and sets out the shared end goal. Your transformation will only be successful if everyone has the same target to shoot for! 

Understanding the impact

Once the vision is established, understand what impact this will have on each team. Use Change Impact assessments to make sure you don’t miss any elements, especially if the change goes beyond one business area. 

Holistic change plan

The first step of change is to build and share a holistic change plan before you start. You would be surprised how often companies make it up as they go along! At the same time, assign a dedicated change manager to ensure all project teams are aligned on their progress. This person needs to be deep in the details, otherwise this ends up wasting everyone’s time. 

Nine traits of successful business transformation programmes

Transparent timelines

Don’t drag out making changes, you’ll always find a reason why now is not the right time! If you want to keep your teams engaged and excited, aim to start a first pilot of changes after about 4-6 months. Also make sure to give teams clear visibility of what the overall timeline is likely to look like. 

Executive power

Transforming and changing a company is no easy feat. Therefore, you need executive decision makers with authority across all your project areas. People will shy away from taking responsibility unless the executive is visible throughout the project to endorse changes and encourage adoption.

Measuring success

We all know: What gets measured, gets done. Therefore, think early about how you will measure success! We have found that a pyramid model often works well, whereby a single, organisation-wide metric is connected down to team-specific and individual targets. It gives each team clarity and focus on how the changes work. At the same time, management can understand movements in the top-line metric and how different teams are affecting it.

Clear transition

People will not change if they are not confident in the change plan. The key is to have a worked-up and agreed transition plan before you implement any changes. It can also help to prepare a list of FAQs before any roll-out, so you have answers to the most common questions. 

Positive project PR

Think about the answers to the question on everyone’s mind: “What’s in it for me?” Use these specific benefits as headers and key messages for communicating with each team and explain how the changes make their life easier, better, and simpler. 

Constant communication

This is where things tend to go wrong often and early. First, identify key stakeholder groups and how to keep them up-to-date through detailed comms plans – don’t forget that this includes not just the management team but also your frontline teams! Then make sure to provide a regular drumbeat with news and updates through channels such as newsletters, town halls, and intranet articles. 

It is also useful to check every piece of communication against three simple criteria: 1) What is the one thing you want your audience to understand from it, 2) how do you want your audience to feel after receiving it, and 3) what actions do you want them to take upon digesting it?

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Managing the demand for change in project management

16 April 2019

The forward-looking nature of project management means that regardless of the type of project, thorough planning and risk assessment are essential to ensure it is delivered on time, on budget, and in line with the client’s requirements – while delivering the expected results. Consultants Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden elaborate in the article below. 

However, it is important to recognise that in this fast-moving working environment, and with projects increasing in scale and complexity, a degree of change is inevitable. Putting the right mitigation strategies in place early on can provide project managers with much-needed agility, allowing them to respond quickly to any new issues that arise.

When the goalposts move or project managers are issued with an unexpected client request, adopting a holistic approach is essential to ensure that changes are implemented successfully the first time around, reducing the risk of any problems arising in the future. Rather than considering the demand for change in one area of a project in isolation, it is important to conduct a full impact assessment, taking into account any knock-on effects on people, processes, systems and infrastructure. For example, a sudden need to digitalise a key HR process may have implications for recruitment, or the need to upskill existing staff through new training programmes, or both. 

Implementing a Portfolio Management Office (PMO) can also enhance project managers’ ability to spot interdependencies and better manage unforeseen changes. Where a number of projects or programmes are being undertaken simultaneously, this function is particularly useful, providing stakeholders with increased visibility and driving intelligent decision-making. For example, spotting an unexpected delay to a particular project could enable resources to be reallocated across the portfolio at an early stage, helping to drive efficiencies within the business and keeping budgets on track. 

Managing the demand for change in project management

As part of their efforts to make the most of available resources while keeping costs under control, project managers should consider using blended teams wherever possible. By combining the organisation’s existing employees with different skills and experienced project managers, it is easier to ensure that the correct levels of skills and resources are utilised at each stage of a project. Furthermore, this method can provide the additional flexibility needed to respond quickly to new developments without unnecessarily prolonging project timelines or increasing costs. 

It is worth bearing in mind that introducing some mitigation strategies may require an initial cost outlay and, as such, effective communication with stakeholders from the very beginning of a project is key. One example is to allocate a contingency budget to the project. This helps to facilitate the project manager’s ability to address key issues that require unplanned spend, without the need to undergo a time-consuming budget approval process. By educating all involved parties about the inevitability of change during projects, it is possible to put buffers in place, both financially and in terms of the project timeline. Over the course of a project, this should enable project managers to react quickly to change and take effective action without compromising on the timescales and delivery of client objectives. 

Likewise, where project delivery is reliant upon large and diverse teams, clearly communicating the impact of unexpected changes, and the required response, is also vital to ensure everyone is on the same page and disruption to day-to-day processes is kept to a minimum. When curveballs to project delivery occur, a failure to brief the team on how these should be addressed could also have a significant impact on levels of motivation and morale, which in turn has the potential to have a negative impact on productivity across a project. 

While meticulous forward planning will always be an essential element of project management, it’s equally important to recognise that to a certain extent, change is unavoidable. The ability to respond effectively to new developments as they occur is therefore vital. By making change a central part of discussions with stakeholders and clearly communicating with all parties on a programme, project managers can take new issues in their stride while continuing to deliver exceptional results for clients. 

Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden are principal consultants at business change consultancy Entec Si.