Why do companies transform?
“To relieve the pain.”
Everybody is talking about transformation these days! Whether your company is starting the process, in the middle of a significant change or concluding a big milestone it’s happening all around.
Companies are living organisms that need to adjust to the influencing factors around them for survival. In an age of mobile phone access to services and products, the pressure is on to provide immediate and efficient consumer value. I set out on a year-long journey to talk to senior executives and industry professionals across a wide range of companies and fields to explore what transformation means to them.
Let’s get to the good stuff. Here are the takeaways for transformation success:
1. Big Bang and Continuous Improvement are Cousins
Big bang comes in with the hammer to implement new software, processes, organizational structure and policy while Continuous Improvement (CI) makes it all FIT together. They need each other as CI can only move in small increments, installing sign posts and painting laneways, while Big Bang has the heavy machinery to build brand new highways.
Regarding CI: Asking staff to make micro-changes from the corner of their desks doesn’t provide substantive value. Working on the urgent before important for later on…never really happens. It’s a hard mindset to switch between operational and improvement. Great ideas are blindly added to a backlog with no time to implement the change. To make it stick, block off a few days a quarter and dedicate them to CI working days (bring whiteboards, laptops, music
2. Make the Cut
Don’t hesitate to make the bold cut to process, technology and people if something is not working. Delaying the inevitable can be a slow and painful process of finger pointing, soft restructuring, introducing barely improved products, staff turnover followed with collapse. Fail fast to enable a strong course correction.
Regarding the staff: Serve the people and enable them to lead the change however, the focus is on the success of the company providing
3. Installing Software is Not a Success
We purchase software to enable outcomes. I get it. There is a lot of energy, excitement and momentum created with design, communications, testing, pre-production, training users and the big “Go Live” date. Stay focused as this is just the beginning of the journey. Its all about the capabilities and the value produced as a result of leveraging this new technology.
Keep the original business plan from a technology purchase handy 1 year after implementation and evaluate. What percentage of the organization
4. Gotta Keep Your Mindset Right
The change of mindset from status quo -> to challenging comfort -> to struggle through change -> to success is a
Complaints are an asset
5. Check Emotions at the Door
You absolutely cannot have any untouchable processes, tools or teams that go without periodic re-evaluation. A lot of time, energy and years of work went into the capabilities already built. It’s a wonderful feeling to be very strong in a well-organized team who has been doing the same work in the same way for several years. Even harder to re-evaluate a service or team
Staff need to feel safe to take risks and disrupt the norm
Here are a few leading indicators to know if your business function will be valuable post transformation:
- Are users willingly adopting? (if not the WIIFM value is misunderstood)
- Do users learn once without retraining? (if not,
itsnot easy enough to use)
- Has the business function noticeably improved? (if not, complaints haven’t been treated as assets)
- Is it quicker or easier to produce a product than several years ago? (if not, the service should be evaluated for continuous improvement opportunities)
6. If the project is part agile and part waterfall, Embrace it!
There are many best practices in both styles that can be leveraged at key parts to move the project along. The overarching project can have a waterfall implementation schedule, however how some deliverables come together can be agile. Micro apps, manuals, lunch and learn training sessions, information gathering workshops or even system configuration spreadsheets can be timeboxed activities. These types of activities can executed as agile and allow for multiple test cycles within the same range of time as if done through a waterfall method. The trade off is a higher degree of requirements implemented in design.
The people will fall into one of two camps; the disciplined waterfall soldiers or the refine as we go agile ninjas. The waterfall soldiers will bark and feel confused in an “unstructured” agile style. The agile ninjas will feel their creativity boxed into a singular design-test-implement waterfall style.
7. Deeply Integrate Teams Across Business Lines
Real gold is available when teams get deep in each other’s ways of working. Whether this is learning handy tricks using excel, gaining insights on employee perks you didn’t know existed, sharing each other’s techniques for processing data, leveraging a teams’ purchased software, or even repurposing each other’s snazzy PowerPoint slide designs. The fact is several lines of business work together as a value stream to produce outcomes. Yes, filling in forms, submitting documents and attending intake review meetings may be a norm. The real gold is in the appreciation of what goes on when we submit work to another team to process. This insight into the work our partners do leads to a treasure trove of efficiencies. Break down the silos.
Many teams don’t know how business works in other departments.
Some organizations foster this by allowing key staff to move around to various lines of business. Whether the learnings can be built upon or shared across teams is then left to the leadership style of the individual. Sharing needs to exist with frontline, middle management
|Siloed Teams Perspective||Integrated Teams Perspective|
|Converting our paper documents to electronic will take forever and will never happen.||Our partners from team awesome have become paperless, lets ask them about their journey.|
|This internal HR course takes too long and I’m more confused about signing up for benefits that when I started.||Let’s get in touch with Dave the course SME and share some feedback with him. He is a cool guy and has been really open to hearing constructive feedback.|
|There are too many steps in this technology process.||Let’s create “show” and tells” for the team to share learnings on look ups, automation or even quick tips picked up through communities of practice.|
|The customer doesn’t know what they are talking about.||Let’s be customers too in order to see things from the other side. Additionally we can invest in our team’s consumer value training.|