Communication, consistent wins and accountability are the pillars of any successful transformation programme. While this sounds simple, it is rarely achieved. Often, as larger transformation programmes are undertaken, support for these programmes does not permeate the entire organisation resulting in diminishing returns. Below, I detail how this tends to happen and how, through using the pillars of transformation, success can be achieved.
Vision for organisational transformation
Most leadership teams have a vision for their organisation’s transformation, which should inform every decision that they make. A CTO, for example, should purchase technology to support the end goal and where that is not possible, at least buy technology that does not contradict it. If you are striving to be a cloud-first business, not building anything on premises moving forward would support this aim. While this is the plan, what usually happens is that the day to day running of the business takes precedence over the vision. To illustrate the point, let’s imagine that a fault is found in a legacy system. This would seem like the perfect opportunity for transformation and replace the on-premises solution with a new cloud-based SaaS system that should be cheaper to purchase, easier to run and more user-friendly.
When the IT team and/or business owners of the processes this system supports are asked about replacing it, however, it is here that the leadership team learns about the complexity of the system. It is a bespoke system built by someone who is no longer in the company and system administrators are doing their best to keep it running. Furthermore, the system is critical to the running of the business and if the fault is not fixed, the company will be unable to deliver their services meaning large penalties from current customers and massive reputational damage. Upon hearing this, the leadership team decide that based on the risk, the system will not be replaced, but rather the fault in the system will be resolved. In this way, many legacy systems are routinely managed instead of replaced and become extremely expensive to run. The vision held by the leadership is partially carried out but continues to have exceptions to the rule meaning the overall vision is not compatible with the entirety of the organisation and how it runs. Although this happens at some organisations, there is a way to ensure that this does not become the norm.
Vision is necessary to transformation, but also tend to involve a lot of complex change to be achieved over a 3-5 year period. It is key therefore to involve your entire organisation from the outset to ensure you create conditions for the vision to flourish. Make sure you understand the key challenges across the business, secure the support of your team and remove blockers to change. The three key pillars to support this transformation are:
Socialise your vision with your entire organisation. Explain why you think it is important and encourage them to collaborate. This will enable them to add their expert views related to their role in the process. In the example of legacy systems, the team involved would have pointed out that their system should be a priority but will require careful planning as it is mission critical as well as bespoke. Therefore, through careful monitoring, each process would have been mapped and a system designed and implemented in stages reducing the risk of failure and also ensuring the vision could be delivered. Through communication, the leadership and the organisation as a whole improve the likelihood of success.
Build quick wins into every project you undertake. Change is difficult and maybe frustrating for an organisation, so the ability to show results quickly where related to an improvement in user experience or cost reduction that enables funding for other projects is essential. This will build an expectation that while change is difficult, it does deliver for staff to aid them in the day to day work life. This will reduce reluctance to change and will see all staff actively involved as everyone gains from the changes.
Linking a vision to programme outcomes and core business metrics enables accountability of performance both of people and projects. This is essential throughout the transformation programme required to deliver an organisational vision. Through communicating and collaborating on a vision at the outset, an entire organisation becomes bound to the transformation as stakeholders. Similarly, in delivering quick wins throughout, project success is continuously evidenced showing all stakeholders that the programme is working. It further encourages those with outputs to deliver whether they are training-, development- or user related to deliver as all parties can measure the success personally and to the business. As transformation programmes tend to be long, tying these outputs expected of personnel to engagements where they are recognised, rewarded and celebrated as part of that success ensures continued positive participation.
While transformation is arduous, it can also be rewarding if communicated, collaborated on and experienced successfully. Using these three pillars will improve success rates enormously.