In the latest of our collaborative articles which address key issues facing the business
community, Zak Mensah, Head of Transformation for the Culture team at Bristol City Council, shares his thoughts on what businesses need to do to avoid the pitfalls that can hamper the most well planned transformation projects.
If Transformation was really easy it wouldn't have a label, could be picked off the shelf and would simply be business as usual. Transformation on the face of it should be easy. Everybody in the organisation currently does "X" one way and very soon you need everybody to do it "this new way Y". Yet the world is littered with abandoned transformation programmes and the word "transformation" cast off into the Christmas buzzword bingo betting pool along with the promise of the technology or innovative approach that should have worked, and yet didn't. This scares leadership who then instil a culture of avoiding change, and the failure to evolve negatively impacts the organisation.
Yet if you were to leave your organisation and start somewhere else you would quickly cotton on to the new organisations ways of working, its tools and its processes. So if it’s possible to switch jobs and make it work why can't we do this for our current organisation? The answer is that successful transformation is actually about delivering successful cultural change. The new tools and processes which are part of successful programmes will be well documented and supported.
But failure to actively change the culture will render the best tools useless.
Assuming you have broadly identified the new tools and approaches that you require, you should think of their introduction with three core guiding principles that centre around the cultural change; scale, scope and speed.
Scale - Understand if you really need everybody to move to the new ways of working, especially all at once. Often it's better to foster good working practice by being consistent rather than being specific about how it is done. This is particularly true if you have different teams or services working with varied client areas where the only commonality is you share the same logo. Instead of trying to roll out the changes to everybody at once and risk failure which in turn drives the culture of fear of change, choose individuals and/or small areas that are most adaptable to change. Plan, deliver and iterate, then you can scale up the roll out.
Know how much you anticipate scaling before you start and factor this into how you choose your technology. There are solutions for all sizes but its a common mistake to assume you will/want to be x10 larger in some vague future so you introduce a vast solution far too early into the organisation.
Scope - Try to transform the entire organisation as little as possible. Learn to love constraints. Fully understand which areas are already working well, that simply needs tweaks, and leave these alone. It’s very important to not to let the scope creep or you’ll inadvertently end-up changing absolutely everything. Too much change too fast makes it impossible to understand what caused a major or fatal issue in the roll out. Give the organisation a 6-12 month roadmap of what to expect so that your staff get use to the idea that change is constant. If there are staff who don't like the forthcoming roadmap then they are free to leave, but then if you stay and they know what's coming and they can provide invaluable support in relation to how change impacts the working organisation.
Adding more of anything to an organisation is difficult, so often new ways of doing things are about removing existing tools and approaches. Find the teams and services who are screaming out for help with their current ways of working and help them before you touch the very successful and well oiled parts of the organisation.
Speed - Nobody likes fast change. Nobody. Understand the typical take-up cycle of recently introduced changes by asking the real users. Use this insight to guide the take-up time for new major changes. Also understand that if you try to run the old way and the new way together that everybody will default to the old way - it’s human nature. Prepare everybody for one leap then another leap. Work "speed" and "scale" together not against each other. The temptation when transforming a service or entire organisation is to go too fast or introduce innovation too quickly.
Fix the obvious and known problems first with as simple an improvement as possible. Once you have an effective solution then and only then should you iterate with new clever ways. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will eventually help your organisation. However, at present you probably lack the resources to use it effectively so asking your experienced workforce to solve a problem will work just as well for now. In most business areas speed alone isn’t the deal clincher.
As a leader you need to be seen using the same tools and approaches at the same time as the rest of the organisation. Feel their concerns, see the shortcomings and learn for the next roll out.
Finally my number one tip is never deploy anything on a Friday. When things go wrong not only will you be spending the weekend trying to fix the problems but 99% of the people who can help won’t be around.
At Moon Consulting we regularly support clients who are going through transformation projects and we appreciate that this can be an exciting, yet challenging, time for the business and getting the right individuals to support during a period of change is essential.
We know that it can take a certain type of candidate to flourish in a transformational environment where resilience, adaptability, team ethos, company values and personality are as important as skill set.
With an extensive network of high-calibre, pre-registered and fully vetted candidates on our database, and our large professional network, Moon Consulting are ideally placed to help support companies as they implement transformation projects.
For more information on Moon Consulting please click here or contact one of the team on 01275 371 200