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5 ways to keeping your transformation program on track

An overwhelming majority of business executives agree that transformation is fundamental to their organisation’s success. “Innovation” and “staying competitive” are often quoted as the drivers for transformation – everyone wants to be a leader in their industry, yes?

But with a high failure rate amongst transformation projects, what can you do to ensure your project stays on track and brings the benefits identified within reach?

A 2014 Oracle/Forbes Insights survey of 534 global executives revealed that less than half of the respondents felt their organisation was ready to successfully execute a transformation program, even though the vast majority realised that transformation was necessary to remain competitive and relevant.

We examine five ways you can contribute to the success of your organisation’s transformation project:

1. Building a clear plan

Clearly defining the plan for transformation is the first step to success. This means:

  • Setting out what role the transformation project will take in the overall company agenda
  • Identifying the targets the program is trying to achieve
  • Agreeing the structure the program will take.

2. Assessing change capability

A change plan identifies the “what, when, how, who and where” of change at all stages of the journey to deliver transformational goals. At a high level, the plan outlines how the organisation will move from its “as is” to the “to be” state and can include:

  • Assessing the organisation’s pre-transformation situation, warts and all
  • Assessing existing change capability and identifying gaps
  • Understanding and articulating the underlying mind-sets that must change for the transformation to succeed.

3. Communication

Dima Yanchenko of SAP Deutschland recently wrote in her article entitled 5 Reasons why business transformation programs fail that the definition of a successful communication strategy was when people at all levels of an origination undertaking a transformation program have “reached the point where they can flawlessly articulate and share the purpose with others.” She underlines the importance of using strong communication from the transformation program initiation.

“People tend to accept change if they understand the purpose and can relate it to themselves using their own insights, visuals and words. When they understand the value and realize that a step forwards actually means achieving a number of benefits, they’ll make that step,” says Yanchenko.

Communications must speak to the individual needs of different stakeholder groups to be effective and clearly address the question: “What’s in it for me?” It is unwise assume a communication will be accepted or acted upon without first asking: “Have I validated that both the sender and recipient have a shared understanding of what has been communicated?”

4. Understanding risks

When asked the question: “What are the biggest planning challenges that can derail your business transformation initiatives?”, 35 per cent of the respondents to the Oracle/Forbes survey cited “misjudging or not anticipating risk factors”.

According to the report, the ability to accurately account for, predict and build contingencies around risk, including everything from market changes to garden-variety scope creep, is crucial to the success of any business transformation initiative. Having the right tools and processes are vital to accurately assess risk. A change management plan (mentioned in point 2 above) is an important input to a risk mitigation strategy.

5. Buy in

Not surprisingly, the top reason for transformational success in the Oracle/Forbes Insights Survey was “Support from leadership”. The waterfall effect of top-level buy in flowing down to all levels of an organisation can never be underestimated. Employee commitment tends to start with an executive’s ability to set and communicate a vision. Mercedes Benz in the USA have had significant success with transformational projects as a result of getting all members of the executive team on board with any major initiative well before it begins. “It’s deeply entrenched that we run this business as a collective,” says Gareth Joyce, vice president of customer service for MBUSA. “We all have responsibility for all parts of the business, and we genuinely practice that. Major strategic objectives are always discussed as an executive team.”

But it certainly doesn’t end there.

Obtaining buy in at the coalface of transformation is dependent on best-practice stakeholder communication tailored to be relevant to different groups. Providing opportunities for employees to contribute to shaping the transformational agenda and outcomes for their area also creates ownership and responsibility for that change. Strategies include:

  • Using internal social media tools like Yammer and other organisational tools to build ideas and understand the level of buy in
  • Conducting regular presentation or “Town Hall” and “brown bag” lunch sessions where employees can talk to the executive about where the transformation is headed
  • Having a structured Stakeholder Engagement Plan as part of your change management work where you are tracking key audience group and stakeholder buy in with both formal and informal activity to build their buy-in.

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