Beyond the buzzwords – what makes transformation programs successful?

A lot of books and articles have been written about success factors for change. Yet very often, these success factors seem to be somewhat intangible and generic, such as “create buy-in” and “manage change”.

I have been asked to present a set of experience based success factors that would actually help a global company make the right choices for their global transformation program. Here is an extract of what I came up with:

  • Make management accountable to be first movers and role models for the change, by clearly stating expectations, and by giving them concrete targets related to the implementation, such as delivering concrete analysis / or input to the program, conduct presentations in their management teams, allocation of resources
  • Harmonize ways of working at the high level, before starting the systems implementation. All though it is a well established pedagogical fact that people learn more effectively when they understand the big picture first, this principle is often violated by rushing into “blueprinting” workshops to specify system support needs. IT consultants may try to persuade you that “it is all in the design” when in fact it is not. On the contrary, it may show impossible to agree on a design that works for the company unless there is a high level common agreement on future ways of working.
  • Be prepared to align not only processes and systems, but also to challenge structures and incentives to support the transformation. All to often, people are expected to change behavior within the very organization structure and with the incentives not of the desired ways of working, but of the past state, although these structures have been contributing to the pain points that you are aiming to address. Statements like “we will not change our structure” or “the KPI’s are not in scope” is like an alcoholic claiming that the booze is not part of the problem.
  • Expect and prepare for concerns among key stakeholders once the actual changes are fully understood. Stakeholders can move up and down the commitment curve during the program lifecycle. This is something very important to acknowledge also for the executive leadership team, who may be tempted focus on new things once the transformation program has passed the first critical milestones.
  • Build strong in house transformational competencies (including process, IT and project management competencies) to anchor new ways of working, and to be a counterpart for the external vendors during implementation. Building and retaining these unique competencies may be more challenging than it sounds, as many companies do not have what could be referred to a “project culture”, and therefore may find it hard to attract and retain the right kind of employees.
  • This requires establishment of a real organization to plan, design and deliver the transformation program. Because project workers within major transformation programs are allocated for 50% or more of their time, project managers are not only responsible for planning and delivering projects, but also people managers with leadership responsibilities that must be defined and acted upon. Just like any other organization, a program organization must prioritize leadership, talent management and performance management to successfully attract, motivate, develop and retain key talent.
  • Invest in a successful Pilot that can impress the organization – it will be the tipping point of the whole program. Selecting a pilot is a difficult balance between choosing something that is on the one hand easily achievable given the early stage of the program  – and on the other hand representative and ambitious enough to be perceived as such by the organization. Therefore, investing in making it a success is really important, in terms of detailed planning, resource allocation etc.

Hence my list so far. What would you add to the list? 

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