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Six Practices to Improve Success Rates for Business Transformation

by Jerry Julian, Ed.D

So you have a mandate to streamline processes, upgrade IT, and make the necessary organizational changes to improve service and increase productivity. Here are a few things to keep in mind to improve your odds of achieving a successful result for you, shareholders and your people.

Learn from previous failures and successes

Many leaders don’t look back and diagnose the factors that led to previous failures. That's because there may be the belief that the people doing it last time weren’t the right ones. While this may or may not be true, its likely there were also operational, technical, political and cultural factors that could resurface again and send your efforts into disarray. Getting a handle on these issues early-on can help you mitigate risk and provide both stakeholders and your team with the assurance that you can make it happen this time.

Assign a Transformation Program Office Leader

Staff an influential leader to head up a Transformation Program Office (TPO). A TPO coordinates and aligns project teams and their interface with executive management. It provides project teams with tools, approaches and knowledge sharing mechanisms so they stay on course, make wise use of valuable resources, and remain connected and aligned with key executive stakeholder groups and priorities. It also provides mechanisms for senior managers to resolve conflicting priorities and focus mindshare on mission-critical risks and opportunities.

Chunk the work into discrete waves with 6-8 week time horizons

Try breaking the work down into well-defined "waves" with clear, achievable objectives that can be accomplished within 6-8 weeks. This helps demonstrate accomplishment and momentum and inspires more confidence among stakeholders who may be watching on the sidelines for signs of progress.

Staff projects with your best and brightest

You know who these people are. They’re the ones everyone seems to want running their projects. They know how to navigate the organization and they know how to collaborate and ensure alignment across groups. They know that making progress means not only having a good project plan, but also the ability to bring others along and get contributions from the right people at the right time.

Don’t let the negative voices undermine progress

Its crucial to include stakeholders from multiple functions, groups and departments so you can negotiate solutions jointly and get the alignment you need. Yet there may be those that continue to obstruct progress despite repeated attempts to address their concerns. Getting these people on board or out of the way, and getting organizational buy-in to do it, may be one of the most politically challenging tasks a leader can face. Doing the right thing will provide you, your team and your change effort with the credibility it needs to move forward with energy and confidence.

Provide project managers and teams with expert coaching and guidance

You selected team members because they’re your best and brightest. But they may not have been charged with managing an organizational transformation project before. And you may not have the time or ability to personally provide them with the help and expertise they need. Equip them with knowledge, tools and guidance by providing them with a transformation program advisor. You may have someone skilled in this area internally. Or you may want to hire a seasoned hand from the outside and leverage them across teams. Using this model, your best and brightest will get the opportunity to use their talents rather than staffing the project with outside experts who take their knowledge and learning with them after the project ends.

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