Leading Complex Change Programs: Stimulate People to Think Impact!

Over the past 25 years I have been involved in various complex change programs for companies in all kinds of markets and circumstances. But in the past years I have seen the world of Business Transformation, Program and Project Management change substantially. Those of us who are leading complex transformations know what I am talking about. Organizations are confronted with new technologies, new products, and new market conditions that force them to re-invent the way they deal with change and roll out change initiatives. How can they keep pace? Traditional change and project management methods no longer seem to be sufficient. In this article I will highlight a vital element that determines the success of change programs in today’s business reality: Stimulate your people to think and communicate in terms of impact.

A few observations:

  1. Technology is driving change more than ever before; we live in a digital age, and technological evolutions can be very fast and disruptive;
  2. Senior management tries to define appropriate answers to these digital challenges without knowing all the answers upfront;
  3. Transformation programs are expected to align the fast moving needs of the business with the fast moving technological evolutions.

In order to be successful, one of the most essential challenges for transformation programs is to establish the right level of co-creation and alignment between 3 worlds: business management (‘what do we need from our technical colleagues in order to be able to achieve our strategy’) – technological experts (‘what do we need from ‘the business’ in order to be able to define feasible technical options, and to set realistic implementation priorities’) – process owners (‘what do we need from management, HR, and technical departments to be able to execute the changing business rules, processes and tools efficiently and effectively’).

One of the most essential challenges for transformation programs is to establish the right level of co-creation and alignment between business managers – technological experts – and the users/executors of the new processes and tools.

As McKinsey&Company describes it: when companies take a systematic approach to prioritizing initiatives and involve input from a range of company stakeholders, executives are more likely than average to report successful transformations (read the McKinsey article here).

What does this ‘systematic approach’ actually mean? What kind of mindset do we need to create a successful systematic transformation approach throughout the organization?

Quite often I see organizations translate this into an ‘action planning’-mindset: discussing actions and planning, negotiating deadlines, putting it in extensive documentation, and communication about the actions and planning. Even in organization that claim to apply agile roll-out principles I regularly observe this action planning focus. But does this really help stakeholders to create alignment on their mutual needs and expectations?

Here is my point: to create successful transformation we need to build an ‘impact’-mindset in our teams, rather than an ‘action planning’-mindset.

To create successful transformation we need to build an ‘impact’-mindset, rather than an ‘action planning’-mindset.

A few examples of the importance of an impact-mindset during transformation programs:

  • How do we define business requirements? How much of our focus turns to inventory and action planning versus to impact-analysis and impact discussions?
  • How do we communicate very complex technical options to business stakeholders? Do we keep the details out of their sight (‘they are not interested in the details anyway’)? How well do we understand and explain the potential business impact to them?
  • How well do we understand the impact on people and processes? Do we have the right people around the table? Cross-team, diverse areas of expertise, HR and ICT together?

Stimulate your people to think and communicate in terms of impact. Why? Because it makes our expectations towards the changes and end-results more accurate and more precise! It creates a stronger mutual understanding of what we want, about what is possible, and about the priorities we set. It increases alignment between stakeholders, and therefore the chance of a successful transformation program.

What is your experience with transformation programs? What points would you add? Please share!

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Photo: Andrea/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Aad Boot leaning against a door postAad is a global business advisor, change leader, executive team facilitator, leadership coach, and frequently asked keynote speaker. He is founder and managing partner at HRS Business Transformation Services where he works with senior executives and their organizations globally in three key domains: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, and ‘post-merger integration’. Find out more about Aad, our services, and his keynotes. If you would like to invite Aad to your organization contact us.

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