Transformation initiatives: Navigating the voyage to success

Transformation initiative web graphic
Transformation initiatives are voyages fraught with uncertainty but also full of excitement for the opportunities and discoveries that lie ahead. They often carry risk, cost and unpredictability, and, if not appropriately managed, can quickly steer off course or run aground.

Transformation initiativeThe three primary reasons for project failure are:

  • Inflexible and slow life cycle processes
  • Ineffective project management
  • Improperly skilled teams not dedicated to the initiative

To stay on course, minimize team-related risks and keep your transformation journey from scuttling, take the following three critical actions:

1. Set the voyage course: Communicate and manage the route Transformation involves all facets of an organization — people, processes and culture — and success depends on the ability to build commitment to the transformation, reduce resistance to change, and maintain organizational performance and productivity during the transformation. For a successful voyage, give clear direction about where the team is heading, and gain buy-in from all involved. In upfront planning, establish the reason for the voyage and the resources required. Also, map how the team will reach the destination. Before the voyage begins:

  • Envision: Assess the current state; determine any changes needed; define the future state; and identify organizational, process and technology changes.

  • Align: Secure commitments to a shared vision, make sure impacts are understood and demonstrate leadership buy-in.

  • Map: Provide visibility into transformation plans through visual tools that describe the path to change, the change progress and accomplishments, the next steps and the change in responsibilities.

  • Promote: Communicate change plans, progress, benefits and challenges via appropriate messages and channels.

  • Prepare: Confirm that stakeholders understand the change; are involved, trained and able to adopt the change; and have processes and technology in place to make the change.

  • Support: During transformation, monitor change effectiveness and buy-in, identify course corrections, and reinforce change to maintain performance.

CASE STUDY: Gap assessment rescues a project in crisis Challenge
A $1.5 billion multinational technology corporation needed help in completing a platform re-implementation, which had been delayed due to unclear objectives and roadmapping, as well as to unclear milestones for progress. The implementation was to affect multiple product lines and end users in 20 countries.

We diagnosed the gaps in the project structure and assisted with project management to develop objectives, status reporting on milestones, governance structure and a realistic go-live date that balanced costs, risks and value.

The implementation was successful and achieved the following: the reduction of costs associated with schedule and quality issues; the implementation of an effective resource management; the reduction of duplicated effort; the assessment of controls for regulatory compliance; and the adoption of improved project management, which resulted in recommendations for repeatable methodologies and processes.

2. Direct the voyage: Ensure effective leadership Transformational voyages always run into difficulties. Invariably, there will be resistance to change. Effective leadership is the key factor in building commitment to the transformation, and in establishing and implementing the vision for the change. Then leadership needs to embrace a governance approach that is flexible, yet empowering and that highlights processes for prioritization, decision-making and communication. Our recommendation is that organizations identify and develop leaders who provide teams with appropriate responsibility, accountability and authority to organize in support of customer needs.  

To help make the transformation a success, managers should have personality traits that will allow them to take the following actions: (1) lead by example, (2) listen carefully, (3) communicate well, (4) create a climate of trust, (5) look for results, (6) inspect and adapt, (7) support people to improve performance, (8) emphasize the importance of teamwork, and (9) improve team quality of life through a sustainable pace.

To guide the journey to clear waters and safe harbors, the leader and team will:

  • Align their efforts with business needs
  • Use specialized technical knowledge to deploy proven, innovative solutions that deliver business value
  • Focus on what is critical, clarify objectives and continuously manage change
  • Excel in core management and agile delivery practices to make course corrections to meet commitments

Leaders should have a compass in the form of appropriate governance that includes:

  • Identifying one or more program sponsors who are respected and have experience in guiding complex transformation initiatives

  • Establishing a process to make decisions about proposed course changes, status reporting and communication

  • Selecting steering committee members who will help prioritize, review requests for changes in scope, handle conflicts or constraints and hold the team accountable for milestones

  • Establishing internal or external program management expertise as either a center of excellence for tools/templates/methodology or hands-on management, including identifying and managing risk

CASE STUDY: Multibillion-dollar manufacturer initiates system updates Challenge
With a multitude of disparate, outdated systems in place, a global, publicly traded manufacturing company needed to upgrade and enhance their current enterprise resource planning system to standardize global operations.

We performed a project health assessment to understand the current state. In coordination with the company’s staff, we managed the planning, testing, risk monitoring and administration of the system upgrade.  

As a result of the project execution, the manufacturer met the timeline and benefited from improved governance and leadership.

3. Steward the voyage: Enlist a capable, dedicated team Transformation requires leaders who recognize the need for a dedicated team, whose members will be good stewards for the initiative. Selecting the right team for a transformation is vital to the success of the initiative; a great team’s expertise and passion for the transformation vision can help overcome challenges during the voyage. Also, participation is a rewarding experience — those involved often gain new skills that make them more valuable to the organization.

To ensure success, consider the following when selecting your core program team members:

  • Get a team with the right mix of skills: (1) identify potential candidates and assess team skill sets from strategic to controlling to detailed and analytical; (2) negotiate with candidates and their functional supervisors, and determine the need for external support; and (3) base your selection on skill rather than availability.

  • Champion the benefits of working on transformation initiatives and decide whether to offer incentives to assure top performance.

  • Ensure that, at the end of the transformation, you have a career progression plan for the people who helped throughout the initiative.

CASE STUDY: Major software company moves out of silos into collaboration Challenge
Overseeing 12,000 employees, the CIO of a major software company set out to restructure the organization from individual silos into three service-centric and process-centric competitive IT groups. Knowing that major change comes with significant risk, the company needed a solid foundation for implementation.

We helped to (1) design a change transformation strategy to drive the future-state paradigm, (2) create a roadmap to transition, and (3) suggest structure processes to measure progress and success. We assessed the organization’s current environment and helped build the roadmap for change, which included identifying and engaging the right internal team. During implementation, we assisted with communicating to stakeholders the vision for the change and monitored change readiness. In addition, we integrated multiple individuals into a single operating team focused on the project’s success. The team created a strategy for the individual roles required under the new organization and established a program leadership structure marked by defined goals.

The engagement led to a more agile and responsive IT group that aligned with today’s increasingly complex global environment. With a new operating model across the organization, the company was positioned to minimize ambiguity and limit threats to the company’s success. The company projected an improvement in its employee health index of more than 20% and cost reductions of 15%.

Transformational initiatives are risky voyages. The most successful ones are guided by a clear and well-communicated vision, effective governance processes, strong leadership, and motivated team members.

For further insights and navigational assistance, contact:

Joe Skovira
Technology Strategy and Management
Advisory Services
T +1 704 632 6811

Brian Reynolds
Public Sector Advisory
T +1 703 837 4415