Many change and transformation projects are unsuccessful because their objectives, targets and strategy are not clear or are not effectively communicated.
When I led a transformation project to build an Asian chemicals factory on a piece of land recovered from the ocean (part of the rather well lit complex at the top of this page) clear objectives, targets and a focused strategy were essential. This was a Joint Venture project and both partners were unambiguous about wanting to get on and build the plant quickly and start making money. However we were also particularly concerned that from the outset the project had clear health, safety and environmental objectives. For me the link to business was clear Good HSE = Good Profit
Sometimes in change projects we are quite good at setting ourselves easily quantifiable financial or production targets. However people goals, and more specifically – safety, environmental and health goals may sometimes be overlooked. Even when the value of these items is understood by management they may be badly communicated to the transformation team. Softer targets like ensuring people are treated fairly, with respect and dignity, and ensuring the new organisation will benefit from a diverse and inclusive culture may be discussed by management but may not be very clearly defined in the project goals.
As a transformation auditor one of the key things I would test was the quality and appropriateness of the objectives, targets and strategy for the change project under consideration. Have these items been through an appropriate peer review process? Such a process does not have to be complex. If you are part of a larger organisation you may be able to find others who have already been through a change project. If so invite them to a peer review meeting and discuss your change goals and strategy with them. Pick their brains about what went wrong with their own project (“If you were to do it again what would you do better?“).
If you are a smaller organisation or perhaps a start-up business try inviting people to a peer review who have experience of projects in other organisations (often your providers of finance may be able to help here – they have a vested interest in helping you to do things right). An important benefit of going through a strategy peer review process is that it forces you to think about, and write down, what you believe really are your change objectives, targets and strategy. After testing your ideas with your reviewers, update them and identify how you will communicate them to relevant stakeholders (see the change communications page).
In addition to being simple, clear and focused your objectives and targets should be measurable. It is no good simply using motherhood statements like ‘we intend to create a more highly motivated workforce‘. What does this mean in practice – can you use questionnaires or opinion surveys? Will you be measuring how long people stay with you compared to the period prior to the change? Being measurable through quantifiable objectives and targets is an essential component of successful change.
A good change strategy does not have to be a huge document – in fact it will be most useful if it can be condensed into a couple of pages. It should include a review of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats/challenges for the old organisation and explain how you would like to change these (this can be one of the two pages). Build up your strategy from this simple framework and then prioritise the activities needed to complete the transformation. During the change you may find yourself resource constrained so it is worthwhile prioritising your goals so you know where to concentrate in times of shortage. During periods of resource constraint objectives related to people, HSE and training can get overshadowed. If you do not want this to happen make sure the targets in these areas are prioritised, clearly quantified and measurable.
In my text book on risk management I introduced the idea of the Value TRAI for defining scopes in risk management processes. This TRAI structure (Targets, Resources, Activities and Interactions) is equally applicable to defining the scope in a change project strategy document. You can learn more about the Value TRAI from my free-of-charge RiskTuition.com website using the link here.
So in summary at the start of the change project:
- Identify simple, quantifiable, measurable change objectives and targets,
- produce a short change strategy document which includes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats/challenges
- Summarise the resources, activities, and interactions/interfaces for the project
- Conduct a peer review of this information and amend it with any improvements identified
- Communicate the output of these processes to the relevant stakeholders.
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