Isn’t it time we put expensive project failure behind us?

Many organisations are not confident in their ability to deliver the size and scale of transformations required to meet their strategic outcomes. With most attempting to structure and deliver change solely using more traditional project methods such as PRINCE2 and few having appropriately defined and agreed what success would look like, it is perhaps not surprising that many transformation attempts flounder or fail. 

With c.40% of transformations costing in excess of £100m, organisations can ill afford to continue merely talking about the importance of transformation. They need to take decisive action to improve their chances of success. Here are our top transformation tips:

Ensure the implications of the transformation are understood by key stakeholders

Adopting a programmatic approach is different to more traditional projects and rarely does one size fit all. By adopting a programmatic approach, stakeholders need to understand the impact on factors such as culture, individual and collective capability, governance and organisational structures, funding etc.

Use the transition states (how the business will change through time) to agree executive priorities

By their very nature, transformations tend to impact on most of an organisation’s business; rarely is it isolated to one team or department. Without alignment between the transition states and Executive priorities, business teams will get mixed messages about what is important, resulting in chaos.

Define success at the outset

Too many organisations don’t take the time to understand what members and other key stakeholders consider ‘good’ to look like early in the lifecycle. Failure to define what qualifies as success at the outset and throughout the transformation, will result in buy-in to the transformation being quickly lost, as well as a significant amount of rework and wasted time.

Clarify how each prioritised project and line initiative will deliver measurable benefits

Demonstrating how benefits will be achieved will ensure valuable funding is not wasted on initiatives that have either woolly or no associated benefits. It will also reduce the benefits that are ‘double counted’ and will help increase confidence that what is promised will be achieved.

Don’t waste time debating detailed design

Without an appropriate framework on what success looks like, organisations tend to endlessly debate and over-engineer design. Having spent too long on design, many embark on delivery too late, resulting in what’s delivered being either out of date or no longer required.

Appoint leaders with a proven track-record of success

Programme managers require a different set of experience and capabilities to successful project managers. Those that attempt to use approaches that they have successfully employed on more traditional projects, may not always be able to deliver the same results in different circumstances.

Demand more from your Corporate Programme Office (CPO)

CPOs must also recognise that transformational programmes are different to projects, and they cannot mandate the same approaches or produce corporate visibility in the same way. Successful transformations are supported by a CPO focused on providing practical relevant approaches that help improve the success of the transformation – less on producing detailed reports and implementing lots of processes.

Understand and regularly ‘sense check’ the capacity of the ‘business-as-usual; teams to support and absorb the required change

With most transformations impacting at least 60% of ‘business-as-usual’ teams, organisations cannot afford to ignore them. Real engagement and appropriate business readiness and adaptability are imperative for transformations to be successful.

Closely manage any external consultants and demand significant value-add

Finally, too many organisations waste money on external consultants by employing armies of people to do the transformation for them at the expense of using their own people. Successful organisations recognise the importance of retaining ownership of the transformation internally, opting to use external consultants to help them build and augment their own capability.

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