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Transformation Recovery has been a topic I have touched upon a few times here, and if there is one constant that I have learnt over the many years of guiding companies through Transformation Recovery, it is that confidence in an initiative takes months to build, but only seconds to destroy.
It’s a fact of life. Transformations or Integrations Programmes have a tendency to go wrong. Some experts will tell you that 84 per cent fail in some form or another.
And failure carries a consequence. It is often disastrous for the CEO, as failure to manage change – which results in negative impacts on reputation and bottom-line performance – is often cited as the reason a CEO is replaced. Late or poor-quality delivery of any form of Programme or Project can harm an organisation both in terms of money and reputation
When it comes to more complex transformations such as Digital- or ERP-enabled Transformation, Operating Model & Headcount Rationalisation, or Post M&A Integrations, it can be very difficult to spot what is going wrong.
Most leaders do not recognise the symptoms early enough. That is then compounded by not taking quick enough action to address the issues, stem the problem and keep the programme on track.
Conversely, they may instead get the sense of urgency and change, and fall into the temptation of enacting measured short cuts in an attempt to apply rapid recovery techniques to meet objectives.
Another issue is a perception that the initiative is doomed to failure. Culture plays a crucial role in a company’s success, so it should be no surprise that a positive culture is critical to the success of any Transformational Recovery. If things have started going wrong, then belief needs to be restored that the stated outcomes can be achieved and are within reach. At this point it is critical that the Chief Transformation Officer projects belief and confidence in the transformation or integration, this will energies and enable recovery those tasked with delivery to dig deep and to enable and drive the recovery.
Establishing cultural belief restores and maintains the necessary urgency required to take a programme going nowhere into one that is on the right track to succeed.
Let’s be clear: execution mistakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Quite the contrary, they can be a very useful part of the learning process. The impacts and consequences of getting something wrong scale along with the size of the Transformation or Integration.
We used to call out the importance of “failing fast”, so we could spot the problems early and fix them quickly to get us back on track and keep to plan, but figuring out what’s working and what isn’t can be a daunting task in relation to more complex areas, where the consequences of getting something wrong can be much bigger.
These are the areas where you will need to be able to spot faster so that issues can be dealt with as early as possible:
- Requirements – Unclear; lack of agreement; no priorities; contradictory; vague; unrealistic objectives at board level
- Resources – Insufficient/Overextended; resource conflicts; lack of subject matter and/or technical expertise; use of a “Business As Usual” resources to deliver change
- Schedules – Too tight; over-optimistic; not realistic
- Planning – Insufficient data or due diligence; lack of detail; low understanding of dependencies
- Risks – Not identified, or more commonly, not owned and managed
- Design – failure to build an environment that enables execution
Such issues occur due to not understanding that Transformational Recovery is different from normal project management and comes with significant visibility of the CEO internally as well as perhaps in the public arena of the media and marketplace because it is the CEO who initiated the change.
When a decision is made to intervene, recoveries are generally highly successful with some simple, yet highly effective, turnaround strategies:
- Control the message by improving communication and stakeholder engagement
- Redefine the project even if that means changing the scope or resetting the business case
- Add and/or remove resources
- Resolve problematic technical issues as a matter of urgency
Turning around poorly performing programmes and getting them to realise benefits as quickly as possible has been common theme throughout my career. My approach is to work closely with the existing team to identify the critical path and uncover whatever may be blocking delivery.
Through detailed interviews with key individuals and structured workshops with the whole team, our aim is to remove unnecessary tasks and bring the focus exclusively to the critical success factors.
I help to keep things on track by creating a recovery plan with key milestone deliverables. Winning small battles helps to win the war, so identifying and delivering quick victories builds vital confidence in the plan and demonstrates that real, measurable progress is being made, a critical step in rebuilding team confidence and restoring the trust of the executive team.
Regardless of how complex the initiative is, taking accountability and leading by example helps me to drive a client’s programme from underperforming to back on track. I assist you in identifying the problems and help guide them in making swift corrective actions by putting into place the right structures, quickly addressing underperformance and streamlining documentation. Dividing the programme into small modules of self-empowered teams helps deliver everyone to the common recovery game plan.
A bit of “been there, done that” confidence is key to getting it right the first time as experience allows you to recognise where a problem may arise, and by making the project “decision-point driven”, with clear checkpoints, the scope becomes clear and well managed.
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