Did you know that about 26% of the change initiatives are failing? Most probably you did. And this statistic is quite sobering. And you might very well be deep in a transformative initiative and things take too long, and the impacted people are not sharing the same enthusiasm as you. Yes, this is normal.
The good news is, there are clear ways how to improve your odds to over 70%! How? With a clear and structured change management practice in your organisation. Key success factors are:
Curious to learn more about a structured and hands-on approach to change management? We have launched a program for Certified Associates in Change Management.
Hive17 Consulting is excited to announce the partnership between CPC Consulting and TUV Rheinland to bring a new change management certification to Singapore and Southeast Asia. These two partners have been offering the programs in Germany and China and now decided to expand their regional reach.
Change is a constant in today's times - we are all on journeys to capture new markets and innovating our value proposition to our customers. How successful are your transformation initiatives? Do you have the feeling that the adoption takes too much time? What is your recipe against low motivation and high resistance?
The certification program designed by CPC Consulting is successfully combining a broad view across different methodologies and distilling these into their own clearly structured and hands-on approach. Hive17 Consulting is endorsing the CPC methodology not only based on its simplicity; we also support the hybrid learning path: the program is structured in three tiers, as a combination of asynchronous online learning and synchronous classroom workshops.
What do you think about these programs? Who in your organisation network might be interested as well? Please spread out the exciting news to interested friends.
End of last year, in the context of an agile transformation in a global financial institution, we delivered a series of design thinking trainings to a global audience. The sessions introduced the people-centric problem solving methodology, shared some case studies, and allowed the participants to practice some of the tools. After the program, we checked in with the teams and observed that they didn't take up design thinking in their practice.
How often did you observe that your training efforts have little impact on people's daily work? What can we add to bring the excitement from the training back to work? In my experience, this is an essential step for success.
At the bank, we selected a few teams that were excited about design thinking and willing to explore ways how they can overcome barriers and adopt the new principles and tools in their daily work. Typical barriers were a strong focus on delivery, very limited perceived time for other activities, a feeling that there was not much room for creativity. On top of this, the team also needed to build confidence with the methodology itself.
So, the journey began. Two important things we laid down from the start: everyone in the team is committed; what we are doing is relevant for daily work. We reviewed the deliverables for the quarter and based on that, the team identified areas where the team required a better understanding what the customers needed. Based on this, we started an iterative process to identify the best ways bring design thinking into people's daily work. Here are some of the lessons learnt:
One way we reduced the number of tools was the way we looked at the journey map. This became the key canvas to collect information during the inspiration phase. The map included the personas, the process steps, the needs and tools required, and the insights via a mood curve. These journey maps started with a broad scope and later we narrowed them down to a small scope which reflected the current activities. We used them first to collect information from within the extended team and then showed them to groups of customers (internal stakeholders) to validate assumptions and gain further insights.
While it took time to find a good way to bring design thinking methods into people's daily work, the team appreciated that we have cultivated a customer-centric mindset and provided a path to regularly interact with the customers. This allowed the teams to build deliverables that are much closer to the need of the customers and create more value. Now the initial efforts are shared to other teams and the seed is passed along.
What is your experience to cultivate customer-centricity in your teams?
Image source: Ideo U.
About three years ago, I started to run design thinking workshops and brought the topic closer to people in various companies and functions. As a change management practitioner, I immediately realised the attraction and the synergies between the two stream of thoughts.
Let's look at two of the traditional barriers to innovation and leadership: lack of speed in decision-making and lack of creativity. Both barriers are behavioural. While these are typical barriers to innovation, they are also holding up most change initiatives. And design thinking is a method to address both barriers in simple ways.
Speed - in design thinking we encourage to try things out; the focus is on learning by making mistakes. When we present prototypes early to the customer, we get early feedback on how we can get closer to create value for them. This early feedback facilitates decision-making. Design thinking also promotes to spend a significant amount on identifying the right problem; and still, this time is well invested and allows the team to create the right value for customers in a short period of time.
Creativity - here, design thinking brings many activities that allow people to use their inert creativity. The immersion into the customer's environment creates exposure to gain and pain points that trigger inspiration and critical thinking. During all my workshops we are spending time to prototype - to make the solution ideas tangible. With this activity, we are activating the creative brain and further facilitates the discover of new ideas and solutions. And finally, when we converge and digest the information by using gallery walks and journey maps, we extract the essence of the challenge which triggers further inspiration.
In addition to these two barriers, here are four points how I see design thinking is supporting your change initiatives:
How did you adopt design thinking for your change project?
Source: Why Design Thinking Works, Harvard Business Review, October 2018
At Hive17 Consulting we took our experience and evolved a model that identifies key ingredients that make teams successful in an environment that is ever-changing and complex - in short chaotic. We call these the four pillars of the wheel of antifragility: purpose, customer value, experimentation and relationships.
Each of these include important goals that support success. Though these goals can be contradicting; for example, if the team members have a singular focus on pleasing the customers, then the team spirit might be jeopardised. There is no set of actions that simply improve all four goals at the same time. Therefore, it is important to advance the four pillars in a balanced way. For example, focus on creating value for the customers based on strong team bonds.
While the pillars are based on solid research, our model is created through empiric knowledge. And, we continuously benchmark it to other concepts, thoughts and research, to make sure we are on the right track and further evolve our practice. The other day, I was reading this article "So What is Agile Really About?", in my eyes a great summary of the key principles for agility (which are in itself based on continuous innovation). Here are these 7 principles and how I see them supporting antifragility.
Where do you see the key elements of an agile organisation? What have you observed that makes teams successful in an uncertain and complex environment?
Source: So What is Agile Really About?, Barry Overeem, Scrum.org
We all heard about it - Agile Transformation! I have seen the term used in two situations. Either the organisation wants to introduce Agile Development and that is indeed a major transformation. Or, the organisation wants to drive change (innovation, market expansion, increased competition, etc.) and they decided to become more agile. I suggest to converge to the latter.
So, how can a change management approach bring more agility in leadership, to the teams and to the success of your operations? Here are a few pointers from my practice, inspired as well from two articles linked below.
Mentioned many times, the North Star is key to make people excited about the change to come, gives them meaning. And it is also the anchor and the imagination for what we want to achieve. Without this, agility turns into chaos.
The people in the frontlines have access to the best knowledge and information on how to bring success with change. Delegating control to the people that can run the show, makes the teams nimble and they can act faster. People on the top might - often involuntary - act as bottlenecks.
Facilitating lasting success means, these teams need to be self-sufficient and self-organising. The team needs the right environment and the right skills to get there. And, for sure, they need to be aware that they are acting in a larger ecosystem, all striving for the same north star.
Achieving the north start mostly includes creating value for our customers. The teams should create structured routines that allow them to discover a clear view on how this value looks like and what the customers appreciate most.
At the core of each team is learning - this bring the individual, the team and the entire ecosystem forward. Experimentation enables continuous learning; and the leaders facilitate and contribute in this journey.
Planning for the next 12 to 18 months often leads to situation where a team is stuck in their course and unable to take the necessary changes to adapt to a new environment. Therefore, I suggest to create an imagination of the future state and of the path to get there. This provides direction and keeps the flexibility. Based on this, the team can plan what they want to achieve and learn now - typically in a horizon of three months.
Lastely, the agile teams work best in an environment that cultivates meaning and trust; as leaders we can create a platform for success and this requires a place where we can have open conversations, feel safe and find our work fulfilling.
In my eyes, agility is not about processes and organisational structures. Change management practices have shown how we can engage with a new leadership style that is universal on all levels of the organisation; a style that is inspiring and enabling people to be successful. This is how we can stay adaptive, nimble and jump ahead to new opportunities.
Where do you see the the link between change management and agility? How do you put these into practice?
An Agile Approach to Change Management, Harvard Business Review
Unleashing the power of small, independent teams, McKinsey Quarterly
For the people that know me, I like to promote the concept of People Excellence - driving operational excellence through our people.
This recent article in the Bangkok Post by Arinya Talerngsri also emphasises the people in the transformation work. We are in an age where many thought leaders are talking about how we can robotise our workforce and create fantastic efficiencies. Arinya shares my conviction that lasting success will come by cultivating a workforce of engaged critical thinkers.
Here my key points I took out of this article:
This article also shows that we have great thought leaders in Southeast Asia. Based on the cultural backgrounds within this diverse region, we are able to build on a strong habits that focus on building relationships and putting people at the centre. This is a fantastic opportunity - also for the rest of the world.
What is your story in shifting your focus from technology to people?
Source: Driving digital transformation through people transformation
Agility is often mentioned to be the accelerator for performance. And yes, when introduced in the right way, agile working methods can deliver solutions that are closer to what customers need within a shorter time frame. At the same time, I observe that these benefits are not so easily reached. One crucial component is how we are planning with agility.
Oh, are we still planning in agile? Yes, we do - and in a smarter way. Let me walk you through some steps which are essential for success. In my eyes and also outlined in this McKinsey article: Planning in an Agile Organisation.
In a first step, we as a team want to get guidance, a direction where to head to. And with team here, I am referring to any size; this can be a regional leadership team, a functional department, a project team, a smaller operational team, etc. And this guidance is typically expressed in strategic priorities, or as I like to call it meaningful purpose statements or a collective dream. Important for these priorities is that we limit ourselves to five strategic priorities at a time - more will be distracting and the focus will be lost.
These meaningful purpose statements are then translated into clear and specific goals for the different teams. And this translation is an effort conducted with the entire team. This allows that the insights from all team members are considered, facilitates the adoption of the goals, and significantly improves motivation and drive.
The strategic priorities combined with the specific team goals act then as a clear foundation to make decisions on the team level. The team should be in control how they achieve their goals; this allows them to become independent and self-sufficient. For sure, they will still consider the larger ecosystem they are embedded in. This delegation of control further stimulates the drive and engagement of the team.
Alignment is created with the direction. The second important element is transparency. This we will achieve with monthly and quarterly reviews which intend to allocate critical resources based on the achievements, priorities and the goals.
As a leader in an agile environment, we are left to focus on two critical activities: guide the teams and develop a clear direction; facilitate experimentation and allocate the right resources. This results in a very different, self-organised path of planning which results in more velocity and value creation.
How are you planning in your teams today?
This year, I am celebrating my 10 year anniversary as a practitioner in the field of change management. I started to get curious about the topic while I was deep in implementing knowledge management programs at a multinational company. We were constantly presenting new ways of working to our colleagues and it was natural to get closer to the levers of facilitating change.
Admittedly, Change Management is not the most popular term and yes, I am not using it a lot either. Still in my heart I know, I found my calling in this profession. On the one hand, I am always eager to look at performance and improvements. On the other hand, I like to connect with people and I am curious about how they are interacting with each other. Both topics are very tightly interlinked. New systems, processes and organisations only unfold their potential when they are embraced by the people involved in them. And, we can only design great systems, processes and organisations, when we deeply understand the human actors in it.
The way I look at the change management is holistic. This means, I suggest that we go beyond the simple implementation of (for example) a new software tool; a better way is to look at the journey and the larger ecosystem where this software is supposed to add value. In this sense, my focus is on how can I enable people to embrace and grow with the constant change that is happening around them. How can we bring more antifragility to the people and to the organisation. in my eyes, this has a lot to do with culture and leadership. How can we create the right space between people that they can grow together; and as a leader, how can I provide a platform that gives people passion and ownership.
How did I get started? In the beginning I read a lot of different books and articles about the topic and followed a course or two. And about four years ago, I also started with my certification. I can really recommend to get in touch with the global Association for Change Management Professionals (ACMP); you can find great, like-minded people and lots of resources. They have developed a great professional standard and I like their certification path. Though, most important is to be exposed and learn on the job - consciously applying what you think is right, try new things and develop your own practice.
I want to thank the people that strongly supported me on this path: San-Daleen, Jerome, Sandra, Michael, Björn and many others!
In my practice, I am often talking about three different topics: change management, operational excellence and innovation. For many people, they are very different concepts and many companies assign these to different departments. What makes them so distinct? Or are they not?
For me, they are strongly supporting each other and tightly interlinked. Let's start with innovation. This topic is about creating and implementing new solutions. Change management is supporting innovation by driving the change (behaviours) that the new solution will bring. And according to some studies, about 80% of the innovation are incremental, operational improvements, while still disruptive.
In the same way, operational excellence is strongly supported by innovation methods in order to discover crazy ideas. And, in my experience, change management practices support to engage the people and motivate them bring better results.
Lastely, for me change management is directed at improving the business. This can only happen by cultivating an innovation mindset and driving operational excellence across the entire organisation.
So, instead of distributing these three topics in different corners of your organisation, bring them together. Some successful companies have one (Transformation or Excellence) team which can be the driver for company-wide innovation which includes operational excellence and has strong change management practices.
How do you bring innovation, change management and operational excellence closer together?
Great to read the outcome of an interesting conversation with Rachelle Lee and Michael Zimmel about how innovation and creativity can shape the way finance professionals are looking at their work.
One key pillar for success is understanding how we are creating value for our customers. This starts with exploring who we are creating value for. And then get inspired by their needs and insights. Where are the pain points and how we can we make these groups of people successful.
In the past, finance professionals were routinely creating standard reports piling up lagging financial indicators. In today's ever-changing, complex world this is not creating value. I suggest to look at leading indicators that we can directly influence and have an impact on the success we are aiming for. We can see a huge potential for finance teams to tremendously increase the value they can create for their 'customers'.
Read more in this interview: The Changing Mandate of Finance.
Last week, I posted a small poll to understand how companies are exploring their sources of innovation. The idea of the poll came out of a conversation about that many companies resort to two different types: either they have special teams that are developing new products, services and processes which are then taken up by the core business. Or, the companies are engaging their core business teams to explore new ideas themselves. According to the poll, over 60% of the people experience the latter.
At Hive17 Consulting we are promoting a third alternative that is taking the advantages of both options and allowing the companies to transform with more speed, less resistance and more creativity. Let's explore...
Companies that have established innovation labs complain that the core business is not taking up the new ideas with enough energy. The dedicated teams are great at identifying customer needs and have the resources to deep-dive into the respective markets. Often they are cross-functional and bring diverse experiences to the table, which is strengthening creativity and the creation of novel ideas. At the same time, they are disconnected from the core business and once they have claimed a victory, the company expects that the core business to stem the hard work for the big success. This creates friction.
As an alternative, companies then drive innovation from within their core business. Different initiatives are directed at identifying improvement ideas and developing new products. The core business is close to daily operations and has a good understanding of where we have friction and they are able to quickly implement improvements. Though, they lack the resources of creating a deep understanding of the larger context of the opportunity and often work in their respective silos.
How can we innovate and take the best from both options and drive creativity and operational excellence at the same time?
At Hive17 Consulting we are implementing an alternative we call 'Innovation Crews'. We support establishing small, interdisciplinary teams that are dedicated to a specific opportunity - growing a market, developing a new solution, improving manufacturing excellence, etc. These crews have the resources to deeply understand the ecosystem and bring different silos together. This allows the company to come up with crazy ideas in a short period of time. Because the team size is small, the team is forced to work together with the core business throughout the discovery, identification and development of the solution. This means, from the start the business is involved and contributes to the innovation projects. The innovation crew takes up a role of a facilitator to enable a smooth and accelerated journey towards groundbreaking innovation.
How did you experience the different options to drive innovation in your company?
Today was Day 1 of the APAC Operational Transformation Summit and we had a great lineup of speakers. I could clearly see a red thread going through all the presentations. Operational excellence is based on digital transformation; and the success of digital transformation is enabled by the people.
First we had Michal Golebiewski from Microsoft sharing how digital transformation is a journey and that starts with the definition of a new you; based on a purpose. This purpose is guiding the customers, the partners and the employees on how we are kick-starting this journey. We need a vision & strategy; a northstar. We need to look at the culture and mindsets that will allow experimentation and stimulate a growth mindset. The unique assets and the capabilities of the organisation need to be aligned for this journey. And finally, success is based on employee empowerment and we need to stay engaged with them. These are the ingredients for success.
Abhishek Sharma, Axa, continued the journey and added that the tools and the process are necessary to bring fruits from these ingredients. In order to start your digital transformation journey, you need to investigate your what, who, how and the impact you want to create. He illustrated that you will not reach the peak in the first round. As a leader, you encourage your team members to climb the mountain by themselves - milestone after milestone. At the same time, you are there to hold a guiding hand when necessary. This will build confidence and the climb will become easier. The transformation journey is triggering a cultural shift that involves everyone. This is why it is important to cultivate trust with your employees, your customers and in the entire ecosystem.
During my presentation, I took the concept further and introduced positive leadership that allows you to drive engagement, motivation and therefore operational success. Today's uncertain and complex business environment requires agility in order to create success. This agility is based on empowering people to experiment, guiding them with a collective dream, creating an understanding how to create value for our customers, and lastly on building a collaborative platform to facilitate relationships and trust.
Finally, Kesavan Sivanandam, from AirAsia, shared an inspiring story about perseverance and pushing boundaries. Needless to say, the airline industry is hit very hard and AirAsia took this as an opportunity to push digital in the end-to-end experience. He shared the story how strong collaboration with various agencies and business partners allowed them to achieve a contactless solution from "curb to gate" within a few months time. This was possible based on a common purpose within the ecosystem to keep the business going, in a safe way. And in this journey, it was important to keep the people engaged under this collective dream.
Day 1 of the conference was a lot about creating a common purpose, engaging with the people, and cultivating relationships. Key ingredients for a smooth and sustainable digital transformation journey. I am curious to hear more during Day 2.
In my practice to give operational excellence a people-centric angle, I am always curious to learn more about how to experience and influence change. It is not possible to force people to change - and I think this is an important lesson for any leader. You can only create an environment that facilitates people to change.
Recently I stumbled across this article - How to (Actually) Change Someone’s Mind - that illustrates how we can work together with naysayers that are opposing the change we want to initiate. We all experienced the detractors that seem to be have this deep-rooted resistance to change, right? Here are three strategies that might help.
The cognitive conversation is about holding an objective and positive chat that uncovers new, specific information that can sway the decision into another direction. For success, it is important to consider the existing arguments and to keep emotions out of this discussion.
The champion conversation helps in situation where logic is not an important factor. The underlying relationship might be week and is in the way of changing the decision. We want to become a champion in the conversation, get to know the people and allow them to get know us from different angles. For success it is important to stay authentic and continue to rely on logic.
The credible colleague conversation is an approach when deep believes are in the way of change; logical and emotional arguments are not working to overcome deep values. Sharing experiences from another person might help to see that other values are in favour of the upcoming change. The positive aspects from another angle might change deep-rooted opinions.
These types of conversations are not only great when dealing with individuals. The principles also work when designing the journey for large scale transformations: use logic, build authentic relationships, expand people's experiences.
Thank you Laura for putting these thoughts together and sharing these great examples.
There is no magic how to master uncertain times - be innovative, be creative, think out-of-the box! Why is it so hard for many companies to thrive?
This article - How to rebuild a business after the coronavirus lockdown, WIRED UK - shows interesting cases of startups in the UK that managed to turn around and be successful despite the storm hitting the business world.
“Go back to basics,” Hannah Martin says. “Who are your ideal customers, what problem do you solve for them, how has that changed, can you adapt? Approach people, don't wait for them to update you. Look at what others are doing, in and outside your industry, see if you can get ideas.”
Many corporations are stuck in their view of the world, decision makers are too far away from reality, motivation structures are based on lagging indicators, experimentation is discouraged, silos are preventing velocity. Today's leaders need to get out of this cycle to create lasting success.
How do you bring your vision into action?
This week, I have been working with a team to improve their operations. They are doing great at developing new products and services, though they felt unsure about how well they are designing for their customers. For this team, we are looking at a network of internal customers in different functions and business unit. How can we manage these stakeholders needs with agility and creativity?
We started with the 4Qs Framework: who we serve, what we serve, how we serve based on the question who we are. The team appreciated the structure in the thinking process and how this helped to identify where they need to direct their focus. For example, the team said, yes, we know who we are serving. Though, do we know them deep enough, do we know their daily work challenges? Based on this simple framework, we identified the gaps and defined the next actions.
As a next steps we took the discovery principles of design thinking and started the people-centric and creative process of defining the key users, their needs and their pain points. This gave the team a much clearer pictures where the opportunities are to generate value for these people; mapping the existing value propositions with the challenges of the stakeholders. This allowed the team to refocus their operations on the key elements that generate value for their customers.
How are you uncovering the real needs of your customers?
Thank you Anthony Coundouris and Fray Gill.
In the current situation, many companies are stumbling and stuck in the place they currently are - or worse, where they have been in 2019. At the start of the lockdowns, leaders tried to connect with their teams and engaged on a social level. Then, the urge of survival kicked in; many companies started cost cutting exercises. Is this sufficient to shine and thrive at the end of this crisis?
On my side, I am convinced that in order to create lasting success, companies need to focus on value creation. We need creativity to address totally new needs and we need velocity to deliver value at the time it matters most.
In this context it is great to see that major consulting companies are confirming this point of view. McKinsey pushes in a similar direction: Ready, set, go: Reinventing the organization for speed in the post-COVID-19 era.
In the article, they reinforce the notion that we need to re-invent our organisations. Do we expect that 2021 will be the same as 2019 has been? Consumer behaviours are changing, employee preferences have shifted, communication technologies are maturing fast. Here an interesting example: recently, a global alumni organisation was forced to conduct their annual general meeting (AGM) virtually. The organisers shared with me that this format allowed more relevant members to participate and the outcome served the global community better. This was never possible with a physical event. Will they continue with a virtual AGM? Probably yes. Transformations around us are happening fast; and we as individuals and as business leaders need to adapt as well.
McKinsey mentions 9 triggers for speed in your organisation. Autonomous, cross-functional teams with more freedom to make their own decisions, with reduced hierarchy & bureaucracy, and with a clear result focus will execute lasting success. Further, successful organisations are embedding themselves in a collaborative network of partners, customers and suppliers. This means, building a platform that facilitates hybrid work and continuous development of the people is essential to remove barriers. And, what is the role of today's leaders? Enabling, inspiring and empowering these strategic teams. Step back and see success flourish.
How do you create lasting velocity?
In our work, we are supporting teams to strengthen their agility in their daily work; and the start of that journey is not simply to become agile - or faster, rushing. The starting point is that teams and companies are facing uncertainty and complexity - and fighting is not a successful approach in the long run. In this context I came across this article in Forbes written by Steven Denning: The 12 Stages Of The Agile Transformation Journey. Here are my key inspirations.
What do we want to achieve with agile transformation journeys? “The ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment” as well as “the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities.”
Can any person in the organisation start working in an agile way? Yes, the principles of agility are applicable for small team as for large companies. Any team can be successful with that. At the same time, the higher in the hierarchy this is started, the better the results.
For the leadership team it is important to acknowledge that establishing an agile mindset and mode of working is a never-ending journey; definitely an initiative or simple project that can be finished soon. Strengthening agility in your organisation is a great learning and development opportunity.
Starting the agility journey should start with a team that represents the diversity of the organisation. Team members should come from different functions and from different hierarchical levels. At the same time, this squad is not about implementing technology. They key focus for this team is improving the business.
Once the first team has shown success, then the journey can grow organically. New teams are inspired to experiment with the new way of working and deliver more success stories. And, in times of failure, stay true to the path you have started; treat those as learning opportunities.
The journey towards agility is not about implementing a structure, new processes, and using different tools. They might simply be means for a new mindset and behaviours. It is important to continuously evolve the idea of being agile for your organisation.
How can I support this journey as a leader? How do I need to evolve my leadership style? As a start, command & control is the antidote to agility. You need to be able to coach and inspire your teams. And agility is based on the delegation of decision-making and ownership.
Maturity in this journey means to master strategic agility; being able to continuously identifying and redefining market success areas - for learning and development.
How did you start your journey towards agility?
In our world, uncertainty and complexity is accelerating - especially in the current situation. At times, we don't even know how the world will look like in 2 months. Some leaders are trying to control and reduce this complexity and uncertainty; is this possible and the right approach? Successful teams, instead, are trying to plunge and thrive in these challenges, and respond with agility.
In my experience, one key barrier for agility is the environment cultivated by the leaders. Are we enabling our teams to experiment and create value within a defined strategic direction? McKinsey created a summary of these leadership challenges. Here is how I would summarise, what leaders have been doing great to achieve success:
a) establishing a clear vision and direction with a focus on results
b) empowering & connecting teams and allocating resources with flexibility
c) embracing a new way of working that allows fast sensing & seizing of opportunities
On a personal level, there are three creative mindsets, we leaders need to embrace - for ourselves and as a role model for our teams:
1) discovery to drive innovation
2) partnership to smoothen collaboration
3) abundance to strengthen value creation
Where will you focus first?
Here the details from the article: Five Fifty: Agility at the Top
Introducing new products in an organisation is an exciting task - we can bring new, added value to our customers. In an industrial setting, this task can be daunting with complex value chains and regulatory hurdles. Yet, to win in today's competitive environment, new product introductions need to be fast.
This was the objective for this project in the textile chemicals space. Led by the global marketing director, the project team took up the challenge to nearly half the time-to-market for product launches. In the past, the company experiences inconsistency in the product lifecycle, top-down processes and system introductions were met by resistance. At the same time, the market and many regulatory changes required more agility. A huge alignment and engagement effort across 18 different functions was necessary.
As the change management practitioner of this project, I worked closely with the project manager on how we can engage the people. How can we involve as many people as possible? What is the best way to convey the business objectives and aspiration? How can we keep the people motivate over the long implementation period for the SAP module implementation?
We decided for a novel approach. Typically, each function will send a few representative and in a large project team they will decide on how the project will be executed. This approach was not satisfactory as large project teams are not effective and still only engage a small percentage of the people involved. The alternative approach we took was creating communities. For each involved function and for each production site we have established one community and nominated a owner for these communities.
Each community owner was then responsible to establish a collaboration routine within their communities and work on assignments related to the global project. The global project team was then working only with the community owners; assigning new activities and collecting input, feedback and comments from the community. In this way, the project team indirectly engaged with about 300 people in a structured, regular fashion.
As a result, all relevant people were involved, engaged and motivated. We often repeated the business purpose of the project to make sure we are all aligned and cross-functional barriers are easily removed. The frequent dialogues established new routines and cultivated relationships across regions and functions. In the end, because so many people were involved in the blueprint design, data migration, user acceptance testing and training of the SAP module, the final go-live was surprisingly smooth and uneventful - a natural next step forward.
As project leaders, we need to be creative and human-centric - this will lead to success. And curious to experiment and try new ways.
How can you apply communities in your change programme?
In my experience when facilitating teams to accelerate their operational excellence, I like to talk about two things. And, they seem to be a contradiction.
"Sustainable change is effortless!" This is similar when you are fixing a screw and at the start it is hard; a simple correct alignment will do the trick and the job is much easier. Many transformation are getting launched with too large climbs and with methods that simply doesn't fit to the style of the people. Too much efforts during a change journey might often be a waste.
"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. (Mario Andretti)" This means that a great challenge creates a lot of excitement and motivation. When we are too comfy, then we are not trying hard enough. Pushing our own limits is actually fun.
How does these two thoughts match? They are helping us to create a balance. Too much push - especially from outside - will drain our energy and is frustrating. Too little effort will make us slow down and kill the momentum. The balance in between will allow us to run at the edge effortlessly and for an infinite amount of time. This is essential to successful transformations.
Where do you find this balance?
Digital transformations are in everybody's mind and talk - the topic of the decade, I would almost call it. And multiple studies are quoted that 70% of them have failed. Is it because we set the wrong targets? Do these initiatives fail because leaders are not committed? Can we achieve success while applying the same processes and methods of the past?
On my side, I like to think of transformations in a different way. Instead of leading people from a situation A to a situation B, I suggest to enable the teams to define and achieve their own change - perpetually as a continuous journey. The based principle in my experience to achieve sustainable and fast success for transformations is intrinsic motivation - with two core elements.
Frame - the first key element provides two things to the team members: a direction and boundaries. There are many names and input for this frame: vision, dream, values, strategy, beliefs... All of them are contributing to ensure that our people are putting their efforts on the right things, established in a collective and positive way.
Empowerment - the second key element allows the people to act fast within the defined frame. The main goal of empowerment is to remove barriers and facilitate speed in achieving the collective dream. This is achieved by providing our people with an autonomy of responsibility which means allowing people to experiment, fail and learn. As a result, we will strengthen creativity and agility - contributing value in a short period of time.
This frame and empowerment is a structure which is best achieved by starting with small steps. First, creating a safe environment to get used to this new way of operating. Team members and leaders alike need to experience the benefits, define how this works best for them and enjoy the journey. Then we can expand this new operating model to more, bigger and exciting challenges.
Where do you see success in digital transformation?
My fellow transformation practitioner, Kamales Lardi, published an article sharing her views on the challenges that occur when executing a digital transformation strategy - Digital Transformation: How to develop strategy under uncertainty. A great list for leaders to understand how we can contribute to successful initiatives. And it made me thought, can we even give it another spin, make leaders bolder?
#1 Create a Confident Leadership Team
#2 Thrive in Uncertainty
#3 Create a Frame for Fast Results
#4 Create a Human-centric Organisation
#5 Implement a Structure that Strengthens Creativity and Agility
Am I the bottleneck to our business success?
How do you translate your vision into action?
Do I appreciate the creativity and insights of all people in our organisation?
Beside reading a lot of Science-Fiction books (inspiration to think far far out of the box) and Wired UK (for the latest tech trends), I am also following McKinsey for their data and insights into the business world. They have this series of Five-Fifty which are great in today's fast paced world; this one is about change: Five Fifty: The changeable organization.
Yes, we need to change; and yes, we are afraid of and resist change. Still, I believe that in order to "manage" change, we need to enable our people and our organisation to define the change and then be excited about it. Here is what the research of McKinsey tells us about this.
How do you prepare for exciting digital transformations?
* Organizational health: A fast track to performance improvement
You heard it enough: a clear vision, a meaningful purpose, a comprehensive strategy is the foundation for a successful business. And why is this so important? I share here an alternative and simple idea.
Today we often observe that teams and entire organisations are pushed to achieve some financial targets - and they all rush, putting a lot of effort to reach these objectives. Is everyone running in the same direction? Are they joining their efforts to create a larger momentum?
In this context, "collective dreams" might be superior to typical lagging indicators:
Where do you success with your collective dreams?
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.