The past 15 months have clearly demonstrated the imperative for businesses to be agile, efficient and able to change, whether at the macro/enterprise level or at the micro/functional level, to harvest gains from, and embed resilience for, a post COVID-19 world.

Many clients have embarked on transformations to embed these capabilities into their operations, but transformation is hard and trying to do it while also running the business is harder still.

In the Project Delivery Performance: AIPM/KPMG Project Management Survey 2020, we found that only 25 percent of projects are delivered successfully. Too often they fail not because of the design of the transformation, or the future-state operating model, but because an organisation is unable or unwilling to truly shift and embed the necessary changes to capitalise on their new context and on their transformation investment.

Organisations need courage, confidence and capability to really step into transformations – and that’s enabled through engaging employees throughout the journey, ensuring they have opportunities to learn and practice a growth mindset and that leadership have the capability to recognise, anticipate and step up to the transformation moments that matter.

Transforming, while surviving

Investing in, and committing to playing a meaningful part in transformation efforts.

Most organisations experience challenges trying to pivot and change while continuing their business-as-usual activities. This is in part because both activities (operate and change) require focus and a significant resource commitment. Successful transformations are not part-time endeavours, planned off the side of a desk by already over-committed teams.

It’s critical that people who work within and understand an organisation are invested in, committed to, playing a meaningful part in any transformation effort. They offer important insights and knowledge of the business and operating model and can inform the design and direction of the transformation. Leaders need to identify the talent for the transformation team, as well as resource run/BAU activities.

While it’s imperative to bring your employees and team on the journey, it also needs to be recognised that new demands are being placed on them. They are now being asked to demonstrate new transformation capabilities including sensemaking complexity, understanding transformation biases, working in a different structure (new ways of working as well as matrix or even helix organisational structures), working as a productive member of a multi-disciplinary team, resolving conflict and being encouraged to be agile and experiment.

It is therefore critical that your transformation invests in building these transformation skills and capabilities and providing your teams the opportunities to practice and embed these skills so they become the new normal – just how we do things around here.

The importance of good leadership

Why everyone is a leader in transformation.

Leaders also need to embark on transformation leadership capability uplift. It’s an easy mistake to believe that because someone is at the top of an organisation they know how to do everything and to lead through every situation.

Transformations require everyone to demonstrate new abilities, leadership attributes and styles. It’s critical that leaders understand the context they are operating within, what’s required of them at the outset, and that capabilities such as nimbly adapting, operating without positional authority and continually unlearning as much as you are learning are necessary additions to their leadership kit-bag.

Leading during disruption requires a new set of capabilities.

It’s also important to recognise that leadership and influence are not the sole domain of executives – employees throughout the entire organisation can, and do, influence their colleagues and peers and can often be very important stakeholders.

Therefore, organisations need to ensure that transformation leadership training is broad – everyone is a leader. Don’t just focus on the C-level focus on the M-level – those that have direct influence and line of sight to the front line.

The moments that matter

The design of any transformation, when teams are first coming together to form the purpose and intent, is a moment that matters.

During any transformation there are moments that can accelerate or derail transformation. These moments that matter can be specific operational points or interactions that are harder to anticipate, but manageable when identified. Missing, or not fully understanding, the impacts of these moments can have serious impacts on the success of the transformation.

From an operational point of view, the design of any transformation, when teams are first coming together to form the purpose and intent, is a moment that matters. At this point, it’s essential there is a clear, collective understanding around the transformation’s mission and vision. What is it trying to transform into? True alignment at this point, along with clarification and resets throughout the transformation, will help maintain transformation focus.

Throughout the transformation there will be known milestones that, if missed, will impact budgets, timelines and effort. Other moments that matter depend on an organisation’s unique culture. This often becomes apparent at the pointy end of the transformation when businesses are getting close to hitting the go-live button.

People may become very hesitant when the time comes to launch and start to really grind through the remaining steps, while others get white line fever and want to launch before all the risks are fully considered and planned for.

Understanding your organisation’s culture before embarking on a transformation will support a transformation design that answers these challenges.

Mindset matters most

Understanding the complexities of context in transformation.

The shape, timeline and capabilities required for successful transformations can be planned for and designed, however, human emotion is harder to program for. Throughout a transformation, the full facet of human emotions can emerge – from fear and loss, to joy and excitement, and how people turn up and when varies wildly as each individual experiences the transformation from their perspective and deeply personal reference points.

Recognising, planning for and preparing for these emotional moments that matter is just as critical to a transformation’s success as the hitting of key milestones. The contexts that transformation happen in are complex and adaptive, and need to enable experimentation, piloting, agility and rapid change – and it is impossible to always anticipate when or how an individual may react in this volatile environment.

What we do know is that each member is bringing their own perspectives and lived experiences to the table, so the transformation is managing all these emotional peaks and troughs. This creates a situation where you will be facing a whole range of different moments that matter, for different people. The ability to recognise these moments that matter and having strategies for how to show up and respond helps design actions to turn resistance into acceptance and even advocacy.

By equipping a team to begin the transformation process with curiosity, understanding how to navigate the moments that matter in an effective and efficient way that delivers outcomes and deeply understanding the human reactions to transformations will increase your likelihood of a success.

Embed success

Influential individuals from across the organisation are a big part of developing what the future state design looks like.

It is tempting to measure transformation success through timely delivery or design or cost, but in the end it’s only an organisation that has the courage, confidence and capability to work through the process and the different moments that matter, and then embed necessary change into their organisation that’s successful.

By bringing the entire organisation along on the transformation journey through thorough communication, understanding and involvement leaders can address the most common pitfalls of the process,

The key to truly benefiting from the change is the ability to influence the uptake of the new design into everyday operations.

A truly connected enterprise has an agile organisational structure that’s ready to adapt. A truly connected enterprise is one where teams have the capability and capacity to truly embrace change. Over our many years of experience in partnering with our clients embarking on transformations or reforms we know and have deep insight into the moments that matter. We can anticipate these, help you adapt and support you to transform.

How you grow matters to us. 

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