Transformation through people engaged change

Transformation through people engaged change

What’s the secret ingredient in the 30%?

The stats have stuck stubbornly for many years: 70% of transformation programmes fail to achieve all their objectives.

In this context I’m using the word transformation to mean the business of putting in a new organisational IT system.

Based on the stats you might wonder why anyone ever starts transformation programmes!

But of course organisations need to keep evolving to stay ahead and create the conditions for sustained success. And what we’re talking about here is not just getting the programme over the line, but embedding it so successfully that it reaps strong ROI, fulfils all its original objectives and generates high employee productivity and engagement.

Our thinking is surprisingly simple: you would never transplant a heart into a body and assume that the body will just learn to live with it. But this is what new IT often feels like if insufficient work is done with the recipients. It’s from this view point that Pecan takes its approach, and we’re proud to say we have been involved in some of the 30% that have succeeded over the last 10 years.
How exactly have they worked? Even the most well thought-out transformation programme can generate concern in how it will land across the organisation. We’ve found that if you pay attention to just 6 key ingredients, you will have a greater chance of success.

1. Wise leadership
The leaders have recognised that change is a capability in which their organisation needs to be proficient. Not only have they recognised it but they have acted on it by ensuring OD/people engagement/transformation is a function represented at board level, with the same weight as IT, Finance and Operations. This translates into people-engaged change where all change is approached and planned with people at the heart.

2. Seeing the opportunity
A re-platforming is one of the biggest changes an organisation can undertake. The risks are enormous and potentially life threatening to the organisation. In this climate it’s easy to see how much of the mindset becomes fear-based and the exciting reasons why we are doing it in the first place get lost.

Big change is a rare opportunity to press the reset button; to share/reiterate the strategy, what it means for the organisation in its sector, its customers, culture and values and the experience of colleagues.

3. Recognising the impact on ways of working

Any new system means changing ways of working and that involves some change of role and responsibilities at an individual level. Often IT change fails to recognise or act on the difference it will mean for colleagues’ daily life and what new skills will need to be developed.
The people working on specifying, designing and implementing the system are often technically more capable than the vast majority of those who will be relying on it to do their job. For the people close to the programme a small change is not generally a problem, for someone else it may be a real challenge.

I speak as someone who has recently gone through a change of company system and am still getting to grips with the new one!

Getting people from wider parts of the business upfront to test new processes for usability and understanding will save precious time further down the track.

4. Engaging fully with those colleagues who will be most affected
All decent programmes will do this as an essential piece of the change approach, but here I am stressing that it is not a tick-box ‘once and done’ activity. It’s about treating colleagues how you would treat customers – find out what they want, what will make the most difference, how it would look and feel and crucially how would we measure the improvements. Talking with them throughout the whole process.

This may look onerous when the business change team are already maxed out and struggling with the technical workload. But we have to keep our focus on the ‘why’ – see points 1 and 2 above.

A common grumble I hear is that for the business change team the key measure of success is when they complete the implementation of a new system. That’s the time they celebrate a good job done to time and budget (hopefully) and have to move on to the next piece of work. In contrast, for the operational teams that have to work with it, that is the point where the journey is just beginning.

5. People change readiness
Being on the receiving end of a new IT system can feel arduous, stressful and confusing when the wider workforce have not been fully prepped. Creating readiness is a great opportunity for leaders to up the level of engagement with their teams and get closer to/take a fresh look at how work actually gets done.

This in itself starts to create change, increase ownership, manage expectations and identify better ways of working. Get this piece right and when the platform goes live, people will be ready and willing, already having envisioned how it will impact them.

6. People engaged change skills and toolkit
It’s vital to have leaders feel confident and empowered to lead this work locally with their teams. They may need support with communicating the big picture, creating a climate of innovation, dealing with resistance or cynicism, prioritisation and time management.

There is a wealth of tools that can provide structure and knowhow to support capability development, but our advice is to keep it simple, relevant and practical. A few really fit for purpose tools with some practice using them works much better than something overly detailed or too technical.

Our work with transformation programmes have won industry awards for their contribution to results and as exemplars of how to plan and implement complex change. To find out how we can help your transformation programme sit in the 30% club, get in touch.

Image: Anthony Delanoix,

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