In the past, projects tended to be relatively low on the agenda of senior leaders. Often, the nature and characteristics of projects was much simpler and less complex, enabling leaders to take a more passive and reactive approach. Fast forward to today, and with more than 40% of transformational projects costing in excess of £100m (and a significant increase in project complexity) leaders must adopt a vastly different approach to succeed.
Where these insights come from…
Our parent company Proteus – the data-driven change consultancy – holds data from over 25,000 projects, which allows them to understand what data points or risk factors typically exist in projects that are succeeding or failing.
Based on these data-driven insights, Proteus has gleaned that successful leaders of transformational change display the following behaviours:
1. They determine success at the outset
Too many organisations rush into getting on with the transformation without understanding what success looks like at the outset. Leaders need to proactively work with key stakeholders to increase clarity on what ‘good’ looks 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.
2. They ensure design is ‘good enough’
Many organisations waste time by endlessly debating and over-engineering the design in an attempt to make it ‘right’ only to find that what eventually gets delivered is out of date or no longer required. Leaders need to be proactive in ensuring an appropriate amount of time is invested to achieve a ‘good enough’ design to enable the focus to shift to delivery.
3. They focus on approach, not methodology.
Many organisations attempt to use, in isolation, the same methods and processes successfully used for more traditional projects, with disastrous results. Leaders need to be using approaches that help them to architect and drive the transformation. For example, more focus is required on target operating models and transition states, and less on gantt charts and risk logs.
4. They effectively manage risk
With the acceleration in complexity and highly volatile environment, organisations increasingly find that attempting to reduce risk is futile. Leaders need to have more focus on understanding their overall risk exposure so that they can make effective trade-offs throughout the life of the transformation. You can’t eliminate risk, but you can manage it effectively.
5. They make effective decisions faster
In the past, organisations could afford to wait until they had ‘perfect’ information before a decision was made, as the pace of change and volatility in the environment was much lower. With today’s more dynamic environment, leaders cannot afford to ‘wait’ for all the information to be available before making a decision. Instead they need to learn to be more adaptable and be confident to use the information that’s available to make decisions to allow the transformation to move forward.
6. They monitor the right things
Leaders need to be more concerned with having visibility and monitoring performance across the agreed view of success and key outcomes and not purely on financial results. This visibility will help leaders quickly identify any issues which might prevent success from being achieved, thereby enabling them to take swift and appropriate action, in addition to increasing confidence within the organisation that what is promised will be achieved.
7. They visibly lead from the front
Too transformations fail due to a lack of visible and appropriate leadership. To successfully drive the transformation, leaders must step up and visibly lead the transformation from the front, injecting pace and instilling accountability across the team. The latter will include ensuring that people are aware that delivery is non-negotiable and that there are consequences for non-delivery.
8. They build credibility and confidence
With so many transformational failures, successful transformation leaders recognise the importance of designing the transformation such that quick wins can be achieved and visible progress can be demonstrated. This approach together with proactively communicating at all levels in the organisation – from the members and other key stakeholders to the entire transformation team – will build credibility and confidence that the outcomes will be achieved.
9. They seek the right support
Leaders need to seek the right support as appropriate. This is not about bringing in an army of consultants, but people who have done it and been there and can help shape and deliver the transformation agenda quickly and cheaply.
If you’d like to know how Proteus can help change leaders overcome the challenges created by ever-increasing demands on their time, capabilities and resources, head to the Proteus website.