In this three-part blog series (part one and part two), we’ll explore ways to address the all-too-frequent problem of a transformation project that’s gone off the rails. Pinpointing the root cause may be a challenge, but the symptoms are usually clear: confused stakeholders, sidetracked teams, repeated delays, and inflated budgets. It’s my hope that you’ll benefit from my hard-earned expertise and walk away from these blog posts with a few new tools for getting a project back on track.
Value and ROI are paramount
Does your team really understand the business reasons for this program? Are those reasons the obvious drivers for daily program activities? Does program leadership schedule activities and make key decisions based on where you will get the most value/ROI? Are you prepared to measure success?
In Part 1 of this blog series, we examined the importance of getting to the truth. In Part 2, we stressed the need to chart the critical path. In this third and final post, I’ll explain why your top business reasons (value/ROI) must be the foundation for key decisions. The fundamental question of “why are we doing this?” too frequently gets lost in the shuffle of a large-scale program. People answer with “corporate says we need to,” “it’s an IT upgrade,” or even “I have no idea,” when the true business reason is much more meaningful. By documenting the real targeted business value, rallying your employee base and your team around it, and making it core to project communications, you can create ongoing motivation and drive positive results.
Make the targeted business value clear
There are several ways to provide clarity on your targeted program value, but I personally like to focus on three actions that have terrific impact and proactively answer the question, “Why are we doing this?”:
- Solicit input from the ground up and reuse the words and phrases that matter most to the employees. For instance, “this program will help us get more product out the door every day, allowing us to meet or beat our personal and company goals.” In other words, remember the employee perspective, not just the board of directors—the employees can make this succeed or fail.
- Make a short list of metrics that matter and focus on three big impacts that everyone can understand, like “inventory cost reduction, new product revenue growth, and customer satisfaction.”
- Publish the phrases that matter and three big impacts on program boards and in digital communications, and reference them at all program meetings. Never lose sight of them.
Enlist a Value Champion
Most large transformation programs cost millions or tens of millions of dollars. They also have targeted value that is typically 3X to 5X the cost. So, enlisting a dedicated value champion or even a VMO (Value Management Office) is highly recommended to ensure that the targeted value is achieved. This focus alone can double the speed and amount of value achieved. The Value Champion must spend time understanding the business today and the transformation program overall, so that he/she can do the one thing that most companies hope for but don’t actively make happen:
Chart and navigate the path to value. Simply defining value is not enough. The path to value has its own obstacles and risks. Successful navigation requires
- quality time in the field and in focus groups with the employees, helping them and enlisting them to help remove obstacles and giving them ownership and accountability;
- escalation of key decisions that will impact speed or value achieved;
- valid baselining of the metrics that matter and agreement on measurement standards, so that impact can be measured and success truly celebrated;
- working understanding of benefits at the company and employee levels, so motivations are aligned;
- aggressive support for step-function improvements along the path to transformation;
- disciplined measurement and reporting to steering committee during and after go-live.
I hope you found some pearls of wisdom in this three-part blog series. Over the past 25 years, I have personally led these integrated implementations over and over again. The three words I stress to executive teams are leadership, discipline, and value. It’s easy to get caught up talking about process, technology, data, change, etc., but I urge you to keep asking each other these three questions so that percentages and green status reports don’t cover critical truths:
- Can you show me proof that we are doing this well?
- Can you show me proof that we have completed the essential work required to move on?
- Can you show me proof that we are getting our targeted value?
Asking these simple questions can be difficult, but finding the answers will be crucial to the success of your program.