Business Performance Consulting, Leadership, People

Everybody wants it yesterday! How to deliver major improvements quickly?

???????????????????????????????As management consultant, I have often been asked this question in performance conversations with executives: “How can I get results quicker?”

Executives are often disappointed by the time major change initiatives take to deliver real results, if they ever do succeed. According to McKinsey research, 70% of change projects fail [to deliver the expected results]. Organizations devote plenty of money and time to them: a seasoned team is assigned, external experts are hired, employees and customers are consulted, communication sessions are conducted, things are happening… However, beyond the project, only a small portion of the organization is actually involved or really knows what is going on. Even worse, management’s commitment is fragmented: we have a business to run, different priorities, orders to fill, products to deliver…

The rate of change and the magnitude of the results achieved by major improvement initiatives are directly proportional to a single key variable: the percentage of the organization’s affected workforce who is actively engaged in dealing with the issue(s), big or small. If the engagement level doesn’t exceed the required critical mass, you’re throwing good money away… and chances are the results may very well be worse by the time the project is done (than when it started). One fact is certain, employees will be much more cynical the next time around.

High performance organizations have many factors in common, but the most important is their leaders’ ability, at all levels of the organization, to mobilize and influence their people to focus on the objective – whatever that objective may be at the time. This begins and ends with the executive team. Everyone needs to know the goal(s) and the priorities, and commit to focusing their efforts and those of their teams to its accomplishment.

There exists a harsh reality that is seldom spoken openly (by people on your team or external consultants) in business transformation, change management and performance improvement. The reason your organization requires significant investments to correct its performance is because of how your leadership team has led it to this point. To reach a new and improved performance level, you and your team will have to change how you lead.

Literature and training abound to document and impart knowledge of the key elements for successful change initiatives. Our list includes the following:

  • Executive commitment – visible leadership for the change
  • Employee engagement throughout – a hand in developing the solution
  • Rigour and discipline of execution
  • Alignment at all levels of the organization – from Board to front lines

In our experience, many change initiatives prove to be quite effective during the diagnostic and design phases. The challenge lies in the hand-off to the operational owners. This is similar to organizations deploying new equipment or systems: to succeed, operators must adapt to the new reality. The same is true for managers. Yet, very few organizations include specific efforts in their business improvement initiatives to help leaders and managers effectively change how they lead and manage. In fact, what is needed is a system of management that operationalizes the design and influences the desired behaviours from leaders across the organization; how managers manage cannot be left to chance.

Sponsors of initiatives designed to address performance gaps would be wise to ensure that what managers do changes by the time a new design (process, structure, tools, etc.) is transferred to their responsibility. Otherwise these change efforts will continue to inflate the statistics of failed projects.

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About Daniel Perron

Winnipeg-based author, photographer, and consultant. Might even be seen playing guitar at local coffee shops.


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