Letter from Managing Director, PMI India   |   Download a PDF version     

The Nuts and Bolts of Change Initiatives

The good old saying, “Change is the only constant in life”, is very true in contemporary business situations. Business has to adopt and adapt to keep pace with a dynamic and demanding market. Change could range from a small developmental adjustment to transformational change, which calls for huge shifts in mindsets and behaviors. Wellstructured transformation that is rooted around its people and their beliefs are more likely to produce the intended results. It is estimated that more than 70 percent of change initiatives fail to deliver their intended targets.

In spite of program and project management methodologies and techniques, the uncertainties involved make the actual transformation process emergent and untraceable against a fixed plan. The following precursor activities, if embedded in a program's framework, can be effective preparation work for transformational change, thereby improving the chances of success.

1. Architect your Communication – Structured and well-designed communication can provide the inspiration and mobilize people into desired actions. Communication must answer a fundamental question: “Why are we doing this?” It could come in the form of a simple anecdote that clarifies doubts and establishes the need for change. Communication that talks of a better future can stimulate and connect people to work towards the change. It would create a coherent message across the enterprise from the logical reason for making the change to a clear picture of the intended state of transformation. The framework for such communication must be built on a set of high-level questions such as these:

a. Where is the enterprise today?

b. What future does the enterprise aspire for?

c. What will be the journey to achieve the future state?

d. What behavior changes may be required during the journey to the future state?

2. Assign Values to Behavior – The transformation that is triggered by the organization's strategic vision needs to be in perfect harmony with its culture and set of underpinning values. Only then can the change manifest and sustain. A set of critical behaviors must be identified and designed, which can enable, propel, and sustain the change. Different interactive and programmatic methods like role-modeling, peer-multiplying, and training could be deployed to drive behavior change during the preparation/early execution stage of the program. The most effective and time proven method is “leadership by example”. A leader should reinforce and propagate the values of the enterprise through certain behaviors.

3. What Comes First? – Large scale transformational programs could be daunting and misaligned if priorities are not defined, and the program not managed or executed accordingly. It may be necessary to identify focus areas to be able to consistently, incrementally, and cohesively achieve the intended change objectives. Consider a framework such as “OGSM” (explained below) to help identify the key strategic actions, which an organization must take in alignment with its strategic vision and objectives. OGSM stands for strategic Objectives, quantified by measurable Goals that could be easily translated into Strategic initiatives, which, in turn, could be Measured and reconciled using a defined metric.

4. Sustainability – A change can be successful only if it sustains and fetches consistent and incremental benefits for the business. Our experience with failed and successful transformation efforts over the past several years reaffirms the importance of planning for sustainability from day one and weaving in sustenance actions in the execution plan. Embedding sustainability actions like capability development (through class work and field application), governance mechanisms, compliance verification, audits, relevant systems and tools, and performance measurement and tracking in the execution plan could make substantial difference between what gets completed and what achieves the objectives.

5. Strong PMO – The involvement of a focused project management office (PMO) has been proved to be a key reason for success in any major program or project by many mature organizations. The PMO of such an initiative may need to achieve greater executive involvement, be more adaptive with the changing environment, and implement the right practices for organizational maturity, culture, and appetite for processes. The PMO could play a vital role in driving cross-functional as well as strategic alignment of a transformation program.

(Gaurav Sapra, PMP, PMI-ACP, is a program manager with Tata Consultancy Services with 12 years of consulting experience. He is an active PMI India Champion volunteer)
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