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Over 60% of transformation efforts fail to achieve their goals. This depressing statistic represents a tragic waste of money, but even more importantly, it represents a waste of human time, effort and imagination.

A key issue is that corporate transformation efforts are designed by corporate office teams that work from a comfortable room in the company’s head office. The solutions that these teams develop look logical on paper, but fail to cope with the realities of working life.

Front-line teams have many priorities they must deliver, but, unfortunately, few of these top-down transformation programmes have the built-in flexibility to cope with these new realities, creating tension and frustration – and, commonly, a lack of progress.

So, how can you align bottom-up activity with your top-down goals and priorities. How do you make delivery of the transformation a genuine part of the day job?

There are three critical steps to success:

Step 1: Ask every team to develop their #1 goal.

As regular readers will know, I see the development of a #1 goal as a critical strategic step. But this goal is not just relevant in the corporate board room; it must live and breathe throughout the organisation. At one manufacturing client, for instance, the exective team agreed a #1 goal of becoming their industry’s leader for customer loyalty.

As they shared this goal across the organisation, they asked each functional team to establish their own #1 goal that would best contribute to the corporate objective. The responses were diverse, but all were focused on the loyalty goal. For instance:

  • The factory teams focused on delivering orders ‘on time, in full’
  • Sales teams established a customer satisfaction and delight score
  • The finance team set a goal of creating a single, on-time invoice for each transaction within 24 hours of product delivery

By aligning goals, but allowing for flexibility to make it real, the company was able to embed the strategic direction across the organisation and enable everyone to feel that they were contributing to the company’s future success.

Step 2: Allow your teams to determine the solutions

Ownership and involvement encourages action. By allowing, wherever possible, your front-line teams to take ownership of the best way to achieve their goal, you will accelerate progress and increase your chances of achieving transformation success.

At the manufacturing client, for instance, the finance team spent 8 weeks redesigning its process and changing the responsibilities of some of its team. These changes step-changed the accuracy and speed of their invoices, reducing customer complaints and improving cash flow.

Step 3: Establish and Embed Performance Management Disciplines

Allowing front-line ownership does not mean giving free reign. While each team must regularly review progress, they must also report progress upwards as part of the company’s performance management processes. Some teams will build highly visual charts that everyone can see to track progress and the greater the transparency, the more likely that the team’s success will be sustained.

The 60% failure rate of transformation efforts is not inevitable. The key to success is finding ways to integrate the work of your front line teams with your corporate objectives and priorities. These three steps will help you achieve that goal and, finally, ensure that delivery becomes the day job of everyone.

© Stuart Cross 2016. All rights reserved.