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Transformation Turducken: 5 Tactics for Effective Organizational Change

Infinitive, Insights
Published November 17, 2016
The second in a three-part series on change leadership, covering:  
  1. People: How the emotional intelligence of leaders helps drive successful change
  2. Organization: Learning from the cultures and environments where change takes place
  3. Experience: The role of real-world knowledge, failure and confidence in leading change

Learn 5 tactics for effectively managing changes throughout your organization to adapt to the different environments and dimensions in which change takes place.At certain times of year, we hear more and more about the infamous “turducken” dinner. For the uninitiated, that would be a chicken, within a duck, within a turkey. It occurs to me that business transformations can be their own “turduckens” of change. Your department or function, within an organization or enterprise, within an industry. Each of these environments and levels is in motion as change initiatives take place. Unfortunately, they usually don’t all move at the same speed or in the same direction. So, how do you implement transformation in your department when your organization and industry is also going through transformation? How do you manage the moving parts and ensure that by the end of your transformative initiative that you are positioned strategically within your evolving industry, but also aligned to your organization and its future goals? There isn’t a silver bullet to ensure success in multi-dimensional, intra-organizational change programs. There are, however, some tactics you can implement to make sure you are aware of and effectively manage changes throughout your organization. Employing these strategies enables you to adapt to the different environments and dimensions in which change takes place.

5 Tactics for Successfully Managing Change on Multiple Levels of the Business

1. Manage dependencies to understand how everything connects.

Everything is connected. Acknowledging these interdependencies, links and overlaps is step one. With this knowledge, a dependency management plan can help track and manage both internal and external connections. Understanding how your project impacts other strategic initiatives underway within the organization provides context for decision making. Conversely, understanding how external dependencies (such as technology advancements, industry shifts and regulatory changes) impact your transformation can be beneficial in risk mitigation and strategic planning.

2. Instill organizational flexibility so you can course-correct effectively.

The flexibility of your organization or department dictates how well you can adjust the course of your initiative in response to unforeseen changes. Flexibility can also enable you to better align your organization to market developments. Flexibility can be created both through governance and people. Building lightweight change control processes and ensuring there is a clear prioritization and decision making structure in place can alleviate the pain involved in adjusting project approach, scope or schedules. Meanwhile, surrounding yourself with leaders of varied viewpoints, backgrounds and skills can help your organization keep up with and adjust to industry trends and organic changes to your organization’s culture in appropriate ways.

3. Communicate transparently to create awareness of change across the entire ecosystem.

It’s not enough to just make sure you are communicating. You need to build a communication plan, based on ALL your stakeholders, that will get the right message to the right people using the most effective channel. But that’s only half of the battle. Nobody can effectively manage or align to organizational or industry changes if they aren’t aware of them. Your governance structure should contain “hooks” into your organization’s strategic leadership as well as industry experts and thought leaders.

4. Future-proof the plan against inevitable bumps in the road.

During transformation planning, design and initiation phases, it is important to avoid boxing the project into a corner with short cuts such as manual processes and hard-coded technology. These short cuts can seem to save time upfront but ultimately limit long-term options. It becomes far too easy to grab onto the quick fix or win when difficult decisions need to be made regarding scope, budget and schedule. However, so-called short cuts often lead to painful rework or restarts in the future. Moreover, they tend to have a snowball effect in limiting future options. Build flexibility into your solution and pre-plan a couple of alternate paths based on likely change scenarios.

5. Leverage continual feedback within an iterative approach.

Whether or not you use agile methodology, some aspects of that approach should be leveraged when it comes to managing transformation initiatives. Constant feedback, regular input and shorter iteration cycles built into your project plan can help with flexibility on a change effort. Rather than weekly status meetings, back-loaded user testing and post-project lessons-learned reviews, move to daily standups with workstream leads, monthly project feedback sessions and regular user reviews. Returning to our turducken analogy, even the most skilled cooks must be ready for an unpredictable future. That’s especially true if you’re cooking up something complex and ambitious, like a turducken (or a transformation program that affects multiple layers of the organization) Each layer might “cook” at a different temperature and, therefore, take more or less time to complete. However, if you are flexible, have an advance plan for making adjustments, and rely on proven transformation techniques, you will have a better chance at serving up a tasty turducken – and a successful transformation. Check out the complete series on change leadership:
  1. People: How the emotional intelligence of leaders helps drive successful change
  2. Organization: Learning from the cultures and environments where change takes place
  3. Experience: The role of real-world knowledge, failure and confidence in leading change

About the Author:

Wayne Campagna is a principal with Infinitive, specializing in business transformation initiatives. He has more than 15 years of management consulting experience in Telecommunications and Education industries focused in portfolio, program, and project management.