Pay now or pay later
August 23, 2017Change Leadership
The imperative of investing in your people during change to maximise success – it’s not ‘if’ but ‘how’
‘When and how do I invest in my people during a change cycle?”
This is the number one question we’re asked by clients. It’s usually a loaded question, asked by project managers, project sponsors (those endorsing and funding the project), governance groups and boards, who are in fact asking for a revised approach to an existing program that needs costs reduced. Perhaps they’ve already formed the view that the delivery of the change activities must be done for less than previously agreed … while still hoping for the same outcomes and return on investment! Sound familiar?
Project delays or unexpected cost blow-outs are often to blame for this thinking. The demand to justify investment in people during change is usually a result of overruns in other areas of the project, or delays that have prolonged the duration. Typically, it’s nothing personal and is no reflection on our approach, just a consequence of project managers or senior managers being measured by delivering on time and to budget.
What they really want to know is, “What is the minimum amount of communication and training activity we can do to satisfy my sponsor and my funding stakeholders to launch this program and then agree that the delivery is complete”.
The case for change is compelling … that’s not the problem
When a compelling business case is presented, senior management will nod in synchronised approval and advise delivery teams to proceed with urgency. Funds are committed and agreed based on a sound articulation of where a return is calculated and quantified in a pragmatic way, with the assumption that it will be delivered on time and change will be adopted as intended.
This is the most critical moment to determine whether the return on investment will be successful or not. It’s well known in the industry that the chance of any initiative realising its benefits is less than one in three. Those odds are alarming – and from our experience – the early phase of the program is the best opportunity to set your people up for change adoption and increase the probability of reaping returns.
Pay now or pay later
Organisations are quick to invest in bringing solutions to life. Typically work begins with great resolve, with little if any structured analysis on the impacts and risks to the people or full consideration of the required capabilities and behaviours needed to fully embed the change beyond Go Live dates.
These factors become an afterthought, only assessed once the solution has progressed to an adequate point. But will the change be adopted if the human-ness in people is not considered? Lack of commitment, employee and manager resistance, poorly formed solutions that neglect the nuances of the business can cost the project in delays, cost blowouts or lack of adoption. A last-minute effort to quickly address the ‘communications and training’ needs that ‘patch up’ these problems significantly erode the potential return on investment from the program.
So, if people are critically important, why is there reluctance to understand and invest in them up front? Especially when it can make you pay later?
Reap rewards by investing in your people up front
The question about return on investment is one we take seriously at Blue Seed. Our experience has shown us that the companies who invest upfront in understanding people impacts, risks and their unique needs, and then act on these, will have the greatest success in creating a return.
We take a holistic view of the organisation, assessing and then creating the required capabilities for everyone who plays a role in the success of the change. Change IS everyone’s job.
This systemic approach ensures the three key roles in change are willing and able to fulfil their roles and work together to generate returns for the organisation:
- Change Architects (e.g. sponsors, executives, steering members)
- Change Enablers (e.g. PMs, BAs, Communications, HR, Learning, Change Agents) and
- Change Makers (the people in the business who lead change and make it happen)
Pay now investment, (early and upfront) will not only create the best returns, it will pay forward as it advances the organisations ability to change quickly and sustainably in the future. Future initiatives are more likely to be successful and delivered at a lower cost when capabilities are targeted, created and sustained. And all based on the unique needs of an organisation and supported across the whole change system – this takes considered and active change leadership.
With increased change capability in-house, the organisation has less reliance on costly external providers and won’t lose the critical knowledge and capabilities that walk out the door when the change is over (not that it ever is over, but you know what we mean).Building in-house change capability doesn’t have to be onerous or expensive
Building in-house change capability doesn’t have to be onerous or expensive
Let us share a quick story:
Our client faced multiple change initiatives, with more on the way, and realised it was a strategic priority to equip its leaders with the skills and practical tools to lead themselves, and their teams, through change. This investment in leadership capability and change capacity would serve their new leadership model and the delivery of ongoing strategic change initiatives.
They needed a high-impact facilitated learning program that was 90 minutes or less, to be filmed for ongoing electronic distribution and value, across multiple geographies.
As a specialist Change Management advisory, consulting and education firm, we were able to quickly assess, recommend and formulate a fit-for-purpose change leadership training program to lift change maturity and change readiness. It included interactive exercises, practice tools and engaging multimedia content for delivery to large audiences.
This tailored session aligned specifically with the learning outcomes of the company’s broader capability program and everything from the look and feel of the content, to the relevance of the examples, were customised to suit the audience and compel them into action. Participants received guidance, exposure and experience with easy to use tools and concepts to apply in the workplace.
The result was a succinct and targeted change intelligence learning program delivered in numerous locations to large audiences. In the post-session survey, data gathered confirmed that 97% of session attendees were more confident as change leaders or wanting to know more about change leadership than before.
Helping you pay (smartly) now, and not later
How do we do it? We don’t paint by numbers – each client situation is unique and we quickly find and pull the right levers for change in partnership with them.
The traditional method is a slower, ‘waterfall’ start, building momentum piecemeal while managing change largely from behind a computer screen.
The graph below illustrates how Blue Seed hits the ground running, quickly assessing unique organisational needs, and applying a proven approach that involves nine success criteria upfront
Key indicators quickly highlight where things are under control and where additional focus is needed urgently. These indicators, combined with our years of experience and change intelligence, help us quickly define and deliver a program, that not only produces the desired outcomes but create lasting capabilities in our client organisations.
Partnering with clients to set them up for success
Without giving too much away, we can share this story about a client we worked with recently:
The business was taking strategic steps to modernise their technology – both hardware and software, and consolidate their property footprint, to reduce costs. Subsequently, there would be various changes to the business operating model which would have a high-impact on employees and potentially cause disruption to operational productivity. With financial performance on a knife-edge, employee engagement at risk and a nine-figure investment planned to complete the program over several years, the risk of failure was high. Implementation of the changes had to be planned with precision to keep things on track, to retain the support of talented employees and to minimise disruption to customers.
Blue Seed Consulting was engaged to turbocharge the client’s change program, establishing clear direction, structure, and certainty in just four weeks. One of the key challenges was how to inspire and engage employees in a program primarily aimed at reducing costs. In our experience, the term ‘cost-reduction’ alone can create fear and disdain. While the sponsor and program manager told us, cost-cutting was the main driver, we dug deeper to reframe the change, simply by asking: “What will cost reduction help you achieve?”The answers were more compelling and likely to motivate employees to act or at least empathise with the exec team’s strategy:
- “Reducing costs will enable us to deliver better value to our customers”
- “We need to do this to stay in business and remain competitive”
- “Cutting edge companies use cutting edge technology and efficient processes and services. This change will reposition us as Australia’s cutting-edge media company.”
Getting things right from the start
As part of our Change Diagnostic approach, we developed a comprehensive program-wide change strategy, assessing the organisation and the change program against our Nine Critical Change Success Factors. In a very short period, we managed to align all business and program leaders to the key messages to ensure they delivered a consistent understanding of the reason for the change across the workforce. As a result, many employees responded with excitement about the prospect of reinventing the organisation and advancing it to a respected market leadership position as a top Aussie brand. A big shift from the fear-inducing cost-reduction message.
In addition, because of alignment to the program change needs and messaging, the leadership group felt a sense of confidence and certainty about the success of the program. They were equipped with the understanding and tools they needed to lead change in their business units.
With an aligned leadership team, a clear change strategy and a supportive workforce, the risk of failure were mitigated. The likelihood of realising the cost-savings and competitive advantage of the program were now very high. And that doesn’t need to take months!
Can we support you?
We’re on a mission to make the world more change capable. Our unique approach empowers organisations to create the best return on investment for their change programs.
We’ve seen that the sooner an organisation is willing to identify and address their (human) change capability needs and gaps in detail, the quicker they will be likely to reap the rewards.
We’re on a mission to make change management – change for the better!
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org