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Why strategic objectives are the golden thread of successful transformation

Why strategic objectives are the golden thread of successful transformation
December 17, 2019

It may seem obvious that an organization’s strategic objectives should be at the heart of any transformation project or initiative. Indeed, if I would survey companies embarking on transformation initiatives, I suspect that most would agree and say that their objectives were embedded in their programs. However, my experience has shown time and again that while organizational transformation processes often start this way, for a range of reasons, the two do not always remain closely aligned.

One scenario is that once a given transformation has been agreed at the executive level, it is handed over to a business function to implement. Without active and ongoing sponsorship from the executive level, the messaging to the wider organization is then left to the function leading the technology implementation. This can lead to the perception that a transformation is being led by a particular function, which can get in the way of the organization hindering the connection with strategic objectives.

In our experience, speedier adoption is achieved when the ‘sponsor’ is clearly defined and recognized as a representative of the executive. Using the sponsor’s role to emphasize and link the transformation objectives to wider organizational goals leads to improved understanding and organizational commitment to adopt the new state.

Enterprise Transformation – A Parallel with Home Renovation

Recently, I observed a friend as she set out on an extensive renovation of a new house she had bought. As I followed her project, it struck me that there were significant parallels with implementing an organizational transformation. Her role was very much like that of a Program Sponsor – she represented the family ambition for the house whilst at the same time engaging with a wide group of stakeholders to realize this vision.

In the first instance, there was the need to establish what the new house would look like. She had a vision of what it could be. However, the landscape and foundation of the existing house provided architectural constraints. She arrived at a satisfactory outcome with her architect based on the clear articulation of the requirements, measures, and outcomes she needed. This is no different than defining the strategic objectives and outcomes for an organization.

With the design defined, her next step was to galvanize local support so as to secure the planning permission. The future house was going to have a different look and feel to others on the street and required significant building work. So, she had both enthusiasts and resisters to contend with. Her honesty over what the construction phase would entail and how they would mitigate the impact on other local residents created sufficient support for the planning department to grant approval.

This is no different from any organizational transformation – with a clear understanding of what the future state looks like and feels, we need to define the roadmap and understand what levers to apply to ensure hearts and minds are engaged.

Throughout the ‘build’ phase, she spent significant time on engaging with other residents, making sure that she was aware of the impact the build was having on them, that the original mitigations remained relevant, and adding new ones where necessary. This constant engagement with respect and understanding of others’ responses to her vision was critical in overcoming some of the hurdles they had throughout the construction.

This commitment and engagement resonated with me in terms of leading any form of change – typically those leaders who take the time to engage with individuals across the organization. To understand the support and concern for the new end-state see quicker rates of adoption, even from resistors. These leaders tend to articulate the vision in specific terms and make it relevant to the individual, recognizing less palatable consequences where necessary. It is this honesty and demonstration of inclusivity that leads to acceptance and successful transformation.

Finally, for a transformation to become sustainable, there is a need to build the mechanics of embedding, reviewing, and refreshing into the end state. In our experience, transformation becomes impactful when as much effort is put into the preparation and build-up to the new ways of operating as there is into long-term sustainability. This is no different from considering the materials used and the quality of workmanship in a house. There is a direct correlation between the quality of the product and the build of the house and later repair work.

Transformation becomes impactful when as much effort is put into the preparation and build up to the new ways of operating as there is into the long-term sustainability.

Strategic Planning Leads to a Quick Turnaround

The original vision of a well-designed building considers how the building will be used and maintained. It is much the same for successful technology transformation as it integrates how the outcomes are consistent with the plan of the company, evaluated and then checked and updated as the future evolves. Planning for success starts with clarity of the organization’s objectives and designing the end state to be measured against criteria supporting these. Further, integrating the vision and purpose into the organization’s infrastructure, tools and reward mechanisms will further accelerate the delivery of benefits. Reinforcing the right behaviors through recognition and role modeling adds authenticity and consistency, thereby embedding the new ways of working.