Why Making Your Transformations Simple, Transparent and Effective is Harder Than it Sounds

culture Feb 20, 2019
In a world that is ever more complex and disruptive, change management needs to be simple, transparent and effective if it’s to deliver the desired affect and provide value for money.

Here’s our top tips for achieving just that:

Simple

Use simple language

The most effective change comes when everyone understands what’s required of them and why. Using plain English can ensure that everything you say and write is accessible to all.

It can be hard to use just simple language. In the workplace, technical jargon and acronyms act as a form of short hand, and, for the informed people, can tell more of the story without having to go into lots of detail. For example, if you say you are using a PID at the beginning of a project, it tells the listener that you are using a Project Initiation Document. In turn, this indicates that you are probably using the Prince2 project management methodology to manage the project and potentially you will be using it in quite a strict way as PID’s are quite often a step which is missed out.

However, even though there is benefit in conveying all that information in one three letter acronym it also creates challenges. Specifically, it reduces accessibility, and creates a barrier between those who understand and those who don’t. People don’t want to have to take several courses before they can understand what you are going on about.

Create a simple view

Break complex information and projects into bite-sized, easy-to-understand pieces to ensure ease of understanding across teams and at every level of the business.

It is often easier to describe complex systems by using complicated descriptions which mirror reality, rather than doing the hard work to understand the pieces of the jigsaw individually and then putting them back together again.

However, there is value in breaking down the complex into simple pieces. Describing something in simple view can help facilitate greater understanding, which in turn can help people identify potential solutions and challenges that might not otherwise have been visible.

Use simple processes

Keep it simple: the systems, the processes, and the contribution required by your team. It doesn’t mean easy, but that your change process is accessible, clear and efficient. That way you’ll use your time and money efficiently and keep everyone on board while you’re at it. And as with the point above, you’ll also benefit from the additional understanding, something that should not be under-estimated. That additional understanding often means that staff, users or stakeholders understand enough about the processes and contributions required to make more meaningful input to the project.

There is a direct correlation between the input that staff make because they’re engaged in the project and how sustainable the change is in the longer term.

Transparent

Be transparent on goals

Be upfront with all your staff about what you want to achieve and why. If staff understand the longer-term vision that drives a transformation, they can operate independently in support of the overall goals and can make small course corrections that keep the organisation flowing the same way. Conversely, if they don’t understand, then they will be moving against the project in all sorts of little ways, and that will require resource you don’t have to keep bringing people back into line. It will also disempower them within the company and that is a negative cultural effect that you really want to avoid.

Communicate Transparently

Good communication is key to a transformation project. Be clear on what you require from people and why. Take every opportunity to ask for and value the feedback given. There is no quicker way to lose the trust of your people than to only tell them part of the story or to try and spin the facts to follow a predefined path.

The two most common examples of this are in not being sufficiently transparent with the staff are at the beginning and the end of the change project. At the beginning, this is normally because you want the staff to continue with business as usual and not worry about the impact the changes might have on them. At the end, it is normally because you are trying to tell the staff that the change has been successful, which might not actually reflect their view.

Both examples would be better handled transparently. If staff know what is going on, they can help with ideas, actions and undertake related work while being aware of the changes that might be coming. Feeling involved builds trust - after all if you trusted them, why wouldn’t you tell them?

Likewise, if a project has not been successful then say so and explain why. People understand the smoke and mirrors used to make some projects appear successful and they are not fooled by this. It gives all of transformation a bad name and it breaks trust within companies.

Additionally, many change projects which required spin to make them look successful, would actually have been successful if the end hadn’t been declared earlier than was necessary.

Manage the work transparently

Sharing the details of the project design, planning and implementation processes will help keep people engaged every step of the way. This can be difficult if there is constant change or if things aren’t going as well as they could be. However, it’s important to be transparent about the good, the bad and the ugly as this will help your employees feel confident that you are being honest with them and sharing information that they need and want to know. Confidence contributes to trust, and employees who trust their organisations are more engaged and committed.

Employees will feel that as they know and understand the progress of the change as it progresses that they can now help the project solutions. They contribute more because they understand more, and because they have access to more information every decision they make will be better.

Effective

Focus on delivery of outcomes and benefits

Too many projects spend time delivering optional scope items at the detriment of delivering the core outcomes and benefits. It is great to deliver all the activities in the project plan but if they don’t deliver the benefits then you are not being as effective as you need to be.

It is easy to think of the scope as your deliverable, whatever the resulting benefits and outcomes are, but that is a narrow project view. When taking a wider programme view or even an organisational view, you can see that if a piece of scope does not add value to the outcomes and benefits you should question seriously if it is required in the project. While some non-value work is enabling, some of it just extra stuff.

Seek to make ongoing improvements

Marginal gains and continuous improvement models are excellent ways to make changes and even in big step change projects the implementation of quick wins is a good way to build momentum and get everyone convinced that change will happen and will make a difference when it does.

The other big benefit of implementing some ongoing improvements is that it is an excellent way to get the staff more involved. Even if they cannot influence the scope of the project (because that has already been set) they can work with the project to identify improvements that can be made in the business as usual organisation to either make the project easier to implement or to enhance the company’s journey towards the overall vision.

Test, trial and implement iteratively

To ensure the project is effective, it is beneficial to trial your ideas. Whether that is in terms of dividing the scope, running pilots or implementing a minimum viable product approach to get feedback and engagement.

You will receive more engagement, more feedback and an opportunity to improve in conjunction with your staff. You will deliver more success and that success will be more sustainable because of the enhanced engagement that an iterative approach brings.

The more tests you do, the more failure you will see but that gives you opportunities to improve, which in turn makes success more likely. The more failures you learn from the more successful your project will be.

Working in this way can enable successful, sustainable transformation that delivers for you and your staff.

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