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3 keys to sustaining transformation projects for successful outcomes


tony price.JPGBy Tony Price, World Wide Lead for Strategy and Transformation Consulting, HP Software Professional Services


(Tony Price has 33 years of IT experience, originally starting his career in mainframe technologies and data center operations. Tony was also an author/contributor to the ITIL® publications and has extensive experience in IT Service Management. He has personally delivered several global IT transformation projects and has a passion for delivering business outcomes.)


Early this year I got a phone call from one of my customers who asked me to "come in and work your magic". They were 18 months into a 24 month-long IT transformation project and things were running significantly behind. We went in and we turned things around. We reminded everyone of the reasons for transformation and the short-term wins that they'd already achieved. We listened to and responded to everyone’s concerns and we won their hearts and minds.


It's flattering that clients think I can work magic, but I'm not a magician. What I do is something that every IT transformation leader can do—it's recognising that the success of a project is highly dependent on getting people behind the change. And that's done by appealing to their emotions, i.e., winning their hearts as well as their minds.


3 keys to sustaining transformation projects for successful outcomes

In my last blog post, I described three best practices to a successful IT transformation. Today, I want to talk about the three keys to sustaining transformation projects for successful outcomes. In my work with HP Software Professional Services, I talk to many customers and I tell them the same thing: for transformation to succeed, you've got to demonstrate and establish:


1. Momentum: It is essential to create momentum and in the case of the client referenced above, new momentum was needed to get the project back on track. We do this by identifying something that is time-bound, meaningful, and valuable for the organization. It should be a driver that will empower individuals to do things they’ve never done before and at a pace they have probably seldom achieved. This helps bring new energy into the project, creating that essential momentum and importantly a real “buzz” within the project team.


To identify this new driver, it is critical to listen to individuals to understand the challenges they face. It’s important to understand your organisation’s culture and truly understand why it is the way “it is”. Once you’ve identified the driver, begin to implement the associated activities. It is essential that you meticulously and rigorously drive and track all these activities. It may appear onerous, but I recommend you initially track momentum daily. When things really start to take off, then you can move to weekly tracking.


Why should you track? Well when things have been “the way it is” for many years there is a tendency for them to revert back to “the way it is or was”. Early detection of lack of progress or a drop in momentum will allow you to intervene and re-energize. This stops things from reverting back to the old ways and keeps things on track.


As things progress, it is also critical to celebrate short-term wins (call out individuals who achieved those victories) and acknowledge how these successes are leading us towards our ultimate goals.


2. Value: Remind folks the reasons for the transformation. Focus on the end goals and how they would benefit from the transformed organisation. But also don’t be worried about calling out short term value that has been achieved. Many organisations shy away from this for fear of not being able to sustain the value, or that the project may falter down the line. They may choose to be cautious and wait until the end of the project to announce their “achievements”. This is a mistake! When people put in great amounts of effort to do something and the value is publicly recognised, this motivates and creates more momentum. What you’ll have is a self-fulfilling cycle of activities.


3. Emotion: Your job is to win the hearts and minds of everyone involved. Few people like change, and transformation is a big change. Many people see change as a huge upheaval in their lives and they go through the same stages of grief that people experience during significant life-changing events, such as separation or a death. Your job is to get familiar with these stages among your staff and know how to respond to them.


I have seen many different representations of these stages. The representations that are more easily applied to change are denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment. We must always remember people may go through these emotions at different times, but most will experience all of them to varying levels. Guiding people through them is essential if you want commitment to change and the associated outcome.


Dealing with resistance at each stage

If dealing with stages of resistance sounds complex, just remember you probably already do this in many areas of life. For instance, here’s how I get my daughter to do her homework: 


I tell my daughter she needs to do her homework. She replies, “Not yet Dad, I am busy and I want to be with my friends, plus I hate homework”. Denial.


I tell my daughter she really needs to do her homework. She reminds me that we promised to bake some cakes for Grandma and that we don’t want to upset Grandma. Plus after cooking she will need to wash her hair and so won’t have time for homework. Resistance.


I tell her if she completes her homework we will go to see that new blockbuster movie that has just been released.  She starts to do the homework but is finding some bits a challenge so I give some support. Exploration.


A few days later she tells me that homework was easy and she has completed it without any help and asks me what her reward is this time. … Not quite commitment yet, but hopefully you can see the point. (Oh I would love it if she just completes the homework realising that this was benefiting her … maybe one day it will be true commitment!)


Change management that works

Since working for HP I have had the benefit of using the HP approach to management of organizational change (MOC). This addresses the fundamentals of change but with the added advantage of being integrated into a wider HP transformation framework. This includes significant intellectual property to support all the various stages. We also have knowledge and experience gained from implementing many major technology-related change programmes. I encourage you to read the blogs of my colleague, Joshua Brusse, who has written much on effective MOC. If you follow the steps I’ve outlined above and apply MOC best practices, you’ll win the hearts and minds that are the key to a successful, sustainable transformation project.


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Suresh G P

Very well said Tony and a Key differentiator is the Value Proposition.  I agree that Majority of the Organizations wait to spell out Big achievements.  Celebrating Milestones/Key break throughs with the People who made the difference can keep the momentum sustainable..At the end of the day people need to be acknowledged and recognized with due credits to make them committed with the Transformation Journey.

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