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April 12, 2022

Most enterprises start transformations in the hope that things would go right and not with the certainty that the objectives will be achieved. If, on top of this endeavour of hope, “agile” or “agility” also gets thrown into the mix, then the situation could get woefully complex.

Taking the transformation, success, agility path

There are multiple dimensions to agility and success in any transformation. For starters, from an enterprise standpoint, the drive should start from the very top. Transformations will encounter resistance and pain when the executive sponsor or the business head does not set a clear vision or does not create an environment that encourages this culture.

So, what are the enablers for a transformation’s success?

First, understanding the various factors at play from an organization’s point of view is critical.

Let us coin the term ’affinity to success’ model (or A2S model) that will include all these factors 

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The central theme of the model depicts the three areas of utmost importance for the success of any transformation:

  • Objectives: Knowing what the “wants” and “needs” are
  • Roles and collaboration: Mapping of “wants+needs” to “who”
  • Governance: Bringing the “know” to everyone (transparency and execution discipline)        

The A2S model can be used to engage with, and depict the maturity of, organizations moving into a transformation path or getting ready for one, and to drive concrete discussions around the organizations’ preparedness and possible challenges or areas that need attention while also focusing on smoother execution.

The objectives space: This is the simplest, yet a complex, piece of the puzzle, before it itself becomes the puzzle! This is where the program can be set up for success or failure—right at the beginning.

Typical issues encountered at the stage include hazy or unclear definition of objectives (output vs outcome, technology vs business metrics), short-sighted view of the program and its impact, reduced stakeholder appetite or interest, and weak or suboptimal program execution structure.

How can we resolve these? Ensure that the objectives always take into account the impact on business or end-user (even for legacy modernization or tech upgrade projects). Baseline the current “benefits” with targeted “benefits” (using a benefits road map), map owners and ownership for the benefits or outcomes from each stakeholder and ensure these are validated with all the groups to be impacted. Based on this, think of a functional structure with right representation from each group.

This will also help lay an outline for the organization change management (OCM) plan and strategy.

The roles and collaboration (R&C) space: This is another dimension highlighting the importance of understanding the role of every stakeholder and the need for eliciting collaboration and the interplay between them. It is an area that determines how effectively and smoothly most grunt work will be done and how the value proposition will be perceived. Typical issues that crop up when this space is not understood or managed right include lack of executive sponsor commitment, incoherent mapping of end objectives with the right stakeholder group, weak or no alignment with the teams concerned, and the lack of active inter-group engagement or collaboration.

These problems can be addressed with an effective engagement plan. Let’s start with the executive sponsor. Figuring out how you will keep someone at this level constantly engaged and interested would be the right way to start this process. Also, across phases, pull-based engagement should be devised with stakeholders. Sometimes, the best way to deal with people is by just engaging them! Think why they should be a part of this transformation (what is their stake and what’s at stake for them — the simplest and most important aspect to understand and address).

Ensure that each stakeholder is aware of their influence on the outcomes and objectives (using the ownership map created above) and get their buy-in. Subsequently, jointly build a benefits road map.

The governance space: This effectively determines how fast or slowly you (and the program) will succeed or fail. This directly influences the execution experience of the program teams, the stakeholders, and the overall transformation journey.

In this phase, teams will mostly encounter issues stemming from execution bias like traditional governance methods and not looking at the data that matters.

A governance approach that specifically addresses project(s), program(s), and steering or sponsor levels can help tackle these issues.

The OCM strategy has to be put into play (The question: “Why should this be anyone’s baby?” can be used to structure a strong OCM plan). Also, ensure there is more than adequate intertwining of stakeholders with the program–and not just on program progress metrics. Some pertinent questions to think about would include how to link outcomes, and how to incorporate feedback from MVPs, POCs, pilots, roadshows, and stakeholder sentiments.

The above model could serve as an outline for some of the subtle, and not-so-subtle, aspects of the transformation, success, agility pathway. An intentional and greater emphasis on human and collaboration-related touchpoints is pivotal for success in enterprise agility and transformation.

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Himesh Chandrasekhar comes with over 22 years of experience with TCS. He has been associated with transformation programs spanning the banking & financial services space and across diverse geographies–Canada, USA, Middle East, India, APAC, and Japan. He is an established cat herder, and he mentors customers in their transformation journeys.

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