Gain Full Benefit Realization from Your Transformational Change Program:  4 Basic Actions to Take

Posted by Paula Alsher on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 10:50 AM

Consider for a moment the phases of transformational change projects. Transformation typically begins with a core team that develops a vision of the future state. Over time, the team may engage others as it moves through the design/development/testing phases—all leading to the “go-live” or “cut-over” date.  These steps represent the installation phase of your program. 

But, unfortunately for too many organizations, getting to launch, cutover, or go-live also becomes the transformation endpoint. Where new technology is involved, the lights go on. If it is a re-structure, the organization chart shows new names in new positions. When process re-engineering is included, the new process has been communicated. And thus, the business transformation is deemed to be complete. So, the program structure is dissolved, the project teams are disbanded, and then quickly re-assigned to other projects. Change Management Success

But wait. What’s missing? Nothing all that important, right!?!?  Just Return on Investment! 


End Goal:  ROI

The end goal of every change initiative should always be full benefit realization.  In our change management consulting work we find that organizations can be very good at installing all kinds of changes, but more often than not they fall short of achieving implementation and in turn, Return on Investment. 

In fact, Leaders who are content with “installation” may gain a false sense of satisfaction that organizational objectives and financial return have been achieved.  This rampant acceptance of installation as the measure of success is leading to severely reduced value realization for critical transformational programs, leading to a lot of money being "left on the table."  While these are not obvious programmatic failures, there is unrealized potential!


Installation is Seductive

It’s easy to understand why getting to installation promotes a sense of accomplishment. Installation is seductive, because there is a lot of activity, and some results have been accomplished, but if you measure transformational change success by installation you are not getting to behavior change and therefore, true Return on Investment. It’s change at the surface level, but it isn’t going to be sustained. The bottom line:

Installation is very important.  It’s just not enough!!

Instead, every transformational project needs to be measured by the following 5 metrics: 

  1. On Time

  2. On Budget

  3. Technical Objectives Met

  4. Business Objectives Met

  5. Human Objectives Met

For most organizations there is far greater financial investment in the achievement of an initiative’s business and technical objectives compared to the investment in the human objectives. Yet data strongly suggests that the greatest risk is on the human side of project implementation. In too many cases, the costs for actually managing the human elements of a project are under-estimated, and are far less than what is needed to get to Return on Investment.  This becomes significant when the organization is investing multi-millions into hardware, software, or other transformational changes. As IMA President Don Harrison says, “Implementation is a ferociously resource-consuming activity.” {Tweet}.

4 Basic Actions to Reframe Your Definition of Transformation Success

To increase the likelihood of implementation success, organizations must actually adopt an “implementation
mindset,” meaning there is a common vocabulary and framework for recognizing implementation success as measured by program Return on Investment. An implementation mindset is built on a foundation where there is substantial investment and business-discipline and rigor on the human side of large scale, complex organizational changes.  

Here are four basic actions that organizations can take to change the strategic goal from Installation to Implementation:

  1. Adjust the definition of project success so that there are plans and a budget for the human side of project activities.
  2. Avoid dis-assembling the project and program infrastructure prematurely.  This means resources should be budgeted for the goal of Return on Investment, not just “go live.” 
  3. Clearly define the human objectives for all transformational change projects earlyin the project lifecycle. There must be a clear and commonly held definition of the present state (is now) and the desired state (will be). What we are doing? Why are we doing it, and what are the consequences if we don’t succeed? What are the new behaviors we hope to see in the future, and how will we measure those behaviors?
  4. Provide formal and informal reinforcements for true implementation.   A strategy must be developed to make the motivation to leave the present state stronger than the motivation to stay where things are. Managers must apply positive rewards and recognition for performing the new behaviors, and provide negative consequences for staying in the present state.

While getting to successful installation of your transformation projects is certainly a "must-do," your projects won't achieve the financial benefits that were used to justify the investment in the business case until implementation is accomplished.  Don't be confused and let your organization's investment become a victim of the installation trap.  Instead, adopt an implementation mindset to ensure full benefit realization from every business transformation project.

Free eBook:  Mini Guide to Installation vs Implementation    

Topics: Transformational Change, Installation vs. Implementation, Value Realization/ROI