Welcome To The Next Installment of Our Series “The reasons why many Change Programmes Fail”

Part 2 - Lack of Planning and Preparation

This month I’m looking at the second reason why significant programmes fail, that is lack of planning and preparation. Firstly, I need to say that with planning and prep, there is a balance between doing too little and doing too much. We have seen many examples where Senior Managers spend endless days, weeks and months presenting and communicating to the workforce in a hope that the more this is done the more the employees will engage with the process and the better/quicker the change will happen. Sadly, this is not the case.

I have an example where a very senior manager in a very large organisation told me that “all the employees will be engaged by 31st March”.  Clearly she meant, all employees would have been communicated to by 31st March! Given that telling and engaging are two different things! Equally, no communication will of course lead to confusion, and complete disengagement of the workforce. Hence, there needs to be a balance.

So, how much planning and prep is required?

Firstly, let’s have a look at planning…

With true Transformational Change programmes (change that involves people, i.e. all change programmes!) there are two levels of planning.

  1. Long term, high level.

That is the overall journey from Now to the Vision of where the organisation will be when reaching its long term goals.

  1. Short term (3-4 months detail plans)

These are detailed week by week plans that cover a relatively short period of time in relation to the overall change timetable.

Even relatively small transformational programmes (i.e. one location, 300- 600 people) can take three years; eighteen months to implement and involve and eighteen months to sustain and create a continuous improvement infrastructure.

The diagram below shows the elements highlighted above, but also importantly, it shows the non-linear journey to the Vision, which means that detailed planning will only be accurate for a 3-4 month period. Therefore, it is critical to create a mentality that a “rolling plan” is required. A plan that is updated regularly will change with the dynamic created by the “organic movement” as people travel with the change process.

The approach required is simple in concept, but managers/leaders over complicate things. This is driven by people struggling with “Simple is Smart” and everything needs to be done in a rush. This is sometimes driven by financial yearend performance recognition (one of the biggest issues in modern corporate business). I’m a fan of creating a sense of urgency, BUT people are people and with the complexities of human nature, it’s hard to predict when a criteria mass will follow new ways of working. Ramming tools and techniques into a business without the hearts and minds of people won’t bring sustainable results.

Secondly, let’s look at preparation…

When preparing a large programme it is critical to identify the customer(s) of the programme. This person or small group of people are the ones to work with at the very beginning of the process. Usually, the top level leaders.

It’s at this point overall Measures of Success are drafted along with a Vision of the future. I see many examples of Visions. Some of them are almost technical documents and these really are not useful to create the right mind-set for an organisation embarking upon a Transformational Change process. Sometimes a Vision is also too small i.e. a slogan; “We will be the greatest!” This doesn’t create a mental picture of the future.

A Vision should be about three paragraphs and written well to provoke a mental picture of the future organisation where the infrastructure, performance and behaviours are captured to motivate people’s desire to ‘get involved’. I hear some of you shout….”I will tell them to get involved”. Well will they, really? Hmmm…

So once the Vision is agreed, with tangible Measures of Success, this should be communicated to the workforce. Ideally by the senior group of people that put the Vision together.

If detail plans are presented to the workforce at this stage it won’t induce a sense of further involvement for people, who are going to be critical to the change process. The more detail and the more it looks like a “done deal” the less people will feel motivated. Ironically, there needs to be a core of motivated people to be creative during this journey. However, as much preparation is done, the journey will not follow that preparation!

A really engaging technique is for the Senior Managers presenting the Vision to declare to the workforce that they don’t fully know how the journey will go and everyone must be involved in reviewing and improving the overall process. Sometimes, Senior Managers are reluctant to open up to the fact that they may not know exactly every detail, as they look vulnerable. The reality is that it’s a very engaging process. Why would they really know how it was going to go?

The diagram below, one of our old favorites will remind us that the journey is not linear and requires constant review and updating of the plan through quality reviews, improvement discussions, in teams and 1:1’s and informal conversations throughout the journey.

If you would like to know more about NewLeaf International and the work we do, please contact us for an informal chat.

Tel: 01905 425209

Email: headoffice@newleafinter.co.uk

Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd