3 ways to ensure your transformation ends with a ROI

As an executive that is looking to transform his organization, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a particular methodology, technology or performance improvement initiative. There is often a sense of exhilaration as the possibility of applying the methodology you’ve been reading about, hearing about, or training on to transform your organization. I know, having been at the beginning of this journey a few times, that the excitement of doing something different and the possibility of what the future can hold can be strong stuff, to the point where the focus on the effort is all consuming. This enthusiasm can be the source of energy that helps drive a transformation program through to completion, or it can also result in over engineering, excessive devotion to a particular approach or methodology and push the program into failure. This can be a major obstacle in getting to the return on investment that a particular methodology or approach promises. One thing the wide spread availability of best practice information and process improvement methodologies has done is whet the appetite of executives that want to reap the rewards of these best practices and transformational methodologies. This has triggered an explosion of growth within the training, conference and speaking industries, that has not necessarily been accompanied with a commensurate improvement in the performance of the organizations following these approaches. I follow three rules for getting the most of any transformational activity:
1. Be honest about readiness

Whether it’s a book you read, speaker you listened to, or a conference you attended, what you took away is generally based on one person or group’s experience or success applying a particular method or technique. Before diving into a transformation effort or making estimates about what your ROI might be, make sure you take into account your own unique circumstances. Do you have executive buy in? Do you have staff with experience in this area? Will you be able to provide the resourcing required to see the effort through while maintaining your existing service levels? Will you be able to source the training, consulting staff, etc. necessary to get you to value? What is your organization’s history with regard to implementing changes of this scale? Be honest at the beginning.
2. Be thin and incremental

Most transformational activities that I have seen fail in the implementation of the approach or best practice, don’t fail because the best practice or approach itself was flawed. Often this has to do with a failure to scope the activities or anticipate the real level of effort. I think most organizations would benefit from drawing their to-be view of the world and then focusing on incrementing the path to it, in a way that there are no huge leaps of faith in those increments. It is much easier to do this if you keep your initial vision as small as possible. Remember that what you are undertaking involves changing the way your organization works and thinks, and that this takes time and effort. Keep your increments small in order to provide yourself with checkpoints along the way. Getting to small wins will help you achieve your larger goals. Choosing to implement the smallest vision of the transformation effort that ends in value will ensure that you actually get to value.
3. Stay focused on value

One of the greatest temptations as you enter into a transformation program, is becoming consumed with process to the detriment of enterprise value. Transformational activities often involve the building of new skills and learning new things. It is easy to get carried away and lose the original focus of the project, which probably included a return on investment. It takes real discipline not to become consumed with an approach and the rigid implementation of every aspect of that approach. Every time you begin to add scope, develop further granularity, or add another level of decomposition or analysis, make sure you ask yourself the value question. Remember that the success of the effort will not be graded by how complete the implementation was, but rather on the value gained by the organization.If you follow the three simple rules above you may not win any awards for how complete your implementation is for a specific methodology or approach, but you can be assured that you will gain some value for your organization. This approach doesn’t just work for large transformation efforts. I try to ask myself these questions about my individual tasking and calendar items every day. Do I really need to completely re-organize my filing system or will I get more value by just filing the one thing I need. Sometimes you do need to allocate the resources to complete a major transformation, but I have found that more often than not I can get more real value much quicker by focusing on smaller increments and smaller goals.

Joshua Millsapps
Senior Partner, Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates
Twitter: @jmillsapps

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