As a leader, are you adding-value to your transformation programme?

I live in a suburb in North West London and the main street has 3 sets of traffic lights and a pedestrian crossing, all within a short distance so traffic build-up is a fact of life. A few weeks ago, a set of temporary traffic lights replaced those at the main junction and this made the traffic problems even worse.

One Saturday we walked past these temporary lights in the early afternoon and noticed the queues were very long. On our way back the queues were virtually non-existent and we noticed that the lights were out of action. This was still the case an hour later. When returning home at 11:00pm that night, the queues were over 300 metres long and the lights were working again.

Clearly based on our observations the temporary lights (and possibly the main ones) were not adding value. They caused the queues to be lengthened and the absence of lights seemed to result in more cautious rather than unsafe behavior.

Sadly, I have seen this frequently in organisations – controls have been added with little thought for what they are trying to deliver and this results in a reduction in value ie higher cost, longer lead-time and reduced quality.

In organisations, the most important control must always be to ensure that the person doing the job can make the right decisions themselves, helping them to deliver the most effective outcome and to promote learning and improvement.

For transformation programmes, the critical controls are commonly at decision points – the approval of a design document, an implementation plan or the approach to solution delivery. Frequently these decision points are not structured appropriately and so time is lost and proposals changed at the last minute (often for the worse).

Senior leaders can add value during the decision points on a transformation programme by considering the following:

  1. Does the deliverable (along with other programmme deliverables) result in the required business benefits and outcomes? Is there evidence to support this?
  2. Have all critical areas of expertise been taken in to account in the proposal and decision eg business case format, risk management?
  3. Will this proposal get the support of the senior leadership team? How can this be ensured?
  4. How is it best to communicate the critical decision to key stakeholders and staff?

Leaders can destroy the value at decision points in transformation programmes resulting in lost time, added cost, delayed benefits and reduced quality. Key ways in which value is destroyed:

  1. Delaying decisions for issues outside the programme which could have been anticipated, for example, impact on business performance, lack of funding, alignment with other initiatives.
  2. Failing to plan and structure decision points in advance especially involving all the right people at the right time and in the right way.
  3. Delaying or withholding feedback until the later stages of the decision.
  4. Changing proposals based on personal preference rather than based on expert knowledge.

By definition, a transformation programme has not been done before and these programmes will stretch all leaders to operate outside their comfort zone. If leaders are committed to the programmes they lead, it is vital that they are evaluating their contribution to ensure that they are always adding value especially in their review and guidance at critical decision points.


Andrew Kearns

Hartswood Management Ltd

Delivering real transformation

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