Welcome to Part 2 of our three-part blog series about strategies for building and executing a winning transformation program. In Part 1, we discussed the importance of engaging and empowering frontline managers in your transformation. In Part 2, we’ll talk about the importance of building – and refining – your transformation roadmap.

First Things First: Take the Time to Build Your Plan

There’s an old corporate catchphrase that goes like this: “We have to go slow before we can go fast.” Although it’s a bit cliché, it’s sage advice for anyone embarking on a corporate transformation initiative. All too often, organizations rush into transformation. Whether it’s because of external market pressures, a mandate from leadership, or some other driver, organizations often decide they want to invest in transformation and are off to the races within weeks.

While speed and agility are good characteristics in a transformation, those aspects shouldn’t overshadow the importance of building out a well-developed plan. We’ve helped clients design and deliver successful transformation initiatives and we’ve come in to help save some struggling transformations. One of the key differences between “good” and “bad” transformations is the amount and quality of upfront planning.

Taking the time to involve all your key stakeholders (including frontline managers), discuss drivers for your transformation, brainstorm and align on the vision, and collaboratively develop a robust plan and business case for your transformation will pay huge dividends when you get into execution. You’ll have time to understand dependencies and build a realistic plan, identify risks and develop strong mitigation actions, to determine internal and external resourcing needs, and to get the project financial projections right. You’ll be able to break the project down into consumable, manageable components, and you’ll have time to develop contingency plans. All these actions lower the overall risk profile of your program and set a solid foundation for your transformation.

What happens if you don’t take the time to build a good roadmap? The short answer is Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. For most organizations, this usually means project delays and cost overruns. A study published in Harvard Business Review looked at nearly 1,500 large technology transformation projects and found that these projects were, on average, 27% over budget. And 1 in 6 was more than 200% over budget. While the risk of such overruns can’t be completely avoided, taking time to develop a realistic plan with risk mitigations and contingency options dramatically increases your probability of a successful, cost-effective transformation.

Wait, There’s More: Keep Iterating on Your Plan

The importance of building a solid roadmap cannot be overstated. It’s the number one thing we recommend to our clients when they are considering a transformation. But that doesn’t mean the initial roadmap will be perfect. As organizations go through the transformation, things will happen, and new information comes to light. Market conditions change, customer needs shift, strategic priorities pivot, technology matures, and so on. As such, your transformation roadmap and program leadership approach need to be flexible enough to change with the times.

In fact, we don’t just tell our clients to be okay with roadmap changes. We encourage them to embrace roadmap changes and institute regular, proactive checkpoints to look at the plan and determine if changes are required in light of current conditions.

We call this approach iterative planning, and we’ve found it to be extremely effective on large-scale transformation programs. Conducting periodic checkpoints (we typically suggest a quarterly cadence) with the program leadership team and key stakeholders provides an opportunity to see what’s working and what’s not. Make sure the go-forward plans are realistic, value-adding, and ensure overall alignment with the organization’s strategic vision.

Iterative Planning: Embracing roadmap changes and instituting regular, proactive checkpoints to look at the plan and determine if changes are required in light of current conditions.

These checkpoints can be particularly effective when conducted by an objective third party, whether a leader from the organization who’s somewhat removed from the project or a consultant with expertise in transformation projects. An “outsider” can distance themselves from the nuts and bolts of the project more easily than someone who’s entrenched in the work, thus leading to a more candid assessment. Armed with an honest perspective of where the project is and where it should be headed, the program leadership team can then iterate on the plan and move forward.

Needless to say, upfront planning and ongoing iterative planning are key tenants of any successful transformation program. Taking the time to build a good plan at the outset – and understanding that you’ll have to keep iterating on the plan over time – will give you a leg up as you seek to overcome the obstacles of your strategic initiative and deliver results.

In our third and final installment of this series, we’ll cover another key tactic for building and executing a winning transformation program: invest in change management.

Learn more about Sense Corp and our transformation capabilities at www.sensecorp.com.

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