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SAQs: SHOULD ASK questions

We are used to seeing FAQs, Frequently Asked Questions, on websites. Last week I heard about an interesting variation: SAQs, SHOULD ASK questions.

FAQs are the questions asked over and over again by customers. But are these the questions customers SHOULD be asking?  Typically, FAQs deal with the basic, practical information customers might need, but what they DON’T do is trigger a higher level dialogue with you about the added value your product or service provides them.

So, unlike an FAQ, an SAQ is a question you WANTyour potential customer to be asking, but they might not know they need to be asking.

In the area of business change, one of these Should Ask questions might be:

  • Is my project too complex for our people to cope with the changes?

Another might be:

  • Is there sufficient commitment to making the change on the part of the people involved?

Both key to the success of your project, I’m sure you’ll agree. But the reason you haven’t asked them, is that you probably didn’t know that there are useful answers available.

We can offer an approach which provides quantified, practical answers to these questions – questions you should be asking before investing in a project.

  • Is my project too complex for our people to cope with the changes? This means measuring the complexity of the project and the capability of your organization to handle the changes. Once these are known, a gap analysis will answer the question.
  • Is there sufficient commitment to making the change on the part of the people affected by the project? This requires three measured inputs:

a)    the amount and effectiveness of preparatory consultation and engagement

b)    a measure of the level of trust between people in your organisation

c)    the degree to which local managers are accountable for the improvement expected as a result of the project.

Combined, these will tell you whether your project will be pulled through or hindered by your people.

To arrive at objective and useful answers to all these questions, we use our Change Readiness Assessment tool. Based on Peter Duschinsky’s Change Equation methodology, published in 2009, this tool is used to measure the complexity of a project, and identify and quantify the cultural and process barriers to change in your organization.

It only takes a couple of days to carry out this assessment.

Can you really afford to invest in change without knowing the answers to these Should Ask Questions?

Contact us!

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November 10, 2012 Posted by | business change management, change capability, complexity, mergers and acquisitions, Project Readiness Healthcheck | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What makes an organisation good at managing change?

In a recent McKinsey’s article, management consultants Scott Keller and Colin Price summarise their forthcoming book: ‘Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage’. The message is clear: organisational health is the “ultimate competitive advantage” and organisations need to build the capacity to learn and keep changing over time, if they want to achieve and sustain high levels of performance.

This confirms what we’ve been telling anyone who will listen for the past year: it’s what we call the organisation’s Capability for Change and it’s a crucial core value, if you want to survive in the face of the accelerating pace of change and rising levels of business complexity.

I took my definition of Capability for Change from Rebecca Henderson (Harvard Business School): “Attention and resources focused on people and processes, developing the organisation’s stock of capability and resilience”.

I also like this one:

Resilience: “The attitudes, skills and strengths, that enable individuals, and teams to thrive within organisational change” (The Taylor Clarke Partnership)

But like all aspects of an organisation’s culture and values, its resilience and capability for change requires continual investment and maintenance, or it will erode through natural entropy. In our opinion, any transformation programme needs these core values at the heart of its core deliverables, but in our experience, most don’t go there.

So, how do you know if your organisation has resilience and capability for change? How do you know whether it is good at managing change as a normal part of ‘how we do things around here’?

Try our ‘starter for ten’ list. Does your organisation have these characteristics?
  1. Strong, visible, empowering, leadership
  2. Clearly articulated and shared vision
  3. Attention paid to supporting core values
  4. High level of trust between managers and staff – decision-making devolved wherever possible
  5. People allowed to stop doing stuff when taking on new initiatives – overload issue managed well
  6. Innovation encouraged and well managed
  7. Good communication between departments
  8. Good communication/collaboration with customers and suppliers
  9. Adherence to standard ways of doing things
  10. HR benefits and rewards aligned to business objectives.

Yes? Then you are likely to have a good capability for managing change, i.e:

  • High level of involvement and commitment
  • Low resistance to change
  • Resilience in the face of challenges
  • Able to bring in changes rapidly and effectively in response to need.

No? Then you, like most organisations are probably on a ‘downward spiral to disaster’:

  • Senior management is taking a short-term view and focusing on cutting costs and hitting revenue or output targets
  • This may be succeeding in the short run, but it has diverted resources away from supporting your people and processes – your capability to manage change
  • As a result, it is actually becoming more difficult for the organisation to sustain its revenue performance – everyone is under so much pressure that even normal routine stuff doesn’t get done any more

Only reinvesting in your core capability will correct this downward trend and give the organisation a fighting chance to successfully manage the accelerating pace of change and rising levels of business complexity.

July 27, 2011 Posted by | analysis, business change management, change capability | , , , , | Leave a comment

How to measure the impact of distrust on your project

Trust is the ‘oil’ that helps people to accept change in an organisation. It empowers them to remove the barriers that block change, with a minimum of friction. (That’s why having a highly visible senior manager at change project meetings is so important – they don’t even have to say anything!)

An absence of trust between managers and staff and between parts of an organisation will slow down and even stop a project. The higher the levels of distrust, the more time and effort the project will require and the higher the cost. So if you could measure trust in the group that is to be affected by a change project, you could develop a useful predictor of the additional time and cost involved in implementing that change project.

I looked for in vain for an approach that would allow me to measure trust. Stephen Covey Jr wrote a useful book about “The Speed of Trust – The One Thing that Changes Everything” but one thing he failed to do in that book was to suggest ways to measure trust – and other authorities on the subject shed no more light.

So I dreamt up my own approach. How does one measure trust? By asking a few key questions…

There are essentially 3 key relationships anyone has in an organisation:

1. Relationship with my manager

2. Relationship with my staff

3. Relationship with my peers

That gives a 3-dimensional model. For each dimension, I used a four-point scale to score the relationship, where 0 is the lowest and 3 is the highest:

3 =  excellent relationship – high levels of trust and respect

2 =  quite good relationship, reasonable levels of trust and respect

1 =  poor relationship, low levels of trust and respect

0 = non-existent relationship, no trust or respect.

Then using a simple questionnaire, I solicited the responses from a sample of the people involved in the change project. Adding up the scores gives me a figure with a maximum score of 9. I turned this into a percentage and inverted it  (deduct from 100%) to obtain the % of distrust – because it is the shortfall in trust that acts as an drag on the time and cost of change. And I found that applying the distrust % directly yo the planned time and cost of a project gave me a pretty good idea of the potential impact of distrust on the ROI of the project.

So, if the trust score is low, say 3, that gives me a trust % of 33%. Deducting that from 100 gives a measure of distrust factor of 67%. Applying this measure to a project with a planned roll-out of 1 year and an implementation cost of £40,000 would add 8 months and around £27,000 to the cost.

In my experience, this seems to correlate well with what happens in practice – the lower the level of trust, the longer it takes to implement the projects and gain the benefits.

Let me know if you find this useful.

A fuller account of this approach is contained in my book: The Change Equation.

April 28, 2011 Posted by | business change management, project and programme management, trust | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How do the “soft” elements (people, culture, innovation, etc.) impact the success of M&As?

I recently came across this question in a LinkedIn discussion and thought it worthy of a blog. Because we all agree that the ‘soft’ elements (people, culture, innovation etc.) represent the critical factor in the success or failure of a merger, don’t we?

The problem, as many of the contributions to the discussion pointed out, is how to convince senior management that the ‘just do it’ approach has a significant chance of failing. The secret, I have found, is to develop a quantified analysis and business case for time and resources to tackle these issues and to communicate this in a language that the Board understands – impact on the ROI of the project.

But how to turn ‘soft’ issues into hard financials?

I came up against this challenge when trying to argue the case for taking a more people-focused approach to change projects. It became clear to me in working with public sector organisations that most projects failed to deliver the planned benefits because the complexity of what they were trying to achieve was not within the capability of the organisation to cope with yet another change initiative. But senior management were not interested.

So I came up with a Change Readiness Healthcheck methodology to:

1. Map the predominant culture (or cultures – depending on the size of the organisation, there’s probably more than one) of the two organisations. For example, the level of knowledge sharing, silo working, alignment…

2. Assess the maturity of their capability to manage process – weakness here can spell disaster when it comes to bringing in new systems

3. Measure the level of distrust and lack of respect in relationships between people – the higher the high level of distrust, the harder it will be to achieve integration and the more time and effort you will need to overcome the barriers.

4. Establish where the project lies on an Exponential Complexity scale, from ‘Simple’ to ‘Too Complex’, where the components include the scope, number of stakeholders and timescales.

The resulting findings provide a ‘dashboard’ of indicators which accurately predict the potential for success and can be expressed in terms of quantified impact on the project business plan’s projected ROI.

With a merger, the first three factors are the critical ones. Map the organisational cultures of the two organisations, assess their process management capability and establish the relative levels of distrust. If these are very different between the organisations, or if they show significant weaknesses in both organisations, you are in for a bumpy ride and, at the very least, need to allocate a skilled and experienced manager to handling the transition and integration. Worst case, you have the ammunition to oppose the merger.

The most important stage in the merger is before you start. With the right insights, you stand a chance of investing wisely. Going in blind makes no sense. Companies understand this when it comes to balance sheets and financials, but don’t seem to have grasped the need for a parallel due diligence analysis of ‘capability’.

I advocate the use of the Change Readiness Healthcheck as a due diligence tool when planning a merger or acquisition, to supplement whatever other methods are used. There are no other methodologies around that I have found as useful, to help you to assess and benchmark these ‘soft’ aspects, quickly and objectively.

We can offer a rapid assessment for a specific M&A or help you build this into your standard due diligence process.

Peter Duschinsky

Tel: 07801802571

email: peterd@imaginist.co.uk

September 10, 2010 Posted by | business, business change management, M&A, mergers and acquisitions, project and programme management, Project Readiness Healthcheck | , , , , , | Leave a comment