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 a 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 a source of energy that helps drive a transformation program through to completion but 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 its a book you read, speaker you listened to, or a conference you attended what you took away is generally based on one person or groups 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? Being 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 best practice not 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 their 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 your self 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 and 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 then not I can get more real value much more quickly by focusing on smaller increments and smaller goals.

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

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Allen Sheaprd

Be honest about reediness with staff and management. First example: how many leaders have taken over a group without even looking at their resumes’ ?? After reading the resume or 171s I found them to be out of date.

Start off with “This is the goal we are given. To be successful let’s take account of all our current skills. Tell me four things. A) What you are trained to do. B) what you do, c) what you would like to do and d)what you would like to try.” Then as they talk listen. Listen to see what motivates them. They will tell you. Smiles and facial expressions are autonomic. Do not be surprised if many do not know what they want to try or are shy about what they do well.

Then take assessment and be honest about time, skills and motivations.

Second example – never say “Just fix it” because “if you do not know where you are going any road will take you there” Know the goal, the specific goal. As an example getting the car fixed involves *both* a look at a problem and then agreement on parts replaced, time and cost to fix it. Do the same for the project. Change the vague “improve group performance in customer focused manor of high standards to benefit the command and employee” to “Three hour customer response time by us or the command that can help with cross training to ensure everyone has time off to be done not later than six months from now” . Yes get this came from the employees. Employees create the real work, joy and pain. Employees know firsthand what can and cannot be done.

From my personal experience do volunteer work. Work with and learn to motivate people who you can not hire, fire, increase their pay, cut their pay nor punish. After that office work became easier.

Hopefully these words and experiences help others. Always give good will.



Joshua Millsapps

I appreciate the comment and in particular the mention of reading the resumes of the folks that will be working for you in a new assignment. Every opportunity to learn more about the people you are going to work with is valuable.

I also appreciate your focus on better metrics. This is something that should be taught somewhere, but just isn’t.