Part of the life of a consultant involves trying to guide clients in a direction that will hold them in good stead, not just for short term gains but also for longer term growth and stability. The trick is being able to remove yourself from the immediate wins, politics and positioning and focus on ensuring that your client is building or maintaining a solid base to operate from for the longer term. In my mind, being a consultant is not about simply helping deliver small wins to further individual agendas.
The longer term strategy is what is most important. But I have observed with interest, the manner that longer term “strategy” is often used as a banner to disguise short term objectives which further agendas of subsets of the wider team. This almost always ends up back firing and usually is replaced by another longer term strategy masking a short term objective. This cycle stops when the true long term strategy is reset completely involving significant executive time and deliberation.
If you are building a virtual team, a new offering or are simply new to a role in leading an existing team and you are looking for ways to change things – it is vital you truly understand the longer term strategy first. This should drive the reason for you to commence in organisational change, product development or process redesign. Your goals should align to the strategy. Not vice versa.
An example of a strategic objective, one that is actually at the forefront of my mind at the moment, is “As an organisation, we want to move the delivery of IT change closer to business users”.
The goal of this is to:
- Increase the speed of delivery
- Manage cost and budget adherence
- Minimise the rates of defects and post production changes
- Increase user satisfaction and tool adoption
- Increase the realisation of benefits for initiator of the change
Examples of goals that are not appropriate in terms of delivery of this objective are:
- My team does not have enough work to do
- Other teams are performing functions that I want to do
- I am new to my role and need to find something to make my mark on this organisation
The how questions of this are:
- How do I guide the change profile of this organisation towards more business friendly solutions?
- What types of change in the past have made user involvement difficult?
- How do we maintain a level of governance in IT that our users view as enabling change, not preventing it?
- How can I get an understanding of what my users want whilst ensuring that functionality change is not dictated by non IT staff?
- Etc etc (the questions are obviously extensive and not limited to the above of course)
Now, consider you are, amongst others, focussing on this as a strategic objective. The reason being that considered analysis and opinion in your field has demonstrated that IT change not only will, but must and is moving closer to business users anyway. That failure to deliver on this strategic objective can mean that IT services in your particular organisation are redundant (given the prevalence of cloud based applications but to name one). This objective is vital in not only ensuring your IT services team remains relevant, but also that is suitably skilled to guide and enable users through the new wave of options available. You do not want your IT teams viewed as expensive blockers, nor do you want them viewed as irrelevant. The outcome of your strategic objective is that the organisation to which you service is change enabled and operating in a consultative and controlled manner.
So, as an example, you are looking to move change closer to the business users as part of the strategic objectives and you have an idea/plan in mind. What should you do?
There are three key components that should form part of your assessment of the change you are looking to undertake. Three key questions you should ask yourself in your planning:
- Do I or my team have the capability currently to execute the plan?
- Do I or my team and the organisation as a whole have the capacity currently to execute the plan?
- Do I, my team and all stakeholders and colleagues have the combined commitment to see through what you are planning?
Capability – Do you really have it?
It is great to have an idea about how you want to do things but be honest with yourself, do you, at the current time have the capability to execute the plan? This is not a question of “if I had the right people, blue sky type scenario” but do you presently have the capability? This is a realistic assessment of your capability to execute your plan factoring in any constraints you will encounter. Constraints can be:
- Skills (Technical, Functional, Industry etc)
A common mistake is for people to gloss over constraints with a view of the goal rather than planning to mitigate the constraints through considered planning. It is great to have the idea but don’t let the idea cloud your true assessment of your capability to deliver. Approaching this exercise without the right skills, people, processes and tools in place will hurt.
Capacity – How much do you need?
We often focus on staffing or resource levels to measure and manage our capacity for delivery. But understanding the required capacity to deliver this change should factor more than just “do I have enough people to execute the tasks I need?” – it should extend to understand based on the full change portfolio and profile of the organisation to handle the execution of and consequences of the change. How will your proposed changes impact in coordination with other changes planned? Will your changes add to the creation of change fatigue in teams?
Sure you need to understand if you have enough people to do the job but does your organisation have the collective capacity? Assess this comprehensively and holistically – without capacity to deliver, there is no completion,
Commitment – Are people really onboard?
So, your idea sounds great to you. It makes perfect sense. But have you taken the pulse of your organisation to truly understand what others think of the idea? Often people will surround themselves with smaller groups of confidantes, advisors or supporters. If a good idea takes hold, these collectives can form splinter groups that after getting overly excited about the idea, forget to check in with the rest of their colleagues, peers and stakeholders. The idea gains momentum and sometimes this can lead to external resentment of the concept before it is even launched. Regardless of the merit.
If you want your change to succeed, people must go on the journey with you. This is especially true for your clients or stakeholders. If people do not agree with your process, more often than not, they will use it halfheartedly and out of sufferance or worse still, ignore it and use back doors.
It is important that you have a committed backing in terms of implementing your idea. This should not be limited to your close circle, but extending throughout all areas your change will impact. Ask yourself, “I know this makes sense to me, but does it make sense to others?” and “What happens if people do not utilise the change I am planning?”.
If you do not have the full complement of the three C’s Capability, Capacity and Commitment, your ideas and changes may actually do more harm than good.