The best way to get stuff done

I’ve been a practitioner of Business Change in the Financial Services sector for over thirty years, and in all that time I have never worked for a company that has used Prince 2.

Or any “off the shelf” methodology for that matter.

Without exception, each has adopted their own in-house methodology, some of which have grown organically over many years, some of which have seeped into common use through osmosis becoming an unwritten, de-facto standard, and some of which have been conceived, designed, developed and deployed from the ground up.

In every case though, the methodology has been tailored to fit the way in which these companies execute Change.  Warts and all.

When you think about it, that’s an odd thing to do.

In effect, it’s just retro-fitting a methodology to accommodate the way in which they deliver change now. What’s the benefit in that? Other than ensuring a rating of Satisfactory in the next internal audit, not much.

Of course, let it be said that a rating of satisfactory is important. It’s actually very important, but as I have said to many of my Change teams over the years, “We are not in the business of satisfying Internal Audit, we are in business to make money.” But, just to be clear, I have always added “… but by hell, will we satisfy the auditors!

So, if we consider a “typical” Transformation programme, we would probably:

1. First understand what the company is in business to do: what its goals and objectives are. Its vision. Its strategy.

2. Define and plan the prioritised change agenda required to achieve these goals, and hence deliver the strategy.

3. Build a list of those whom we’ll be asking to adopt these changes, internally and externally. Look at ways to keep these Adopters on side, engaged, enthused. Look at the types of the changes likely to be adopted: organisational change, process change, systems change, etc.

4. Define the Governance structure and ownership responsibilities for the overall portfolio, individual programmes and projects, work streams, Release Trains, etc.

5. Build the execution (“delivery”) plan, based on dependencies, strategic priority, complexity, risk, the resources required, external deadlines.

6. Define how to track progress, keep engaged with stakeholders and customers, provide status updates.

… and all the rest.

In short, once we know the type and scale of change required, we can work out the best way of getting it done. The best way to document it, approve it, justify it, test it, adopt it, manage it, change our minds about it, market it, sell it, improve it.

And here’s the thing: some of the change initiatives within our transformation programme may need to be handled differently from all the others.

For example, a software development initiative may need a different governance framework (set of processes, ceremonies, practices, deliverables, etc.) from, say, an initiative to improve our sales function, or an initiative to overhaul our payroll, or recruitment methods.

Therefore, we also need to identify those activities that are mandatory for every change initiative (for example, Cost/Benefit Analysis, reporting status, budget sign-off) and those activities that are mandatory for each type of change initiative (organisational change, system change, business process change, etc.).

Why?

  • Because that’s how we can provide our stakeholders (and Internal Audit) with a recognisable set of documents, metrics, approval requests, status reports, checkpoints, recommendations, justifications, proofs without having to educate them each time an inititive is kicked-off, closed, approved.
  • Because it gives us a way to measure the quality of our current change portfolio compared to our back catalog. And one initiative against another.
  • Because it allows us to raise the bar, to set a minimum standard.
  • Because it provides, rather ironically, a stability for our change teams and confidence in our stakeholders.
  • Because it defines a framework with which we can become familiar, a framework which we can evangelise across our organisation.
  • Because it provides a way for us to manage the risk of failure (see Risk = Threat x Vulnerability).

The key then, is to work out the best way to get stuff done everytime a change initiative is kicked-off, but at the same time, state that a standard set of mandatory activities is required for every one of these changes.

This then is our methodology – a flexible framework designed to help us achieve rigour, maintain integrity, deliver quality, meet expectation, achieve goals, drive strategy and deal with different types of change initiative.

I’m sure there are many readers who may take issue with some, or even all, of what I have described so far. That’s ok. Perhaps though, we can agree that all we’re trying to do is to change our organisation to deliver our strategy – in the best way we know how.

And, of course, to achieve a rating of Satisfactory in the next internal audit.

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