IT change portfolios in excess of £1billion a year aren’t unusual for large organisations. These huge amounts are spent on driving the company forward and improving the service it provides to its customers for years to come. However, retaining the wealth of experience and knowledge gleaned from these extensive change programmes is equally important as delivering them effectively, which is something many organisations unfortunately struggle to do. In part because the knowledge built up is frequently lost.

It’s perhaps in part due to this failure that our ‘Big Change Report’ revealed that only 52% of change projects are successful – and that’s a more positive finding than the commonly quoted 70% failure rate. PwC research revealed that ‘the cost of replacing a competent member of staff equates to approximately a year of that person’s salary, reflecting all costs associated with lost skills and productivity’. This equates to a considerable cash loss from change budgets. One way to address this extensive waste is to adopt a continuous improvement approach to increasing organisational efficiency.

The steps required to improve this capability won’t be new to most organisations- some, however, fail to invest the time to implement them. Here are some of the key ones:

Lessons Learnt –

Take as much care in documenting the lessons you’ve learnt throughout the change lifecycle as you do with risks, issues and dependencies. These become invaluable when the programme’s completed and you look back wondering what could have been done better – there’s always something. Don’t wait till the end to reflect – capture and store as you go along.

Knowledge Centre –

Properly implemented, a repository of intellectual property that is structured and user friendly can increase buy-in exponentially, support organisational learning and growth, and act as the core of the company’s development and growth for years to come. Be smart, especially when you have 100k+ employees, and make sure you work with normal human behaviour (which isn’t always aligned to rules and governance). Make this as easy as possible for your employees – something like an internal Google-esque search engine can be enormously valuable.

Benefits Analysis –

Ensure the business’s requirements are met and that the project/programme addresses its purpose. Without an effective reflection, organisations will never learn from their experiences and know what was done well, and what could have been done better. Make sure these are tied into the knowledge centre and act as valuable insight for other project/programme initiations in the future. What delivered the most benefit in cost/quality/time – how and why?

Success Sharing & Publication –

The benefits of such practices should be shared across the entire organisation to demonstrate their importance for sustained growth and learning. Similarly, regular blog posts and white papers to the market help increase brand perception, in turn boosting the value of the organisation. ‘Buy in’ is key– so if you can demonstrate the value of your project, people will want to participate in the next one.

Cultural Change –

In our view the most important aspect to focus on if you want to continually improve your ability to deliver big change. There’s too much to cover in one short post but some of the most important considerations include:-

  1. Create the perception and reality that being involved in change initiatives is a career maker – not a career-breaker. Change skills have become a core capability in high-demand and they won’t go out of fashion any time soon.
  2. Welcome the Reds – a shorthand to remind us to engage positively and constructively with people who report issues if you want to learn from the issues, avoid them next time and encourage people to report more openly and honestly.
  3. Foster a ‘growth mind-set’ rather than a ‘fixed mind-set’ – one that rewards endeavour, curiosity and continual learning rather than binary results.
  4. Marginal gains – popular for a reason – lots of small improvements quickly add up to big strides forward. Incentives and encouragement for people to make changes and improvement at a ‘local level’ without needing to go through significant governance or bureaucracy can access and unlock a lot of sensible improvements that are stifled in many organisations.
  5. Knowledge Transfer – both across departments/silos and from all key third parties involved in change.
  6. Focus on Attitude above Skill – one of our favourites for several years and becoming increasingly well recognised as having a very big impact on successful change.
  7. EAST –applying some of the principles of ‘Nudge Theory’ to big change makes a big difference. EAST is a simple and effective acronym taken from Behavioural Science and meaning: – Easy – Attractive – Social – Timely. Even a basic understanding and application of EAST increases change success rates. Applied systematically across an organisation – from process to communications – it can dramatically increase an organisations ability to cope with big change and demonstrate continual improvement.

The goal for all organisations embarking on big change initiatives should be a phased approach, and especially for those eager to continue learning by retaining their present and past staff’s experience and knowledge. For a successful change project, first ensure best practices are adhered to, and then provide the capability to capture and share all the intellectual property in a structured, logical fashion across the organisation.

Adopting these principles will not only improve efficiencies and ways of working, but will also limit the loss to the organisation when colleagues or third-parties leave after the change project is complete. As these ways of working become second nature to the staff, the culture of the organisation will organically grow into one of intuition and continuous improvement - laying the groundwork for further big change portfolios in the future.

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