At Custerian, we're passionate about solving commercial problems more effectively. With years of experience in challenging sectors, we've learned that change is vital but often mishandled. We're here to share three key success criteria for change, emphasising simplicity over complexity. We'll explore the role of change leaders, the importance of having a CFO-approved business case, and embracing business as usual (BAU). Plus, we'll share our thoughts on the ever-accelerating pace of change and the shift from project-driven approaches. Join us in discovering how to achieve more impactful change for your organisation.
Having sat on that mythical C Suite, often in large organisations operating in challenging sectors, I had seen too much failure.
But within this, what bothered me was those Colleagues impacted most, who had the most value to give, were engaged the least through traditional consultancy approaches.
There was a better change ROI approach than the Consultancy Models I have worked with were capable of (or wanted to) delivering.
I am going to attempt to boil the ocean here. The world is full of 'why' change works or fails. There are a ton of things you can adopt (we use a lot of them), but the important thing is that they are simply the tools to help get the job done.
The most important thing is to focus on the simple components of what gets change done... and most (not all) consultancy approaches are predicated on making things more complicated because this equals more fees.
Most big change is delivered by incredibly small teams led usually by one individual who demonstrates vision, tenacity and an absolute command of detail and accountability.
Almost universally these are not project people. Nothing against them and they are an important part of the team. But once change gets owned and led by project/programme teams, the plan and the process can become more important than the outcome.
So who are they? Commercially minded, restless change agents and disruptors who thrive on making a visible difference. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from appointing a 'steady state' personality to the lead role of delivering an outcome that makes a difference. It's not in their DNA and won't be no matter how much they talk about wanting to 'make a difference'.
If your change rationale starts with 'we have to because everyone else is doing it' then you may get it off the ground, but it won't get very far. Organisations exist to take something at an input cost, add value to it and then sell it on for a cost equal to the input cost + cost of value add + desired margin (EBITDA).
Even charities exist on this basis, as do service providers and the true battle ground is a constant dance between efficiency & effectiveness. Can I do stuff better for less? If your change lead does not have this in their DNA, then at some point you will find the CFO pulling the plug and/or switching resources in the hunt for a better ROI.
Oh and whilst I am on this topic, CFO's can count/bank cash saved, but they will not factor in ‘effectiveness’ gains until they see delivery - hence the focus on 'quick wins' and why continuous improvement beats big bang projects all day long - deliver value quickly & keep doing it.
The single biggest barrier and accelerant of change (Anchor & Engine - Headwind & Tailwind, anyone?). How… Can it be both? Well back to my opening statement about change done better.
The standard consultancy model is based on exploiting the fact you think Colleagues are too busy (let's set aside the crass 'not skilled enough' argument - it's a total fallacy) to do change. This enables the 'black box' approach to change to be implemented.
People (sometimes lots of them) in a dark room, occasionally emerging to ask for lots of detail with little to no explanation, who spend a lot of time with the board. Then a restructure that makes no sense gets announced, which if it goes in, often does more harm than good and needs to be reversed. 'Grinds my Gears' as they say, especially, as valuable Colleague skills and capabilities get lost - for good!
Colleagues, correctly engaged in a light touch, collaborative and cross functional way, by a skilled and capable person/team who can create that compelling vision, tell the story and take them on the journey, are the key to a transformational change ROI.
And guess what. Engaged Colleagues will find the time. They will create and support radical solutions to radical problems. They will drive change at pace, but with less risk, than other 'done to' approaches.
Yes, change is hard... but it is hard work, because to do it you need to be clear on what needs doing by when. You need to create the milestones, identify the tasks and hold people to account. You have to get turkeys to vote for Christmas.
But getting these three factors right at the outset will make it easier. Notice I have not even mentioned the famous ‘Burning Platform’ (COVID = Go Home, for example), because you won't need to set anything on fire.
In fact, done right, you will actually build an organisation more capable and adaptive to changing market conditions.
There is no doubt that the cycle time between problem encountered, or opportunity spotted to require a solution has, and is, accelerating. I remember being in online fashion with an 18-month product/range lifecycle when Zara opened with a 4 to 6 week cycle time followed by ASOS who were reacting in days to trending celebrity fashion. I am not saying fast fashion is good – which is where this cycle ended up – but that speed of change which in 5 to 10 years accelerated a whole sector more than it did in the previous 50 years – is here to stay.
There will always be a need to have projects defined to meet specific change needs. But I am seeing, and support, the trend away from defining everything as a project to ensure it gets budget, resource and support. This well used technique has, in my view, led to the marginalisation of the true value of internal change teams and led to them being seen as the ‘People Who Do Change’.
The old saying was the only certainty in life is Death & Taxes. I have long added Change to that list, and whilst I have called out the role of BAU elsewhere in this article, I do want to highlight the incredible impact of being able to back most of change back into your BAU as just the way of doing things, with change teams being used for what they do best. Coaching team members in tools that increase outcome creation and delivery, and holding the business to account for delivery of their business improvements (Note: not change, continuous Improvement).
If you would like to know more about the way we go about creating a better Change Value, then get in touch.
Times are getting tough and being ahead of the change curve is always a better place to be - pragmatic outcome focussed solutions, created and delivered by people with real world experience - the Custerian way.