By Jim Chaparro
Real transformation is difficult to accomplish, but it can be even harder to measure. Whether you are transforming a technology platform, business processes, your strategic priorities, or even an organizational culture, nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems.
Most often, transformation efforts begin with an idea. For example, you want to become more efficient, do things faster, improve organizational culture, improve teamwork… and countless other instances.
Organizational leadership always wants to show “progress,” but without careful planning, the details get obfuscated, and headwinds will slow your journey. Failure to adequately address the details may cause the transformation journey to beach itself on a rocky shoal, far short of the intended destination.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Asking some simple but very important questions before you begin your transformation journey will help set you on the right course, keep you there along the way, and help chart your progress.
Avoid being a solution in search of a problem. Leaders and project teams will often jump to a “solution” before they fully understand the problem they are trying to solve. While being decisive can be a positive, sustained success requires taking stock to assess where you are today, how you got there and what changes are needed to continue your forward momentum. Before you can answer the “what needs to change” question, you need to ask, “What problem are you trying to solve?” Starting your transformation journey with this simple question can lead to more nuanced and sustainable solutions to move your transformation effort forward.
Are you being objective?
Group think may make you sink. In developing transformation solutions, it is critical to remain objective. Invite people to challenge your assumptions. Invite diverse opinions into the discussion, especially if they disagree with the “group think mentality.” Diverse opinions should come from internal and external stakeholders, people with different cultural backgrounds, and people working at different levels within the organization. While engaging a broader set of stakeholders in solutioning sessions can at times be challenging, the investment can yield huge dividends down the road. Not only will you get thoughtful input, but your stakeholders will also feel included, gain a sense of ownership over the solutions, and may even become change champions as transformation solutions are implemented.
If you do everything right, what changes will you observe?
A lack of clear metrics can leave you adrift. If it is measured, it matters. Investing time and energy into what you will measure and how you will measure it, will help you plot a course to success.
Performance metrics are often an afterthought in transformation initiatives, when in fact they should be developed in the early stages. If you have done a thorough job of identifying the problem(s) you are trying to solve, and have been objective in your thought processes, your outcome measures become much easier to develop. A solid suite of outcome measures will allow you to monitor progress along the journey, and course correct as needed.
Any transformation effort should include strategic alignment and the development of a logic model. A logic model will help to systemically document and visualize desired outcomes and activities, as well as document resources and investments aligned to accomplishing your objectives. A properly designed logic model will help you understand cause and effect relationships in your transformation initiatives: If you do X correctly, you will observe “Y” taking place. While this sounds simple, it requires careful consideration.
While the logic model serves as the rudder to help guide your journey, data should be the wind that fills your sails. Plotting a course to success requires quantitative and qualitative data to support objective analysis of your progress and allow you to take a new tack when necessary. Data-driven decisions are more compelling and can serve as a basis to justify investments or tradeoffs if required.
Like the logic model, quantitative and qualitative data cannot be an afterthought to your transformation planning effort. You must understand where the data will come from, how it can be consumed, and how it can be analyzed, visualized, and interpreted.
How do you know you’ve reached your destination?
Success is not a destination, it is a journey. Every journey is unique: tides will ebb and flow, currents will shift, and winds will constantly change direction. Ideally, a transformation journey builds upon itself, and organizations will continually evolve and improve. What is most important, is to use the tools and techniques outlined above to develop clear, objective, strategic metrics, align resources and investments to the most important goals, thoughtfully measure progress along the way, and continually drive your organization forward.