What Barriers To Business Transformation?
Consider this scenario: Your organization had all the elements in place to transform the company and move it toward better performance. Your executive team articulated and committed itself to an exciting, breakthrough vision, secured broad leadership buy-in, agreed to a clear road map, and engaged key individuals at all levels to drive and guide the transformation. The barriers to business transformation have surely been ‘managed.’
Despite focusing on the right upfront planning and change management steps, you were surprised when your effort met with a number of bumps in the early days of implementation. What if you could have taken one extra step to remove these barriers to success? What if it could save both money and time and boost the return on investment?
Whether you’re designing a new change effort or looking to course correct an existing transformation, it may be time to implement a “barrier removal” team. “Barrier removers” are in actuality rapid-response teams empowered to solve the problems that can derail change before and during the implementation of new processes, technology, organizational structures, and entire operating models.
Why ‘barrier removal teams’ are important
With a major transformation, organizations invest significant amounts of money and time into planning with change excellence in mind. But are they addressing the truly critical issues that can only be revealed during implementation? This is the time when your employees (potentially customers and suppliers, too) start to see changes in action. When implementation becomes riddled with problems that aren’t effectively addressed or even go ignored, employees get frustrated and lose confidence, risking disengagement at a time when high performance is what is most needed.
Barrier removers are a well-prepared and influential cadre of on-the-ground change agents who help management understand the problems that can and do arise during implementation, facilitate real-time problem resolution, and distinguish between chronic, high-risk issues and one-offs, escalating bigger problems to management as needed.
The Solution In Action
A problem-solving team of workforce management experts (HR, general counsel, finance, organizational design, compliance) was set up as a mid-program enhancement during a highly visible, enterprise-wide re-organization at a large professional services firm. Several complex re-organizations were taking place simultaneously in functions across the firm and the managers responsible for each implementation were bombarded with non-stop staffing, workforce and related questions and larger concerns as the reorganizations proceeded.
The cross-functional, problem-solving team that was eventually established provided an enterprise-wide, single-point-of-contact and was dedicated to responding to the more frequently arising and/or sensitive issues surrounding workforce planning and staff management. This ‘barrier removal’ team’s job was to understand and resolve (seeking legal and executive approval as appropriate) all problems brought to their attention, enabling the functional implementation teams to deliver results according to the established timeline. With the creation of a dedicated problem-solving team, enterprise program leadership was now able to notice chronic issues and help develop policies and procedures to respond swiftly and consistently. Simple things worked best: Hotlines and email inboxes were actively monitored and answered immediately whenever possible, simple issue logs were used to record incoming problems, and all changes were communicated from one place.
As a result, derailment was avoided for the remainder of the enterprise transformation. For example, a one-time miscommunication was issued over new job announcements, but program leaders were able to avoid a future recurrence with preventative measures. The barrier removers were immediately made aware of the mistake by the functional implementation manager and then helped program leaders solve the problem before it threatened the trajectory of the initiative. In another instance, the problem-solving team observed that multiple functions were proposing to add roles beyond the scope of approved budgets, thereby putting the enterprise at risk of violating the new cost structure. In response to this threat, a new approval process was established with clear business case guidelines. The problem solvers were able to respond to evolving staffing needs while maintaining control over budget impacts.
How To Remove Barriers to Business Transformation
So how do you identify individuals who can serve as rapid-response barrier removers and then create an effective means to quickly identifying and resolving barriers to successful implementation?
- Establish the purpose of the team and set boundaries. Without over-engineering the process, clearly define their responsibilities. Err on the side of empowerment to resolve issues that directly impact internal or external customers. Be open to role modifications based on input from the team regarding where they see problems arising and how much leeway they need to effectively resolve issues.
- Understand the impact. Consider who will be impacted by your transformation initiative, either directly or indirectly. Make sure your problem solving team has inroads to these communities and understands their operations and dynamics.
- Identify the centers of gravity. Find the go-to influencers in each of the impacted communities. These are the ones who interact with many stakeholders, have their ears to the ground and who can help you identify and mobilize people to resolve potential problems. Invite them to join your team of barrier removers by telling them you would value their on-the-ground leadership. Yves Morieux refers to these individuals as “integrators,” and tells teams to give them “a greater say on issues that matter to others.”
- Announce a central point of contact. Recommend an individual or a team in the organization to be the conduit between your employees, the problem-solving team and your transformation program.
- Establish lines of communication. Consider a helpline, email inbox, website or other mechanism(s) to solicit feedback from the impacted parts of the organization.
- Develop an escalation process. Sort and assess the questions and issues that arrive through your feedback mechanism. After you analyze the chronic issues and one-off issues, follow a consistent, transparent decision-making process to address each.
- Keep in touch. Integrate regular discussions of reported issues and problems into the program management process. In the example offered, a representative of the cross-functional barrier removal team joined the weekly program update meetings. Additionally, daily conversations were held between the team and program leaders. Be ready to update your implementation activities if a problem is significant enough to threaten derailment or justify a change of strategy.
The unforeseen problems that arise during implementation happen to be the ones your executives care most about; the ones draining your budget and threatening your business outcomes. Increase leader and employee confidence with on-the-ground barrier removers who can notice – or even anticipate – these problems when they’re still small, and point you toward solutions.
It’s difficult to bring a new strategy to life. But you can protect – and even accelerate – the ROI by knowing where and how to remove the barriers to business transformation.