More right than wrong
Reaching the end of an assignment is a good time to reflect and reinvent yourself ready for the next one.
My most recent assignment has been seen by many as incredibly successful, however I know it could have been so much better. This got me wondering, why should this assignment be regarded as particularly successful. Was it that the team were fantastic? Was it that I had become some kind of superhero leader? Was the organisation culture ready for change? Did we follow some magical process or methodology? What was it?
Well, the team were excellent, but I’ve worked with similarly excellent teams before. I don’t recall being in an accident and having an overdose of radiation, so no superhero explanation. The processes/methodologies used were very fluid and the organisation culture was one of the toughest I’ve ever worked with. So nothing that stands out.
On reflection, it’s quite simple, we got more things right than we got wrong. A shift in balance, enough to achieve more than the many other similar change efforts, indeed the SRO (Senior Responsible Owner) is on record as saying that the programme is one of the best change programmes he has ever seen in the organisation.
So what went right?
- Clearly set out our stall and gained Board level support.
- Focused delivery on measurable metrics rather than achieving milestones.
- Strong regular communications through many channels to a wider range of stakeholders.
- Communications of short term wins and longer term attractive vision.
- Significant engagement of a wide range of stakeholders, including them in design and solution development. Stakeholder engagement with clinical staff was particularly strong, thanks to a very talented clinical lead.
- Used simple agile tools/techniques to initiate work and involve people.
- Balance of initiatives that would deliver short and medium term benefits.
- Team events to celebrate progress and focus on priorities.
- Changed the environment to suit changes, rather than embracing the performance culture that existed across much of the organisation.
- Gained leadership support that enabled through delegated responsibilities.
- Built vision and design ‘bottom up’.
- Used the regulator inspection crisis to engage and accelerate work.
- Good relationships with organisation leadership and lots of regular informal communication.
- When we learned that initiatives weren’t likely to deliver the benefits we orginally thought, we took action and in some cases closed initiatives early.
So on the other side, ‘what went wrong’?
- For a variety of reasons, engagement of operational management wasn’t strong enough for long enough, resulting in some schemes taking much longer or for some they never got going.
- I became too detached from the problems the team were having, so couldn’t help them effectively.
- The use of agile techniques wasn’t sustained and impacted on pace in last few months.
- The programme became too big and lost focus, partly due to the scale of the challenges being faced, partly to feed the demands of a wide range of stakeholders and finally due to successes.
- In the past 6 months, I spent too much time was spent trying to break into and join up an external piece of work. Although, strategically important it distracted from the other initiatives and ultimately, was unsuccessful.
- We didn’t fully utilise the team capabilities.
- Recently, the programme didn’t adapt to the changing situation in the organisation.
So what will I do when I reinvent myself for next time, certainly I will pay more attention to the team, their insights, capabilities, and supporting them to use the agile techniques that are effective. I will continue to focus on strong communications and engagement, build effective relationships and seek devolved responsibility from Board members, and finally seek the measurable ‘small wins’ that create confidence, pace and credibility.
Clearly, running the perfect complex change programme would be impossible, however shifting the balance to more right than wrong, is possible, and shifts in the balance can have a big impact.