As David Robinson, Business Transformation Principal at ThoughtWorks, notes, transformation projects need to be evaluated across two fundamental dimensions – whether they create the desired value, and whether they continuously enhance the enterprise’s ability to create that value. “The organization essentially has to work on getting better at what it does at the same time it’s doing what it does.”
Bolstering organizational capabilities is something that teams may contribute to in different ways. Speed – the holy grail for many an enterprise – is a good example.
In that it accelerates the delivery of value to customers, “a transformation program that is really focused on the idea of speeding everything up and allowing the company to iterate much quicker is extremely desirable,” Robinson says. But in some divisions of the enterprise – risk, or finance say - simply doing everything faster could be unnecessary, costly, even dangerous, and efficiency may be a better goal.
“One of the key things about most transformations is that there’s no single measure of success,” Robinson explains. “There may be a few, depending on the part of the enterprise. Having clarity on what improvement in capability is needed for a certain part of the organization, and having very clear and transparent measures of success for that, enables progress.”
There’s no question that transformation should be based on a single vision and desired outcome that all teams strive to achieve. But teams may be working on initiatives gauged by different metrics to improve their capabilities to contribute to that outcome.
Effective transformations are built incrementally, with teams tasked with delivering the “highest-value, lowest-effort change to get the benefit they’re after, and doing it again and again,” Robinson explains. “In other words, don’t try to launch a really long, involved, big bang project to make all the changes you dream of – do it incrementally so you can reap some of the benefits as you go, and keep in mind there may be multiple transformation goals.”
One advantage of this approach is that it can ensure transformation is easily extended to functions that are rarely on the front lines, and often overlooked, in transformation initiatives. Most enterprises understand that cross-functional teams blending IT and the business are an important building block for transformation, but may see less of a need to involve compliance, HR or finance, when in fact they have an important role to play by dismantling barriers to change in their respective realms.
“If you’re a function like risk or compliance, which is basically a gate for everybody, you impact the flow efficiency of an organization, so by improving the flow of work, you’re improving the effectiveness of that organization,” says Jonathan Pangrazio, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks. “You should be in the (transformation) discussions, thinking about your function and operation, and the ways to open that gate while still maintaining some level of control.”
“Integrating HR and finance into the value stream and ensuring they’re aligned with the delivery chain, helping them with standups and backlogs and ensuring they have their own sprints, helps them feel less like they’re off somewhere separate looking at this foreign way of working,” O’Brien says. “That evolves to where finance and HR teams have an easy transition to developing their own engineering capability and their own features, like value to the internal customer.”
This approach also means business leaders don’t need to agonize over mapping out the catch-all, universally applicable metrics by which a transformation project will be judged before it even gets off the ground.