In the second of a series of articles looking at the challenges and opportunities inherent within the world of business transformation, Fabrice Rodrigue, head of BIE’s Business Consultancy division, looks at some of the common failings when it comes to organisational turnaround.

The business transformation journey is a complex one, with numerous twists and turns along the way, obstacles to negotiate and dead ends to avoid.

Sadly, however, there’s no roadmap - no universal set of rules to tell you if you’re heading in the right direction, what’s over the horizon or what’s coming up behind you.

This lack of a standard blueprint is the main reason that so many transformation programmes I come across don’t even know they’re lost, let alone how best to ask for directions to get them back on their intended route.

The result is that many wait too long to ask for help – and when they eventually do, they need a major intervention to get them back on track.

More often than not, programme failure has its roots way back in the mobilisation phase. If a transformation is built on weak foundations, it will be found out further down the line. Failing to get the right level of granularity with regard to cost, resourcing, skills and anticipated benefits is just asking for trouble.

The symptoms, though sometimes hard to spot, are generally consistent across all transformation projects.

The first is known in consultancy circles as ‘scope creep’. Failure to understand and articulate the scope of a programme during mobilisation invariably leads to blurred lines of accountability and responsibility. You can find yourself a long way off track before the signs become apparent.

A second symptom is a mismatch between the progranme objectives and the skills and capability of the team you deploy to deliver them. Get the people, processes or technology wrong at the outset and the chances are your transformation is doomed to failure.

Poor governance too, cannot only lead to you going off plan without realising – it can also seriously hamper your ability to anticipate and resolve issues and roadblocks effectively.

The final symptom will be all too common to those who have been involved in a failing transformation. Trying to get a programme back on track by shifting the goalposts invariably leads to cost escalation, loss of focus and an erosion of the original benefits case.

All of these undesirable outcomes can be avoided if you ask for help early enough and you deploy a strategic approach to programme re-alignment if you’ve drifted away from your original objectives.

The starting point is getting an authentic situation report. This will involve a deep-dive process of due diligence and programme assurance that allows you to properly understand the required interventions and remedial activities, together with the costs and resources to deliver them.

The follow-up stage is a structured series of interventions designed to stabilise the programme ready for re launch against new and realistic outcomes, often around:

New resourcesNew planning and achievable deliverablesRobust forward looking programme costings and a re-baselining of the benefits caseEffective new governanceA clear and effective transition strategy for the programme once delivered into business as usual

This might seem like an unnecessarily thorough list of remedial actions, but our experience of failing transformation tells us that tinkering at the edges seldom gets a broken programme back on track. All too often the quick fix is a false economy that merely papers over the cracks, to be exposed again further down the programme – with additional cost and outcomes implications.

So the main lesson for businesses is to act before it’s too late. If you don’t have a map to tell you where you are on the transformation journey, at least get a second opinion from someone who has travelled in that direction before.

Select an enquiry type