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Begin with the end in mind… and know how to measure it

The Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics are done, and the dust is settling on all the celebrations and accolades.  The champions have taken home their medals and all of them are already gearing up for their next four-year cycle, going for gold again.

So what makes the difference between the winners and the losers?  No doubt it’s the performance on the day, but certainly, it’s also in the preparation.  The planning for success begins on Day 1 of training.  And isn’t that the same in organisational change?

Begin with the end in mind… and know how to measure it as Stephen Covey reminds us in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

You might not cross the finish line first all of the time in your organisation, but you’ll go a long way to leading the pack if you know what success looks like from the outset. And even more so – if you have the means to measure that success. It’s all well and good to push the headline “what gets measured, gets done”, but what are you actually doing about it and are you leaving it too late?

Envisioning the success from Day 1 will go a long way in ensuring you and your organisation will end up as the winners and not the losers when you reach that finish line.

How measuring from the start will lead to success at the end

Here are three of our favourites for why ‘measuring from the start’ really matters:

1. It provides an early opportunity to test perceptions about what success is and whether it’s possible.

Is this change really going to deliver X?’ ‘What about Y?’ ‘Are we focused on the right things?’ ‘Is this too much?’ This can be confronting especially if change resistance rears its ugly head early on but isn’t it better to be aware of these perceptions and concerns sooner rather than later when you are deep in the throes of a project?   We strongly recommend starting with aligning key stakeholders behind what success looks like, and digging deep into actual behaviours rather than broad, theoretical statements!

2. It’s a good way to establish the baseline for change, which can be monitored regularly to assess and confirm readiness.

These ‘markers’ ‘or ‘rest stops’ provide valuable opportunities to reflect and if it makes sense to do so, come up to the surface, focus and adapt to new conditions or circumstances. These markers can also be an effective way to check if the bar has been ‘set at the right height’.

3. Understanding the end game (and using clear metrics to demonstrate progress towards it) can be hugely motivating for those involved in or impacted by a change program.

Regularly measuring, tracking and then celebrating achievements along the way can make a real difference. Note that celebrating only at the end is not enough! As I was recently reminded in an article on reducing change resistance, don’t be afraid (or forget) to pour champagne over successes’. Do this, remembering that ‘people are different’ and not everyone may enjoy celebrating in the same way.

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it – H. James Harrington

Where to start?

A good foundation starts with at least these elements:

  • Get into the starting blocks correctly

Empowering all the change leaders in your ‘system’, no matter where they stand in the organisation requires early attention.  We believe that this along with careful analysis and planning upfront enables smart and sustainable change pathways.

  • Define clear, specific and achievable measures.

These must link clearly to the business strategy, business case and business outcomes and demonstrate ROI. In the example of workforce optimisation, these may relate to staff retention levels, process re-design effectiveness or FTE efficiency targets. Work with the business to ask, challenge and affirm that targets are achievable; how they will be measured; and agree the optimal timeframe(s) to use these measures to reinforce findings and progress.  Not to mention giving sensible consideration to the the anticipated business performance dip!

  • Have clear measures related to both the project AND the business outcomes.

After all, success is required when delivering (‘installing’) the project, as well as when creating lasting change for the business (‘implementing change). It is all too easy to focus just on the deliverables of the project (e.g. deploying a new piece of technology), while overlooking the change(s) you need to see within the business (e.g. high user adoption rates, improved time management and productivity). This is often because these success measures cannot be realised until much further down the track.

Not sure where to start your epic change journey? Contact us to learn more about how Blue Seed Consulting can put you on the right path to the winners podium



Related Story:  For more on considering the whole and not just the parts, read part 1 of this series What synchronised swimming can teach you about managing change