Tuesday, 18 June 2013

4 Key Takeaways From A London Conference

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have noticed my tweets last week came from the Business Process Management Europe Conference in London. It was co-located with the Enterprise Architecture Europe Conference and expertly hosted by IRM UK. It’s a long time since I’ve been to a conference and my expectations of both the speakers and content were high.

There were around 250 attendees representing 30 or more countries and many have blogged about their experience. Rather than taking you through the conference, its content and highlights from the various speakers I heard, I thought I’d share my 4 key takeaways. While they won’t surprise you they should confirm you’re either on the right track when it comes to influencing and delivering change or that some course correction is well overdue.

Half way through the conference I was hearing a definite theme – the buck stops with Senior Management. For the sake of typing I'm using 'Senior Management' collectively to include Executives, C-level and up. Not surprisingly this is my Takeaway No.1.

Key Takeaway No. 1:
Without genuine commitment, ownership and sponsorship from Senior Management / Executive level, nothing will happen and nothing will change.

Key Takeaway No. 2:
Communication, understanding, language and people are universal problem areas.

Key Takeaway No. 3:
Everyone everywhere is busy working and busy working hard. Are they working on the ‘right’ stuff for the ‘right’ reasons?

Key Takeaway No. 4:
Everything a company does must have strategic alignment.
  1. The way strategy disseminates ‘down’ through the organisation is important as it impacts the work that gets done.
  2. Properly formed strategic statements give clarity and direction to those doing the work.
Jeff Scott spoke about Managing the Strategy to Execution Process. He was clear that business leaders are looking for resolutions to problems. However it’s no use running around solving problems when the real one isn’t being addressed; Strategy Execution is the BIG problem. He referred to the game of Chinese Whispers when talking about strategy diffusion. As strategy travels the communication path down through the organisational hierarchy, from CEO to Exec to Manager to employee, layer after layer it loses detail and context. By the time it gets to those keeping the lights on they’re so disconnected from Senior Management they don’t understand what Management wants and the work they’re doing bears little or no resemblance to the strategy.

The lessons shared by Amitabh Apte during his presentation were interesting in terms of how they influenced project success and failure. What was the key factor in both situations? Yup you got it, my Takeaway No. 1: Senior Management commitment, ownership and sponsorship. In the failed project it didn’t exist. In the successful one it did. Rocket science? Need more evidence? I don’t think so!

It doesn’t matter which part of the business you’re in, the skills and expertise you have or the job you’re employed to do Senior Management sponsorship and ownership, and strategic alignment are fundamental to successful projects and initiatives. For companies to achieve what they want from the initiatives they trigger responsibility and accountability starts and ends at the top. 

Suffice to say I arrived at the end of my 3 days satisfied that my thought processes, approach to projects and change initiatives, and the work I do with and for clients have been validated both by what I heard and the discussions I had. 

Now I’m looking forward to next years Conference. It will be interesting to see if my top 4 takeaways are surpassed by new ones or if organisations and the people who work for them continue to work hard on what could be the wrong things.

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