I had the opportunity to speak at the IBCT Forum 2017 on a topic entitled 'Putting the Business Centre Stage of Change and why that's important to Projects'. Chris Potts facilitated this session and the post-presentation discussion was extremely interactive. The energy in the room was high with everyone sharing ideas, challenges and thinking.
In this post I share what I experienced and key themes I observed repeatedly over the two days of the Forum.
What was interesting about this Forum was that the I(nnovation) and T(echnology) of IBCT appeared to receive more attention than the B(usiness) and C(hange). Why was that interesting? It could be that they're perceived as more exciting and innovation is certainly a fashionable activity now. It could be that while Business Change requires investment that investment is longer term and must include a willingness to change. A company's leadership must be clear why the change has to happen and lead the way because change is the piece that brings it all together. Be innovative and invest in technology but unless the business changes any result from that investment is likely to be short-lived.
Even though the innovation and technology pieces were greater focal points, the business change aspects were a constant presence in the presentation sessions and forum overall. So much so that a number of consistent themes were apparent in the facilitated discussions and during the more informal networking.
Here then are 3 themes I heard repeated over the two days in London:
1. Business Change is not isolationist. If it's to be successful it must permeate and effect every aspect of the business throughout the hierarchy.
The chances of success and failure is dependent on commitment and involvement from the top. A Company's culture and operating climate are the direct result of the management and leadership styles in place, ie: they're systemic. As one presenter stated 'We need management evolution. A learning organisation requires transformation in management style'.
If a company wants to be innovative they can't do so effectively within traditional operating structures and models. For a company to truly grasp what innovation and being innovative is all about, it must change the way the entire business behaves, thinks and functions. Talking about innovation and setting up a group, department or team to lead it will achieve nothing innovative if it's to operate within existing models and controls. One participants comment hit the nail fairly and squarely on the head when they said, 'the challenge of business change is systemic therefore the solution must also be systemic.'
2. Information is key to understanding performance against strategy and as input to decision making. Be clear about the information that's needed and why, then establish the processes to support that.
Harmonisation is something many Companies try to do particularly when during a global system implementation project. Standardised processes and harmonised data are often considered key drivers for success. These can be unrealistic due to in-country regulatory controls or cultural operating principles. However, they're still perceived as targets with much time and effort invested bringing people together to define and agree a template that can then be rolled out.
Striving for consistent global operating practices is not unreasonable but the factors that determine those consistencies and/or commonalities need to be based on what the company needs in order to stay in business. One participant gave a very insightful suggestion on this, which was to 'look at information as a way to harmonise rather than starting with the process.'
3. Regardless of industry sector every organisation is dealing with the same underlying business challenges and operational issues.
From Defence and Space to Food FMCG, from Exhibition Organisation to Banking, from Insurance to Broadcasting, both participants and speakers came from a wide variety of industry sectors. Yet where business change was concerned the underlying challenges being dealt with were similar if not the same.
- Change overload - The speed at which an organisation wants to change is often at odds with the speed at which they're capable of changing. In addition to the speed is the volume; an organisation can only absorb a certain level of change at any one time if it is to be sustainable.
- Quick fixes and Silver bullets - There are many methodologies and approaches available but they alone do not change the business. Yes, they provide a framework through which the change can be organised and managed but an organisation and its management must be prepared, willing and committed to live and breathe the change they want to see happen.
- The People piece - Much effort and talk is placed on bringing people along on the 'journey' yet projects and the organisations management must accept that not everyone will reach the end. Sometimes it can lead to better outcomes if there are individuals who don't. This isn't a bad thing, rather something that must be acknowledged, understood and actively managed for the good of everyone and for the change to be successful.
If you were at the Forum what messages did you pick up on? Did you hear any themes running through the two days?