from PM to transformation leader (Part 1: the problem statement)

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I’d like to explain in this post why I believe that, as Programme/Project directors or Project Portfolio Managers (I’ll use the PMs abbreviation in the rest of the article), we are ideally skilled to become transformation leaders in our companies and organizations.

PMs are experienced in running projects to launch new products, services and systems, and create unique customer deliverables.

  • we know from experience how to structure complex programmes and project portfolios
  • we’re also able to validate and make commitments for an entire programme or project
  • we often have to build and effectively communicate simple and powerful messages to management, customers and team members.

So, I propose that we take these roles a step further and evolve from project-specific change agents to become transformation leaders for an entire portfolio of transformation initiatives at the organization or company level.

In this first post, I’ll explain what I mean with “transformation programmes” and what are the common issues we encounter to deploy them.

what are the main types of “transformation programmes”?

You’ve most probably already been engaged in transformation and continuous improvement programmes in your professional or personal life. I have experienced many of these and I’ll mention some as we go along in order to put this proposal into perspective.

1. Continuous Improvement Process (CIP or CI) is a management process whereby company processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility.

2. Kaizen is a Japanese word referring to a philosophy focusing on continuous improvement. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen typically refers to activities that continually improve all functions of a business.

3. Re-engineering or Business process re-engineering (BPR) is an approach aiming at improvements by increased efficiency and effectiveness of end-to-end business processes by fully reviewing and revising them from beginning to end.

4. Rebranding and more specifically corporate rebranding is the process by which a company is marketed or distributed with a different identity, sometimes with radical changes to the logo, name, image, marketing and advertising.

now, let’s look at some of the issues frequently experienced with such programmes…

Kaizen and continuous improvement approaches


I have always been particularly keen of these incremental approaches where people doing the job constantly work to improve the way things are done. The very name of my own blog, DantotsuPM, is about constantly thriving to improve our PM skills.

However, one of the main issues with these approaches is that when they are conducted well, they are not very visible. Your greatest testimony of success is when people think of these changes as natural evolutions rather than revolutions. But if they appear to be naturally occurring, how can we get proper management attention and funding for something if it appears to be “natural”?

Reengineering

Many authors wrote on BPR re-engineering during the 1990s. The most famous I can recall (as they were often quoted in the company I worked for at the time) were Michael Hammer and James A. Champy with their famous book “Reengineering the Corporation”. 

It did cost our company an arm and a leg to try to follow their precepts and reengineer our order-to-cash chain from A to Z. On one hand, it certainly helped to bring all IT and Business/Process experts together to revisit all of the aged processes in this chain.

However, when we calculated the cost per order of all investments and expenses, we found that the re-engineered processes added a very significant cost to each and every order. In some cases this totaled more than one hundred Euros, thereby reducing our cost competitiveness (or decreasing our margins) on each order for several years.

Of course, this is to be tempered by the cost of doing nothing (if the company had not engaged on this massive reengineering programme). Additionally, the success rate of such initiatives remains quite low. Here is another example of poor ERP project results at the US Air Force.

Rebranding

business man

This is also one area I had a chance to actively contribute to. It was a wonderful, motivating and challenging experience. We managed to merge multiple brands in our companies’ portfolio into a single brand, increasing its overall power and impact. It clarified the messages and also reduced overall marketing and advertising costs. So, it certainly brought most of the rewards the company was expecting.

The one place where I think we could have done better was on the culture behind the brand, especially its meaning and values for the employees and management of the company. We had a great start with 8 well-articulated core values that we spent time to explain and discuss with all.

However, past the substantial initial rebranding push, from my perspective, the values didn’t become part of our corporate DNA. I trust that a few years later, most managers and employees would be challenged to list these 8 core values from memory.

An important aspect of transformation programmes is that they take quite some time to become ingrained in an organization’s culture.

In the next posts, we’ll come back on the challenges such programmes entail and why PMs are well equipped to address them! Here's the link to part 2)

Michel

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business Services. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/