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08 August 2018

Transform with Baringa - The plan for the plan: translating transformation ambition into reality

Ellen Fraser

Ellen Fraser
Partner | Energy, utilities and resources | London

Developing a clear and concise transformation strategy rightly feels like a real achievement for any organisation – the strategy team has agonised over it, the board buys into it, shareholders like it and even the employee population believe in it. The hard work is done, right?

Before a cry of ‘we have a plan!’ can echo across the organisation, a complex set of conversations must be played out around how best to break an ambitious vision into manageable chunks of change. These chunks should each deliver a step change that builds towards the target outcome, but they can’t be so ambitious that they distract the operation from providing acceptable service levels to customers during the transition.

Managing the tension between kicking enough off early to avoid back-loading the change window versus not drowning the organisation with too much change in year one is a delicate balance – one that takes material debate and team working. Based on our experience, here are the key points to be mindful of at this pivotal moment:

  • Invest time in doing this properly: So often we see organisations sign off their strategy and then jump very quickly into implementation as the pressure to deliver benefits becomes overwhelming. However, all time spent in planning the change properly is well invested – get some experience on the ground, hold your nerve and go slow to go fast
  • Learn from others: An obvious point perhaps, but few organisations do something which is genuinely ground-breaking – take time to listen to reflections from similar business transformations, and really hold yourself to account on baking in the lessons learned to avoid the same mistakes
  • Set up clear, broadly linear, interim targets at key points between now and the intended end state: This linear path prevents both launching too ambitiously and running out of steam, and going too slowly and leaving all the hard work to the latter stages. Careful time can then be invested in working up the year one and year two plan in black ink, while subsequent years can remain in light pencil…. This does, of course, assume that you developed a clear end state as part of the strategic ambition!
  • Think carefully about how to refresh the plan: most changes taking longer than two years are destined to fail – competitive landscapes change, tech develops, consumer behaviours evolve. Plan in refreshes from the start to set realistic expectations about the planning horizon
  • Manage expectations: being really crisp about what benefits will appear in year one vs. what needs to be invested in to continue the trajectory into subsequent years (where the easy wins are typically gone and it’s down to the much more complex change delivery) is critical if the programme is to be given space to deliver
  • Finally, ensure everyone buys into the plan: another obvious point perhaps, but unless all key deliverable owners (change teams, the business, IT) are emotionally bought into the plan and believe it’s credible, it simply won’t happen.

With these steps in mind, a credible plan can be developed that gives clarity and confidence in the short term while building up to the longer-term vision. The key then becomes how best to mobilise the programme effectively.