Project Management Institute

Power to Change

Here Are Five Tips for Delivering a Transformation Program—That Actually Gets Adopted

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By Jess Tayel, PMP

Many organizations are undergoing (or will soon undergo) a business transformation program geared toward growth and creating a competitive advantage. When successful, these programs bring about a holistic, disruptive change to the way organizations work.

Managing business transformation programs or change programs requires a strong program leader with a diverse skill set that includes the ability to lead with passion and purpose. Five skills in particular will help a program manager succeed in driving a program that successfully delivers adopted change to the organization.

1. Storytelling

To convey a message to a wide variety of stakeholders who may not have all bought into the change, it's essential for the program manager to take out the dryness of the numbers and charts and instead tell a story. Of course, the story will have facts, but it also must tap into the possible future, connect to the vision of the organization and show what success would look like for various stakeholders in their language. A story engages, drives productive conversations and delivers a more impactful message.

2. Dealing with ambiguity

Ambiguity is part of every program, but the level goes sky-high in a large-scale business transformation. To combat so much ambiguity, program managers need to thoroughly understand the “why” and the “who” of the change initiative before trying to identify a solution and start the “doing.” This can be frustrating for program managers who are accustomed to immediately looking for solutions.

Clearly identifying the impact on stakeholders and customers involved in the change is the only way to begin to tackle the ambiguity of a transformation program. Doing so helps stakeholders understand the purpose, what needs to done and what success truly is.

3. Seeing the bigger picture

Transforming businesses is more than just implementing a new system, having new processes or reorganizing structures. It is about changing mindsets and moving the organization, or part of it, to new ways of working and thinking.

This means that transformation is more about “we” than “I.” I have seen many programs fail because a small group of people, in isolation, made assumptions about what needed to be done. Looking at the bigger picture means to first seek to understand, design and verify, then to move to a solution that encompasses the voice of the customer, the staff and the organizational parameters. This allows the team to create an integrated, meaningful and impactful solution that speaks to customers, satisfies the business outcome and is adopted by stakeholders.

4. Recognizing the impact of change

The ability to empathize with the stress, fear and anxiety that come with change is what distinguishes leaders who create a meaningful, sustainable and adopted change from those who create a solution that ticks the boxes. Creating that human-to-human connection is something that the program manager needs to demonstrate day in and day out. Empathetic program leaders should lead by example and encourage their teams to do the same.

5. Prioritizing the customer

Program managers need to ensure organizations don't just think from the inside out but rather ensure that the voice of the customer is embedded into the solution while balancing the program parameters. This is critical to delivering real value and effectively addressing customer needs. At the end of the day, that's the ultimate goal of the program: to offer customers a better sustainable experience using better products and/or services.

This list doesn't represent every trait a program manager needs to drive change initiatives, but focusing on these skills should lay the foundation for the next-level program managers who strive to become true leaders of business transformation and change. PM

img Jess Tayel, PMP, is a business transformation and change consultant, New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Sydney, Australia.

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