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Suzanne Powell
Suzanne Powell

CEO and Founder of Simple Business Transformation

Business Transformation – here’s what you need to know

 

Having delivered many Business Transformation projects of varying sizes over the last 20 years I’ve learnt a lot about what enables success as well as some of the causes of failure.

In the early days of my career I led a large team of analysts whose job it was to carry out root cause analysis and identify opportunities, whether they were for cost reduction, employee engagement and operational efficiencies and targets.

The company I worked for had opted for a design/delivery model for the business transformation which meant my team carried out the analysis and designed the work packages which we then handed over to a project team for delivery. I found it very frustrating that after living and breathing the project for several weeks and months that we then had to hand it over to another team for project management.

If the project team were successful they got the credit and the bonus. And if they failed the Analysis team got the blame. It became very “them” and “us”

Not all projects required analysis but on one occasion we picked up a project to improve customer satisfaction results for the home movers process, where our customers were transferring their service from their old property to their new property. After hearing that the MD had engaged 3 separate and very senior project managers, each of whom had been unable to improve the results, I asked if my team could deliver the work packages instead of handing them over. It was agreed we could try.

Because we had done the analysis we didn’t have to get up to speed and interpret the findings and work packages. This meant the execution happened a lot quicker and the project was completed early. And because we had full ownership we had the passion and desire to see the project succeed. We knew we didn’t have to hand the analysis over so the project was our baby.

Suffice to say Customer satisfaction improved from 83.6% to 92.4% and the design delivery model was gone forever and replaced with Lean Six Sigma. I’m very proud to say I was the first black belt in the company to be accredited by the British Quality Foundation and over the next 4 years my small team of four delivered £34.9m worth of cost savings.

The benefit of single ownership rather than a handoff from the design team to the delivery team was there was nowhere to hide. The black belt owned the project from start to finish. They defined the project, identified and set up the measures, carried out the analysis and then delivered the work packages. If it succeeded they got the credit. If it failed there was no one to blame.

At the start of this blog I mentioned I’ve been doing transformation for a long time now so aside from kicking the Design /Delivery model of Business Transformation to the kerb what else has been a big factor over the years? Here are two other observations.

  1. Analysis only works if it’s Root Cause Analysis. Even Black Belts in Lean Six Sigma can fail if they rely on Pareto, hypothesis testing, histograms etc. Use a data driven approach such as downloading customer verbatim to see the root cause of their dissatisfaction and by root cause I mean down the 5th  why. I saw a project launched because during a survey 60% of customers said the call centre agent was not knowledgeable and so a huge and expensive project was started to implement a new knowledge base for agents. This knowledge base made no difference to the results and this was because the customers perceived that the agent lacked knowledge, however  the root cause was because the agents were telling the customer that they didn’t know the answer and couldn’t help  and they did this because the agents were measured on call duration and only got overtime if their Average Talk Time (ATT) was below a certain threshold. Not knowing the answer and passing the customer to another department helped them hit their target and get their overtime!!

2. Don’t bring consultants in. I might be doing myself a disservice with this one considering I recently decided to become a consultant but here’s why I say this. I have worked in industries that bring consultants in and found myself in the scenario where I’m already busy trying to hit a financial target with a team that’s under resourced and the CEO or MD decides to bring in consultants to “help” identify opportunities. Now the consultants don’t know the business so they need help from me and my team. They take up my time asking for data, holding workshops and generally disrupting my team and others across the business. They then come up with an impressive list of opportunities, some of which we gave them (we used to call this telling us the time by our own watches.) After which they would disappear leaving project teams to deliver the opportunities, some they were already delivering anyway, and some which failed to deliver and one by one the projects would get closed down as they weren’t feasible. Again I’m sure you will have lots of great examples of consultants but it hasn’t been my experience.

So these are very personal observations, perhaps a little controversial but definitely food for thought as you embark on your own business transformations.

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