Sean Wright Executive Vice President and Principal

Position Yourself for Performance Transformation through a Fact-based Plan

March 9, 2012  11:05 am

We Don’t Need No Stinking Assessment | By the time we meet most organizations, they want to get going with their transformation immediately. They often want to rush to implementation without a roadmap, resulting in the classic gotcha of “activity vs. action.” However, without clear direction, activity often swamps out action and fritters away resources fast. Few then remain to make a positive difference, and no lasting benefits accrue. To be effective, organizations need an implementation approach that predictably advances what their enterprise should be doing. In that, the following questions must be answered:

  • How is the work performed today? What’s working and where are improvements needed?
  • What’s our real “book of business”? What should we improve because it’s what we do?

Why Are the Basics Neglected? | Many believe taking time to map as-is through to-be isn’t worth it. We often hear things like “an assessment sounds resource intensive,” or “it’s hard to value work that doesn’t appear change-oriented.”

Yet, it’s vital to analyze where an organization’s at and then create a robust change plan from that point-of-view. Crafting that roadmap never fails to deliver greater ROI and yield a sustainable improvement framework. Why? Because it:

  • Ensures an understanding of the starting line, sets targets to close gaps and creates progress expectations
  • Details a visible, potent and predictable implementation sequence to achieve the objectives, and,
  • Defines organizational mobilization with ample buy-in, as the organization actively helps build the plan

Model it Right | Neglecting the proper planning efforts can often diminish a transformation investment. As an example, one of our clients, a well-known global manufacturer, sought to apply 100% of what it learned about improvement in one location to all of its sites. The assumption was that an improvement anywhere should be the entitlement everywhere. However, in actuality, local reality must influence implementation design. HQ-sponsors overlooked the fact that their facilities:

  • made different products
  • had different customers
  • were in different locations
  • were made up of a highly diverse workforce with embedded local cultures

They would soon understand that these particulars make a world of difference.

Off and Running | In its initial location (the model site)—arguably their best facility—the company pursued a deep-dive to understand the “as-is” and envision the “to be.” Our joint team worked to:

  • Establish a clear performance baseline contrasted against industry benchmarks
  • Capture / assess ongoing improvements and rationalize the existing improvement portfolio
  • Target objectives and seize them through a structured implementation project led by active steering and employee involvement

As a result of this effort, model site results were impressive, with double-digit percentage gains in most quality, cost and delivery metrics. Thorny problems disappeared, as workers now had a voice and role in improvement.

The Beat Goes On | The next wave was at several complex, dispersed facilities, where HQ hoped to duplicate the success of its first location. To accelerate progress, leadership specified compact “delta-assessments” at each site and moved quickly to implementation. In spite of different customers, geography, products and cultural factors impacting the results, there was some success. However, when compared to the model site, advances fell short in number and velocity. Improvements were less culturally embedded and required far more energy to sustain.

One Size Does Not Fit All | In order to further speed company-wide change, the next site deployment wave demanded only a “coaching model,” where they merely informed additional locations about prior achievements via an extensive action list. There was no local baseline, no detailed plan and an underprepared steering team. You can probably guess the outcome—underwhelming. A defective project premise was in play:

You can achieve equal / greater performance transformation results in more challenging locations without facts, adequate preparation and informed involvement.

The assessment and planning activities often omitted in order to “speed results” are in fact the same factors that assure beneficial implementation outcomes and reduce its overall cost. So, what’s the lesson to be learned? Don’t rush to one-size-fits-all implementation without completing a fact-based plan. Use a system, yes. But, embrace a change approach that is agile enough to reflect your organizational diversity. You’ll then execute predictably and reap possibly the greatest reward of all—a sustainable culture of ongoing performance improvement.

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