For the past 15 years, I have been working with change management and reducing non-value-added services in organizations.
Reducing non-value-creating work processes involves gaining benefits realization in an organization. Often when its decided to make some changes, it is decided to create a project team to lead the change process.
We often see that the project itself can deliver very well, while the benefits realizations is absenting in the organization. Why does this happen? This happens because one does not involve co-workers and middle managers in the project in a sufficient extent.
As an external management consultant, it has been my task to challenge the existing truth. Not uncommonly, I see that the customer has not made any clear perception of what is expected to be derived from the gains in a project.
Often, I ask a C-level executive what he/she wants as gains in the line organizations. Very often the customer does not have an answer. As a change leader, it is important for me to connect the desired result to the line organizations where the gains are to be retrieved. This should be the compass itself when the organization is going to discuss, decide and prioritize project initiatives. The gains must be guiding in the beginning, middle and end of all change work. It is based on the fact that the benefit realizations focus must be integrated as part of the culture and mindset in the line organization. Three components are central to developing a good benefit realization culture. 1) Increased middle management responsibility for benefit realization, 2) Clear roles and responsibilities, and 3) Clear methodology and tools.
Middle managers must take responsibility for the realization of gains
All managers are committed to the initiative to gain benefit realizations. Unfortunately, it is more the rule than the exception that middle managers are unclear about how these gains are to be realized and who will take responsibility for getting them out. A special effort from middle managers is required to ensure that the results of the project give value. It does not come by itself. Managers must be consciously involved in this work and what this role entails. In practice, it can mean anything from asking the right questions when initiating, following up and evaluating change initiatives – to be the driving force and role model for the rest of the organization. Sometimes we sit again with the feeling that middle management believes that the gains are realized as soon as the project has ended. This is very rare.
Clear roles and responsibilities
To ensure that the entire line organization focuses on and is committed to realizing gains from change initiatives and projects, it must be clear how the work is to be organized. Roles and responsibilities must be crystal clear and expectations must be clearly communicated to those affected. Our experience is that, in major change initiatives, it is most efficient to designate the main sponsor, preferably a senior leader in the organization. The person will be an overall anchoring point when the project’s deliveries are to be introduced and used. We also have a good experience of establishing a win streaming team, where team members can come from different units and levels in the organization. That way, it is facilitated that the winning focus is present in all related activities and in the organizational areas affected by the changes.
Clear processes and tools Systematic and targeted work with benefits in the organization must be facilitated. To support benefit realization in practice, I recommend that the organization apply recognized methods and tools. There is no need to “re-invent the wheel”. There are many proven tools and techniques that work well. At the same time, it is my experience that a clear methodology and well-known tool provides security for success for both executives and employees. However, it is assumed that everyone is familiar with the tools and is trained in using them. Examples of key tools are Blueprint, a description of where the organization is today compared to where one wants to be in the future. Blueprint will be a very central tool in communication from management to employees when change initiatives are initiated, precisely to bring together all employees about the benefits to be realized.
It’s finally about people The gains should be the very cause of – and the driving force to carry out change initiatives. Realization of gains and management of change goes hand in hand in these processes. The results come first when people in the organization are motivated to use the tools in a way that benefits the organization – when profit stratification is integrated into the organization’s mindset. And I have witnessed that when this works well, the change projects give a lot of meaning.
Benefits realization is a key to achieving organization’s strategic business goals or objectives. Projects and programs are primary tools to deliver the benefits to help meet those strategic goals. Benefits realization is a shared responsibility between project managers, middle managers, business owners, executive sponsors, and senior leaders.