Recently I shared an overview of my six principles of delivering change at pace – in this post I focus on my sixth and final principle ‘Tie outcomes to business results’.
Let me begin with an opening provocation – I believe that any change initiated in an organisation should only exist to help the viability, health or performance of the business it seeks to serve. Sound sensible? I hope so. But how robust and aligned are the impacts of your change to key business drivers or KPIs? And how will you know if your change is making things better or worse and, if asked, could you prove it?
You may have identified impact in terms of cost savings, increased sales or market share, return on investment, efficiency improvements – if so, well done! But have you considered how to quantify the softer, or, as I consider them tougher, metrics of success? Have you considered how your initiative might improve staff engagement, empowerment or health & well-being? These are just a few of the softer and seemingly tougher elements of change that, if given thoughtful focus, could elevate the impact of your work and provide that missing human link.
Some 7 years ago, my internal transformation team in GSK faced such a challenge – our remit was to help accelerate delivery and performance across the whole organisation, which at over 100,000 people seemed a somewhat daunting task at first. Our tangible business outcome was demonstrable performance improvement across the business units. This varied from helping drug development projects deliver new medicines for patients faster, increasing market share in commercial functions, or eliminating waste and decreasing costs in support functions. With relative speed, we quantified tangible impacts and proved that the practice delivered financial benefits and by year 3 our approach was delivering annualised benefits in excess £300m. Our sponsors were happy but they wanted more – they wanted to know how we were also positively enhancing the culture of the organisation.
And so the tough part of our journey began, proving that as a result of adopting the new ways of working, teams felt more empowered which was the cornerstone of the culture change we wanted to achieve. For this metric, we had to proceed on the basis of a hypothesis until we had the data to prove our claim. Our ambition was to help the organisation change, one team at a time by equipping them with approaches that helped them take control of their work; know if there were winning or losing; resolve root causes of problems quickly; develop agility to respond to changing circumstances quickly and deliver things faster and with less stress. We had to wait 2yrs before we could use insight from our global employee survey to find out if teams led by leaders who practiced this approach felt significantly more empowered than their peers – and they did! What we also learned, but hadn’t been looking for, was that when employees felt more empowered they also demonstrated greater change agility than peer teams.
We were delighted that our hypothesis was proven true and this insight helped further accelerate the adoption of our practice across the business; we could now demonstrate that our approach resulted in both financial benefits and the soft or ‘tough’ benefits.
So – how could you quantify the soft, people or cultural impacts of the changes you are making? Could you construct a hypothesis on what you believe will be different in the soft measures and can you secure sponsor buy-in that gives you the time to prove it?
Sometimes the most intangible measures can yield the greatest insight. Google recently undertook a 2yr search to discover the traits of their most successful teams. Having studied 180 Google teams, conducted 200-plus interviews and analysed over 250 different team attributes they found no clear tangible characteristics to help create a dream-team generating algorithm. Their breakthrough happened when they considered investigating intangible attributes and discovered 5 group norms most associated with success. The most important of the five was the softest of the all – psychological safety – something they had never considered or had ever been looking for.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and I am curious to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to sign up for my future blogs please register here.
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Jacqui Alexander is an expert in business transformation with a proven track record of helping organisations align, deliver and improve their performance. She uses an innovative and blended approach that combines the practices of organisation development, continuous improvement and project management to improve ways of working.
Her approach is particularly impactful when shifts in mind-set, culture or ways of working are imperative for business success. She runs London-based consultancy, ChangePace Consulting Ltd.