The article below is written by akildahl on June 21, 2012

In this case, it was actually a green button… In a previous lifetime, while working on a large-scale technology and outsourcing program for a top brokerage firm, I found myself squared off with the top-producing broker in the region (who had been tapped to represent the interests of the brokers throughout the U.S.).  He was sharing his view that the months of work by several teams would grind to a screeching halt if that green radio button he clicked every morning to produce his client reports moved ‘one millimeter.’  From his perspective, the firm might go out of business unless that green button remained exactly as is.  As I recall there may have been some fist pounding involved. 

As I listened calmly, I thought how could it be that this program has been in flight so long without anyone engaging this team?

I also thought that perhaps the green button was not the real issue.  The client-facing teams of the organization had not been included in what had been perceived as an ‘operations’ transformation and they were now

  • Flexing their undeniable influence and,
  • Articulating a very common reaction to change – ‘better the devil I know….’

This is a common episode during most transformative engagements – particularly those that involve significant technology components. 

Even the most eloquent enterprise vision accompanied by a set of clearly articulated goals, unless cascaded throughout and acted upon collaboratively by the organization – while held accountable by executive leadership – can quickly devolve into each unit leader pursuing his / her own path to deliver results unaware of or disconnected from the pursuits of their colleagues.  As a result, projects are derailed, diluted or come to a dead halt.  Even if the project comes to fruition, passive (or active) lack of adoption will drain significant value.

How best to avoid this cycle?  When embarking on a transformative project – regardless of the scale, take a few steps away and challenge yourself and your clients to take the long view via a few basic questions:

  • What are the enterprise goals?
  • How to best operationalize those goals?
  • Has everyone in the organization who will be impacted been identified?
  • Are the affected teams, at all levels, engaged and supportive – or at minimum, informed?

Recent work on two Fortune 50 Procurement transformation projects reinforced all of the above and further crystalized the pivotal role for change agents and trusted advisors:  Guiding, challenging and cajoling teams to view transformation initiatives through a ‘two to five years from now’ lens.  It’s natural for teams to think in terms of present processes and pressing problems – indeed to think that new technology alone will resolve current challenges and pave the way to the desired future state.  Such is not the case.  We frequently speak of the powerful triad of people + process + technology in transformation because of its truth; technology on its own does nothing and elegant processes without people to execute them are lost. 

Themes that bear repeating at every turn to achieve success: 

  • Broad, clear, and consistent communication about how and why a particular project is tied to and will help deliver enterprise objectives
  • Absolute transparency that to attain the broader goals, change is inevitable, which means not only will a  green button or two be replaced, but perhaps quite a bit more
  • Constant and thoughtful guidance to help teams think and design in terms of the future

Which returns us to the magic blue button and the gentleman pounding his fist.  The new application offered a blue button and triggered all the current functionality as well as a host of features the front-line had clamored for for years.  When I asked him if he truly believed it would be too difficult for his colleagues to adjust from the green button at the top left to the blue button at the bottom right he paused, and finally said “No, of course not.”  One firm handshake later and his steadfast support was secured for the remainder of the program.