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Turnarounds need simplicity not heroism

I have been part of multiple turnarounds in digital / business transformations. After each turnaround, I have been asked “how did you do it?”.

The expected answer in this case is “we did this through sheer heroism?”.

This is completely untrue. My answer has always been simple… Here it is…

Typically, these transformation programs start with mega expectations, mega budget, large teams, large scope, single phase implementation…. And very little real planning. Everyone expects it to be most impactful initiative in country / region / world.

And then the reality strikes. The schedule goes haywire, team attrition starts increasing, trust with vendors go low, senior management get uneasy, stress levels start affecting personal life…

Basics of turnaround are:

Get the expectations right

Most of the initiatives go out of control, when expectations from all stakeholders are not aligned.

You must start working with each stakeholder (board / senior management / partners / teams) and update them on the reality. Recovery will only start when we understand and accept that we are in dire straits. Deeply engage with them for understanding the expectations and for planning the recovery. Hearing each and everyone is key to recovery.

Get the scope right

Most of time scope of the initiative would have been too big to be delivered. There would not be any early win and lack of wins would have impacted employee morale.

Review the scope of work and take hard decisions. Many times the scope gets stretched as there is no one who can say no to requirements. Prioritize aggressively as utopian solutions may not work.

Get the Team right

Failed initiatives typically have major challenges at leadership level. Teams may be low on critical skills as well as would have “negative” folks. There may also be many team members with inadequate work (may be in perpetual waiting mode).

Suggested action plan includes:

·     Don’t bring your winning team from outside. Most of the time recovery happens well with the same team.

·     Reassure team on the recovery. This would include spending time with each and every team members and understanding them well. You must know what excites them.

·     Add missing skills (as few as possible), which may not be available in current team and may not get acquired in a short time.

·     Remove folks with negative approach. There may be perpetual naysayers, who would focus their energy on why turnaround is impossible, why management is not going in right direction. Try to align them with the turnaround. However, if they continue to work against the turnaround, they have to be moved out of the initiative.

·     Align team size with program plan. Most of the time, unsuccessful initiatives have too many team members. Try to align team with work required to be done as per the plan. Strangely, you may find that successful initiatives are done with smaller focused team.

Get the Plan Right

It is likely the initiative may not have a plan itself after losing the initial timelines. It may be working off an old program plan without an updated date.

Suggested action plan includes:

o Rebuild the plan with realistic timelines. This may mean creating detailed program plan with clear dependencies. Just a caution.. Don’t overdo the plan…

o Create an early win in next 90 to 180 days. This is mandatory for the plan to feel like real one for stakeholders. And celebrate each win.

o Each team / sub team must have deliverables in every 5 to 10 days. This is to ensure that we have traction at each level and everyone is aligned to overall action.

o Quality assurances should be inbuilt into the initiative. Else, the quality issues will come at fag end of the delivery cycle creating unnecessary delay…

In my next blog, I will share details on

Get the Risks Right (and mitigate them)

Get the Governance and Communication Plan Right

Get the Program Tracking Right

And many more

#Digital #TheDigitalFifth #Fintech

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