Evaluating Change

The 5 Step Journey to Evaluating Change

The signs were out there. Somewhere there was a bridge that would take me to where I wanted to go. And signs to guide me. However, that bridge, and the signs to help me find it, and the mile markers to show my progress, were just blurs. Hidden in a fog that wouldn’t lift. In a world that just would not allow me to focus, plot my course, and successfully arrive at my desired destination.

I’m talking about a vision problem I’ve been dealing with over the last couple of years, but I could just as easily be talking about our quest as marketers, seeking new ways (including becoming an agile marketing organization) to deliver better value to our customers and our organizations. Addressing my vision problem required me to answer a key question: “is the opportunity to gain better vision worth it?”

In the same way I was going through my personal journey to answer this ‘Worth It’ challenge, I realized, during my recovery time (that coincided with a delay in actually starting our series on the ‘Worth’ of agile transformations), my personal decision steps also mirror those we help our agile marketing transformation clients navigate. These five steps include the following:

1)    Establish our Vision of the Future

My Journey: Working with my medical team, I was able to understand what my future sight could be, what was required to get there, the sustainability of improvement, and the various risk issues that needed to be acknowledged and potentially worked through.

Organization’s Journey: As we look at organizational change, we have the same opportunity to establish what we want our future organization to be and develop the roadmap we believe will get us there, or at least get us in the right direction. To guide us along the journey of change, we can use dashboards of KPIs to gain feedback and insights on our progress, just as the Snellen eye chart is now my new personal best friend.

2)    Execute a Cost/Risk/Benefit Analysis: 

My Journey: For my vision, I had three significant sources of costs and one big benefit:

Costs:

a) Interruption of business-as-usual life: expected travel moratorium for 6+ weeks, a significant hit in both my business and personal lives.

b) Actual financial cost: while mostly absorbed by insurance, my vision correction would cost equal to a very nice new car. Not insignificant.

c) Long term cost: the potential that in future years, additional corrective action may be needed.

Benefit:

In exchange, I had the potential for better vision.  To understand the net impact, I had to evaluate trade-offs between the two in the short and long term, given the implications of my current condition.

Organization’s JourneyIn evaluating cost/risk/benefit of organizational change, whether it is transforming to become agile or some other future state we’re envisioning, we ask similar questions of ourselves:

a) What’s the cost of remaining the same, and will it enable us to be fit for the future? If I had 20/20 vision, or if we have teams that perform well today and are continuously improving to remain fit for the future, there’s no real cost for remaining the same. But as I had significantly diminishing vision, or if teams are not creating needed value for customers and the business, there is a real cost that is incurred that can be investigated and sized.

b) What are the benefits of remaining the same? For example, not changing today’s status quo brings the benefit of not disrupting people, plans, and the comfort of known states. Besides vetting whether this is an actual benefit, what other benefits might your organization gain in remaining the same?

c) What is the cost of change? There are multiple cost sources to account for in evaluating cost of change: potential impact on people, evolved business focus, time, support costs for help in defining the change and enabling it to take root, etc.

d) What are the benefits of change? Like costs, there is a wide range of benefits, liking winning new market opportunities, retaining good team members, creating more value for customers and our organizations. All of which need to be considered and evaluated.

3)     Evaluate the Probability of Success

My Journey: Yes, the experts agreed on the primary issue for my vision challenges and the likelihood of successfully addressing it. But they readily admitted there was the possibility others that weren’t wouldn’t be visible until they actually were into the change procedure, and maybe not even then.  To increase the probability of success, we needed multiple surgeons to team up to handle the various scenarios before, during, and after the actual surgery.  Therefore, the conversation and planning came to focus on guidelines on how to quickly identify and mitigate issues, if they were to occur. Lots of things were explored, discussed and documented. And documented some more. Each requiring my signature testifying to my understanding of risk, in spite of a very decent probability of success, that stuff sometimes just happens.

Organization’s Journey: While eyesight is complex, today’s enterprises are even more complex. To understand the probability of success, we need to do our best to understand root causes of performance shortfalls and the inter-relationships of the causes before we commit to change.  Otherwise, we’ll likely to attempt to change things in ways that are more detrimental than helpful, all because we didn’t pause to understand the underlying complexity and scope and scale of performance challenges.  For agile organizational transformations, root causes usually are found in some combination of the qualities of business focus, people, culture, process, and leadership in translating a company’s capabilities into value for customers and shareholders. Critically assessing these causes and potential paths for improvement, including benchmarking them against the experience of others, enable leaders and their teams to start to determine the probably of success for a transformation.

4)    Identify Your People Factors

My Journey: In this one, I turned to my brother, who’s two years into living with a new heart. He was direct: your team is what counts above all else. Make sure you work with the medical team you can trust, communicate relentlessly to build on that trust and then let them do their jobs.

Organization’s Journey: As the truism says, “Process and technology are important, but its people that ultimately get things done.” That is as true for eye surgery as it is for organizational change. All the steps on this journey up to now lead up to this critical truth. Root cause assessments, cost/benefit analysis, envisioning future states all run smack into the fact that without the right mix of people, with needed capabilities and operating in empowered teams, in an open environment of trust, there is no way to positively answer ‘Is It Worth It?’.  Where do these people exist? Likely right in your organization. Once they commit to the effort, they just need to be helped to make successful change happen, with support coming from either internal resources or external resources (like CMG), who bring the skills and experience needed to help teams deliver on the promise of change.

5)    Evaluate Timing

My Journey: Like so many things, timing on procedures like I was having is everything. Too early and some risk factors take on greater value in long term vision scenarios. Wait too long and quality of life greatly diminishes. Hence, When?

Organization’s Journey: In organizational change, timing is also key. Evaluating ‘Is It Worth It’ is not a one and done exercise. Just because we’re fit for the future today doesn’t mean we’ll be fit in 6 months, given today’s rate of change in our markets and organizations. We have to keep proactively asking the question so that we have time to lean into the change journey when the answer to ‘Is It Worth It’ turns to yes.

While these five steps are straightforward on the surface, each one requires investigation and diligent effort to confidently make the ‘Worth It’ call. My analysis told me it was worth it but required me to wait more than 18 months to get to a right time. Now five weeks after the operation, I can emphatically answer ‘Yes. It was worth it.’  My current vision is the best of my life.  My journey reinforced for me the importance of taking the 5 steps thoughtfully and energetically to help clients make their own ‘Is It Worth It’ call with the confidence I was able to make. Given the high stakes for making the organizational change decision also forces the question – are we missing any steps? Could there be an even better way to make the call? If there is, please continue this conversation by sharing your own approach in the spirit of helping others, who are seeking to become more agile and better creators of value for their customers and companies, make the call. Looking forward to reading your comments over the coming days.

This post was originally posted by CMG Partner Russ Lange on LinkedIn.