When a programme gets the green light to move from a discovery phase into full implementation, there is a crucial period of mobilisation and early delivery. If handled well, the programme will reap the benefits in the following phases.
However, this period also has a number of pitfalls, which can set the programme back at a time when it has everything to prove.
Programmes are frequently staffed by people who have not worked together before, and who may not have worked within the organisation before – for example, third party suppliers. The risk here, is that people are not put in the right roles, teams do not gel and are unable to build the resilience required to overcome early challenges.
The impact of these challenges on company culture is often under-estimated. For example, people used to a command and control environment may come unstuck trying to run workshops and meetings in a consensus-driven company where decisions are reached through discussion and debate.
Equally, a team unfamiliar with each other can quickly form into silos and head off in different directions without a common methodology that provides consistency across work-streams.
These issues are compounded by pressure from the client or business sponsor – who will often monitor progress closely when funding has recently been approved.
Building blocks for success
At NTT DATA, we lead many large programmes, and in our experience, there are a number of ways to ensure the right foundations are laid during the early stages:
- When planning, build in enough time for mobilisation. This phase is often under-estimated, because there is a natural optimism that people will fit in immediately and hit the ground running. We plan in time that allows teams to establish themselves, to avoid putting pressure on early milestones.
- Get the basics in place before any ramp up starts. We set up a multi-disciplined team with onshore and offshore centres to deliver an integrated business support system for a company running the Smart Meter network for 10 million homes in the UK. We had a tried and tested methodology in place to ensure everyone on the project was working in the same way. This prevented confusion – which can happen if people don’t have a clear methodology, and fall back on prior experience.
- Plan for the ramp up to be as progressive and sustainable as possible. We managed demand on the Smart Meter programme to ensure that the resource ramp up was not too steep, because of the pressure it can exert on the existing team in terms of interviewing, orientation and knowledge sharing – even if these processes are well tuned.
- Make sure new recruits understand and appreciate the culture of the organisation they are working in. This has to be more than a list of do’s and don’ts. We are currently implementing a business transformation programme for a professional accountancy organisation. We provided practical guidance to our people on how to run workshops and lead governance meetings that fit into the corporate culture of the client.
- Monitor how well the newly-formed teams are overcoming challenges – and take early action if it’s becoming clear that they are not building resilience. On the same business transformation programme, we added temporary support from experts to help in key areas. We also paid particular attention to people in lead roles on the programme, to make sure the fit was right.
When you make the mobilisation phase as smooth as possible, the programme will deliver meaningful progress much more rapidly. As a result, the confidence and trust of business stakeholders will grow – providing a solid platform for future success.