If I were going there I would not start from here

man dreams holidays

I recently booked a holiday on Expedia ( I confess it was my first time – Ludite I know) and as you do, my first focus was on where I wanted to go. I spent hours poring over hotel specs and weather charts to make sure that the hotel supported the things I wanted to do, and the weather would be congenial. It was all terribly positive and then…..
I came down to earth with a bump when I started looking at getting to this fantastic destination. The first question was “where do you want to fly from?”… well my local airport obviously but “no flights from that airport”, OK choose an alternate airport (unfortunately a London main airport). Having navigated into the country I wanted to go to now I have to consider how to get to the hotel. A quick check shows that there are no trains around the time I want to travel & so it is a choice of a sky high taxi fare, or car hire.
Well needless to say, when I had finished the journey times before I could relax had multiplied out of all conception – I now had to leave 4 hours early to get to London and get through security, hang around at my destination and pickup a hire car, and drive a couple of hours to the hotel. The whole thing had changed from a quick dash to the local airport and relax, to an 8 -10 hour slog to get to my destination.
In the end I changed my focus to what was available from my local airport while still achieving my main goals – somewhere I hadn’t been before, relaxing, beach, and walks – will let you know how it works out.

Change management and strategy definition/implementation is often similar.

Navigation map with red pin

Navigation map with red pin

The tendency is to focus on the end result, the goal, and perhaps think less of the starting point and the journey. In reality there is no way one can plan a journey without knowing where you are starting from, and thus it might be surprising to know that almost 60% of companies that start on a change process do not adequately know their situation when they start (according to a survey from Towers Watson). Furthermore 40% have no metrics in place to judge how they are progressing along the journey (so they don’t know where to pick up the hire car). Is it really surprising that a somewhat older IBM report suggested that up to 92% of all change and strategy projects failed, and that one of the biggest causes was “doing the wrong things”.

Unfortunately the Towers Watson report is not a surprise to me, in 15 years as an independent worker in business improvement, change management and strategy, not knowing where you are starting from is the biggest reason for failure. It happens in all businesses from the high tech research business that looses sight of GCSE physics; the capital goods supplier who blames rising costs on poor production quality, only to find that the problem is lack of understanding of what the customer wants; or the perishable goods company who wants to boost its sales by discounting, but does not know that its biggest mover is already on paper thin margins  – all are doomed to under performance just because they did not understand where they were starting from.

Doing this sort of work for 15 years I have developed a basic template for understanding where a company is. This starts with the ISO9000 core areas – how do you know what the customer wants and how do you know you have delivered it. A similar question about costs, skills, systems. These questions asked at all levels of the company along with the “what is your biggest problem” question usually give a pretty good idea of the starting point, which can be confirmed by the auditing of specifics. Some businesses use external resources to do this work, and it is often easier for an outsider to keep an open mind, but it is by no means impossible to do this from within the company.

If you would like some help with your change, business improvement or strategy drop us an e-mail and we will set up a call or a meeting. Initial chats are always without obligation.

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