Embedding change & achieving execution excellence

by Marty Nicholas

by Abhik Sengupta

Transformation is long, complex and difficult and unfortunately most businesses fail to realise the full business case benefit. While the end game is compelling, it is often compromised by short-termism, distractions and changing priorities. Leaders generally start well with earnest change management objectives, but can disengage or lose focus on the end goal through the course of the program. How can enterprises embed change and execute with excellence, whilst maintaining momentum towards continually improving and optimising?

Our recent blogs have been exploring five key shifts that enterprises typically navigate as they embark on transformation programs. The shifts include:

1. Reorganising around the changing customer
2. Integrating and digitising marketing, sales and service
3. Transforming mindsets and capabilities
4. Implementing and adopting new technology
5. Execution excellence – embedding and continuous improvement  

In this blog post, we explore the fifth and final shift – execution excellence, which involves transitioning new ways of working into business-as-usual and building a culture of data and customer-driven optimisation.

Transformation is long, complex & difficult

Execution is tough and the journey is long and complicated, but the pay-off is significant. Many businesses begin transformation in earnest, targeting exciting outcomes such as reducing costs of sale, reducing costs to serve and increasing customer and employee experience benefits. However, often these benefits get discounted for a range of different reasons. Leaders typically start well, but may gravitate towards other projects or get distracted by other priorities before seeing the intiaitve right through to being embedded as business-as usual.
There are a range of other factors that can impact momentum and prevent change from becoming firmly embedded. Fatigue often sets in when projects move slowly or complexity hits. As projects falter, leaders often start to make compromises to the solution that discount the ability to really drive full value. Businesses often spend an enormous amount of time and energy designing and then building a solution, but then underinvest on the implementation and embedding. It is not just about the investment dollars, but also about focus and resource allocation being balanced and maintained across the end-to-end process.

Compounding the challenge, businesses are usually ill-equipped to monitor early progress and thus unable to effectively course correct if an initiative starts to veer off course.


How do leading enterprises successfully embed change and build a culture of continuous improvement?

To be operationally ready to run the future state, leaders need to be immersed in the transformation – not sitting above it. While leaders need to focus heavily on ensuring new ways of working are embedded and become business-as-usual, they also need to balance this with maintaining momentum for ongoing evolution and change. By having this dual focus, leaders can ensure transformation momentum isn’t an isolated project, but rather an ongoing commitment to maintaining excellence.

Blackdot has identified 5 key steps for execution excellence:
1. Ensure leaders are visible, vocal & aligned throughout the life of the project
Project sponsors or leaders should not sit above the change – they need to be in the trenches.
2. Pick the right team for each phase
The person who does strategy for the project is not always the right person to implement and embed the change.
3. Hold leaders accountable for delivering the business case benefit
The frontline manager is the pivotal leverage role and fundamentally accountable for business-as-usual embedding. Bake the change into their KPIs and incentives to hold them accountable for business case benefits.
4. Front-load high value ‘packages’ & continually reassess prioritisation & sequencing
Increase receptivity to change by delivering high value ‘packages’ early on and sequence change to make the impact on the frontline more incremental.

5. Measure the lead indicators of adoption, effectiveness & efficiency
With the scale of the shifts required to adapt to today’s customer environment, effective measurement is critical both for proving the value of new initiatives via pilot programs, as well as ensuring that large and expensive transformation projects stay on course. Look for indicators early and often to monitor progress and enable effective course correction.

The role of execution excellence in enterprise transformation

Execution exellence is particularly relevant to organisations that identify with Pathways 3 and 4 in the Blackdot Operational Maturity/Business Imperative (OMBI) framework.
Pathway 4 – Leveraging data & momentum to build a culture of continuous improvement

Organisations in Pathway 4 have a terrific opportunity to move from good to great. However, the common practice for many organisations at this stage is to succumb to the temptation of a consolidation phase and to ‘rest on the laurels’ of past achievements. The main challenge they face is how to harness the existing energy that is generated by success and continually optimise customer and business outcomes.

Our view is that once you have a new marketing, sales and service engine revving, with data and insights that can be easily accessed – you should double-down and make greater efforts to grow and optimise business and customer outcomes. The proliferation of data now emerging through both digital and physical channels enables the business to make more informed decisions around what is working and what is not, so it’s an opportunity to become restless and seek out continuous improvement.

Watch video footage from our Enterprise Growth Transformation Summit, where Marty Nicholas and Abhik Sengupta explain how to transition new ways of working into business-as-usual and build a culture of data and customer-driven optimisation.

Find out more

For a more comprehensive view of how to achieve customer-centric transformation through the five key shifts of Customer Strategy, Customer Process, People & Capability, Technology, and Execution Excellence, please download our Enterprise Growth Transformation white paper