Making change easier and effective

A major new survey by PwC has identified five key themes to boost the success rate of change management programmes


Organisations need to develop new and more effective ways of delivering strategic transformation programmes if they want to keep up with the rapid pace of change, according to PwC’s Global Portfolio and Programme Management (PPM) Survey.

The survey asked whether the people who commission change get what they want. For the majority the answer is no and the survey concludes that organisations need to think differently about programme delivery.

“With the world moving at an ever-faster pace, driven by innovation and collaboration, CEOs told us that to keep up with the world they will need to change – and fast,” says Sandie Grimshaw, global PPM leader at PwC. “While most CEOs recognise the need for change, many concede that their organisations need to be far more agile when executing their strategies in an environment facing dramatic change shaped by demographic shifts, technological advancement, regulatory landscape and economic uncertainty.

“Great execution depends on many factors, but often boils down to getting the basics right,” she adds. “But this is also where things often go wrong, as demonstrated in many of the survey findings.”

The fourth study of its kind – conducted in association with the Project Management Institute (PMI) – surveyed more than 3,000 executives, general employees and project managers from around the globe, working across a wide range of different sectors, to identify the implications of the rapid pace of change in the world of business for those tasked with managing projects.

Mark A. Langley, president and chief executive at PMI, asks: “Why does one organisation survive and the other slide into irrelevance? Why does another organisation not only survive, but thrive? The answer, again and again, can be linked directly to how they implement their projects — the place where strategy lives and breathes. And the answer always seems to conclude with how they prepare for and manage the change that accompanies these initiatives.”

The survey outlined five key themes where organisations could think differently about programme delivery, making a real difference to the chance of success of change management programmes.

OPTIMISE PORTFOLIOS TO MAXIMISE RETURNS

Chief executives recognise the need to be more agile in planning, but all too often don’t have the time to stop and reflect on earlier decisions, the survey found. Furthermore, there is often confusion over who is really driving strategy, with less than a third of executives agreeing that all change activities were driven from the strategy by leadership.

To counter this, organisations need to make decisions supported by objective criteria and quality data to ensure alignment with organisational priorities. Using a clear methodology removes “gaming” from the prioritisation process and ensures the right changes are commissioned in the first place. It also drives better sponsorship as there’s no ambiguity that the programmes are strategically important.

BE FLEXIBLE, CHANGE FASTER

A theme which came up throughout the survey was that change needs to happen faster, yet programmes fail to embrace this in terms of the pace of their own delivery. Poor planning and changes to the scope of projects have consistently featured in the top three reasons why initiatives have been delayed over the past ten years, meaning both executives and project managers need to get better at planning and managing the scope of projects.

Project managers need to be able to adapt quicker to the challenges that will inevitably occur during change programmes. Being better informed of both the project itself and the wider business situation will give managers the ability to respond quickly to new developments or information, but they have to be prepared to make brave decisions so as to react more quickly.

ENABLE PEOPLE TO DELIVER SUCCESS

Organisations are very often ill-equipped to deliver the kinds of programme required and individuals often do this “off the side of their desk”, according to the survey. Only a minority of chief executives believe they are well prepared for change programmes across most business functions, while 55 per cent thought their organisation did not provide enough programme management training.

The success or failure of any project will ultimately depend on the people who run it. Providing the right tools, training and environment in which people can develop and flourish will enable them to deliver the change that is required.

CONNECT THE EXECUTIVE TEAM

The PwC survey clearly demonstrates a disconnect between what the executive team and project management community think around how change is delivered, with 75 per cent of executives saying business outcomes are clearly defined and understood, but only 61 per cent of general managers agreeing. Both executives and project teams need to work together to develop better working relationships that will give projects more chance of success.

Executives should engage with programme delivery teams early and then regularly to ensure projects remain on course to deliver the objectives. Building closer understanding and working arrangements will avoid gaps emerging between expected and actual results.

ADDRESS THE HARSH FACTS

As well as not being clear about initial objectives, organisations are also failing to measure progress towards desired benefits, the survey found. Almost 40 per cent of project managers said there were no clear accountabilities within programmes to enable delivery and nearly a third had no integrated schedules at both a project and programme level to ensure alignment with timelines.

Organisations need to demonstrate a greater willingness to tackle the big issues head on, ensuring those in charge of managing projects are able to spot potential problems and risks before they become issues. Doing so will allow organisations to monitor these and react accordingly, changing course where necessary.

In addition to the survey, PwC has conducted maturity assessments on over 350 programmes around the world, with budgets ranging from £50,000 to £1.5 billion, giving it a rich source of data with which to benchmark organisations’ performance, validate the survey results and analyse the true state of project management today.

This can help individual organisations pinpoint how their project management processes compare to best practice across a range of initiatives, from specific HR processes to complex business-wide transformation programmes, and how they can be performed more efficiently, giving programmes a greater chance of success.