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Aslan Korolev
Aslan Korolev

7 : Transformation



While the benefits of transformation can be huge, delivering these projects can be incredibly challenging. By their very nature, complex transformations usually involve significant organisational and cultural change, introducing new ways of working, and experimenting with new and innovative technology. Importantly, much of this needs to be delivered at the same time.




7 : Transformation



Seeing this expert community grow and create tools like the 7 Lenses gives us high confidence that we will continue to improve our ability to deliver the transformation of government for the benefit of citizens.


As of 2018, government is working to deliver more than 50 major transformation projects. They will realise almost 50 billion worth of benefits that will deliver into the next parliament. The sheer scope, scale and complexity of this portfolio is extraordinary. We identified some common characteristics across the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) that helped us to define the transformation portfolio and to understand the nature of these projects.


These transformation projects are different in their nature from traditional major projects and invariably need multiple interdependent elements to be delivered concurrently. In addition to the drivers for transformation set out above, many also feature the following characteristics:


In 2016 we created a cross-government community of practitioners to share experience of transformation. We wanted to learn from successful work across government to identify areas we collectively need to tackle and improve our chances of delivery.


The vision is a compelling picture of the future that aligns stakeholders around the purpose of the transformation, the scale of the ambition and the nature of the benefits. It creates the case for change and describes the user needs, the social and policy outcomes of the transformation. It defines how the organisation will operate.


Having a single view of the future can motivate people to collaborate towards shared outcomes, set the direction for subsequent transformation activities and provide a tool to ensure consistency between organisations.


Having a coherent design is important because complex transformations need a view of how the whole picture fits together to deliver the vision - for example service design, technology architecture, people structures, processes and contracts - and how the transformation fits more broadly with other parts of the organisational context.


Digital Services at the Border (DSAB) is a good example of a programme where getting the design right has been fundamental. Launched in 2014, DSAB is a successor to the Home Office e-borders programme and is a business transformation programme enabled by information and computer technology.


The plan provides a roadmap for identifying the sequencing and interdependencies between the different elements and responsibilities across the transformation programme or activity. This helps you to understand where you are heading and have a way to measure that the transformation is on track, while understanding how any critical services will be sustained during the change.


All projects need a plan, but for transformation the plan must reflect the complexity of the programme and accommodate the fact that not everything can be known upfront. It is not just about creating the roadmap as a one off activity, but about the process of iterating and maintaining it within a constantly evolving environment that cuts across organisations. This takes skill. To be successful, organisations need to invest in both adaptive leadership skills and intelligent programme management capability.


Invest time and effort upfront in developing a credible plan. This will save time and avoid delay at a later stage. Plan the transformation in chunks that are achievable and can demonstrate incremental success - you can rarely do everything at once.


Whereas leadership of traditional projects tends to be about minimising uncertainty, transformation leadership is about creating the right amount of uncertainty to generate productive organisational distress. This requires a higher appetite for risk and an understanding that transformation can take a significant amount of time. Alongside specific programme delivery, transformation leaders need to bring together multiple interrelated disciplines, which will typically include organisation design, culture change and human resources (HR) activity.


Having strong leadership is critical to the effective delivery of transformation. The complexity of transformation places a high demand on the leader and transformation leaders need to recognise this by employing an adaptive leadership style that sustains energy, manages uncertainty and drives a common purpose.


Leaders need to be supported by a strong enabling environment with strong sponsorship from the top. The senior team needs to be in agreement around what the transformation vision is and lead from the front in communicating this to the organisation and its stakeholders.


There are not yet enough experienced transformations leaders in government to meet current demand. Very senior leaders must balance the needs of getting early momentum on the programmes with the need to secure the right calibre of SRO or programme director.


Based on the experience of the transformation community, the new elective module aims to help project and programme leaders understand some of the nuances around transformation leadership and focus more on the people elements of transformation.


Within an ambiguous and changing environment such as the delivery of government services, successful transformation requires effective collaboration across multiple different groups, for example other government departments, agencies, 3rd and private sector partners, citizens, service users, suppliers and international partners.


Collaboration is about supporting teams to have authentic and open conversations with stakeholders. This can help unlock challenges through different perspectives and insights that move the programme towards its intended outcomes. Ideas and lessons from other transformational leaders are often a valuable source for effective collaboration.


Structured collaboration will identify opportunities to share across organisations by mapping out and comparing the components which are required for services. Doing this will help avoid duplication and re-work, and deliver the transformation more quickly and cheaply. It can also help achieve a more consistent experience for users.


Accountability is about clearly defining the roles within the organisation and the transformation - knowing who is ultimately accountable for what, empowering people to deliver and holding them to account, internally and externally. As complexity goes up, the need for clearly defined governance becomes more important to deliver a successful outcome.


Every organisation needs clear, dedicated and senior accountability for the leadership and organisation of any transformation activity. Having the right organisational structure and transformation programme structures in place will help you make faster and better decisions, and make it easier to involve the right people throughout the process. The governance structure needs to encourage the flow of information vertically and horizontally, and provide incentives for different parts of the organisation to behave in a collaborative way.


People will be accountable for delivering specific outcomes. Over time, other people may be made accountable for the overall transformation. In complex transformation programmes, it is essential to be clear how the accountabilities work with each other, particularly when programmes straddle organisational boundaries.


An increasing number of programmes require cross-department collaboration. In these cases, it is essential to build an operating and accountability environment that supports ownership of transformation outcomes across organisations, with a shared understanding of the boundaries and interdependencies.


HMRC introduced the role of Director General for Transformation to provide a single point of accountability for transformation delivery and increase organisational maturity and understanding of transformation at the executive team level. This allowed the department to create a transformation portfolio with clear outcomes, dependencies and responsibilities for every stage of delivery.


This role was the SRO accountable for all HMRC transformation programmes and was the lead for prioritisation and delivery. Having a single SRO for transformation in the early stages of delivery allowed the organisation to develop its transformation capabilities and meant that that core dependencies across programmes were understood and managed at a portfolio level.


Engagement starts with those people who are affected by the programme and those that are supporting the transformation. Planning and implementing a comprehensive communication campaign is essential to keep people engaged.


It is important to have the right people with the appropriate skills and mindset to support your transformation. You will require skills from a number of government functions like policy, finance, project delivery, commercial and digital to work together on your transformation. Finding people with the right skills and experience is fundamental for success.


The team runs events to help share where transformation is working well, and welcomes contributions to the reference library of good work from around government they are building. They are also able to help with specific issues your transformation may be facing.


Some leaders rely on action logics that hinder organizational performance. Opportunists, for example, believe in winning any way possible, and often exploit others to score personal gains. Few people follow them for long. Other types prove potent change agents. In particular, Strategists believe that every aspect of their organization is open to discussion and transformation. Their action logic enables them to challenge perceptions that constrain their organizations and to overcome resistance to change. They create compelling, shared visions and lead the pragmatic initiatives needed to realize those visions. 041b061a72


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