Seven Strategies to Deliver Change

Last Updated Jun 11, 2008 11:37 AM EDT

Last week BA finally started to transfer some of its long-haul flights to Terminal 5, nearly three months after its disastrous opening. It is easy to be cynical and dismissive of the failed launch of the terminal, particularly given the £4bn invested. Yet, how many of us have executed a change programme flawlessly?

Based on my experience of leading, co-ordinating and consulting on change programmes, here are seven strategies for delivering successful change:

  1. Your ability to deliver a change programme successfully is directly proportional to the size and quality of your relationships with your colleagues, peers and stakeholders. Stuff happens on any change project and it will be your network that helps you overcome (or otherwise) the problems that will inevitably arise.
  2. The goal of any strategic change programme is to change behaviour - not to deliver new systems, launch a new product, or build an airport terminal. BA has admitted that its staff's lack of familiarity with the terminal was a key cause of the initial problems.
  3. Executive directors overestimate their organisation's capacity for change by a factor of two. Too many initiatives at any one time divert focus, energy and resources and only serve to slow things down. When Sir Stuart Rose's became CEO of M&S he cut the number of 'strategic initiatives' from 31 to 10, but he is the exception not the rule.
  4. The worst resistance is passive -- silence is not golden, it is deadly. It is much more difficult to deal with someone who silently fails to deliver than someone who complains openly about your programme. Ensure that accountabilities are put into writing at the start of the process and undertake regular progress meetings.
  5. Rapid prototyping and learning beats great planning every time. You will only know how any new process will perform after you have tested it. BA managers have admitted to seriously cutting back on its planned testing programme at Terminal 5 with obvious results.
  6. Be very suspicious of first-time success. I once led a team that trialled a new retail format in a single store. The results were outstanding and we quickly moved onto the next challenge. But the results weren't down to our initiatives, but to external factors, and the business was unable to replicate the results.
  7. On-time delivery is more important than on-budget delivery on most occasions. Hold those key milestones of the critical path as sacrosanct -- and not just the launch date. Construction over-runs at Terminal 5 directly led to the cancellation of the critical testing and training that undermined its first few days.
These are my 'secret strategies'. What do you use to ensure the successful delivery of your change programmes?
  • Stuart Cross

    Stuart Cross is a founder of Morgan Cross Consulting, which helps companies find new ways to drive substantial, profitable growth. His clients include Alliance Boots, Avon and PricewaterhouseCoopers.