Abandoning Change for Change’s Sake

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Change as previously stated is inevitable. How it manifests itself can bee seen as being either good or bad. Businesses do have a choice on the outcome. Any change will impact the business in some degree. Multiple changes will have multiple impacts and like ripples in a pond can and will interact with one another.

As all changes have consequences, when managing change, developing an understanding of what the consequences may be is paramount.

All too often it appears that change has occurred just for the sake of change. Ostensibly there may be a rationale such as ‘drive down costs’, demonstrate business innovation or a desire to ‘shape the market’. Because of the ripple effect the bigger picture needs to be explored.

Change examples

– A business restructures its organisation.

Experience has shown that an organisational restructure (or perhaps I should use the term down-sizing) often has consequences that are (but should not have been) unexpected. In shrinking the workforce a business will often lose valuable and irreplaceable Intellectual Capital. It does not make a lot of sense to shed essential, skilled resources only to have to hire them back at a higher rate of pay than they previously enjoyed. Similarly moving personnel into roles outside of their areas of expertise can introduce issues of dissatisfaction and frustration.

– A software application is tweaked.

How often have you been presented with an upgrade to a software application that you regularly use. It has been ‘enhanced’ with new features that you don’t want and/or had removed features that you found invaluable. Software manufacturers too often make changes that detract from the software’s overall value. User Interfaces may be changed in such a way that renders the software less than useful. Perhaps more steps have been introduced into the process to do the same thing but ‘Oh it looks so pretty’. Similarly as a feature list grows so does the complexity. It’s great to be clever but don’t be ‘too clever’. It can backfire. There must be an optimal point beyond which the software loses its value to its user. When this line is crossed a customer may be lost.

– Products and Services are added or removed from sale.

Shaping the market by changing the available product mix can alienate customers who have relied on products and services that have previously been available or become disenchanted with what is being offered. Products and services need to support the consumers requirements. Change in order to establish market presence can leave you without a market at all. Change because ‘we (the business) know best’ can be disenfranchising.

In each case above the rationale used by a business to validate the need for change may have been reasonable but the consequences of implementing the change may not.

When change or changes are contemplated it is essential that their full impact be assessed. Having an understanding how the ‘ripples’ will manifest themselves can lead to changes in the way that change will be facilitated. With better understanding the nature of any proposed change may alter.

Change will occur but there must a compelling reason to traverse one change path rather than another. A business should choose its change path based in providing maximum value to all stakeholders.

If the real objective of change is to to provide the business enterprise with a a cost efficient set of products and services that meet the true needs of of their consumers then ‘Change for change’s sake’ must be abandoned.

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Intentions, Actions and Business Outcomes

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The aphorism “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is particularly apt when looking at businesses or governments that aren’t doing as well as they should.

Intending to do something is not the same as actually doing it. It can be likened to an archer intending to hit a bulls eye. They may string the bow, nock the arrow but unless they aim and release the arrow the desired outcome will not be achieved.

Worse still, decision makers announcing their intention to do things that have the purpose of making them personally look good at the expense of doing things that may be unpopular will accelerate the trip.

Governments seem to be particularly good at stating their intentions. How often however is the government’s constituency disappointed in that there are no acceptable outcomes either defined or realised. Flagging one’s intentions to undertake a particular activity so often seems to be an excuse not to do what is needed.

Hearing “This is what I want” rather than “This is what we need” is not what is required for a good business outcome.

The language that is used by decision makers is critical if they wish to have any credibility.

By all means state “I intend to do X”.

This statement should however be accompanied with some success criteria.

I intend to do X by (date and time) and the outcome will be Y. The benefit of doing X will be Z This will be realised by W.

Once stated it becomes obvious what is to be done, why, when and what benefits are to be expected. Success or failure can be easily determined and the credibility of the decision maker in turning intentions into beneficial actions can be readily assessed.

The alternative of stating an intention without identifying a beneficial outcome and then not converting into action delvers no benefit to anyone at all.

To avoid the path to a figurative business ‘hell’ doing is more important than saying. Doing the right thing is even better.

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Framing Decisions in Business

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Change is inevitable. Every business enterprise whether private, government or ‘not for profit will be subject to some sort of change. How they respond will influence if the the outcome is positive or negative.

Change can be driven by many factors both internal and external. Understanding how they individually and inter-dependently affect the business is essential to optimally responding to them. Ultimately decisions will need to be made on how to accommodate change. It should be noted that not making a decision is actually a decision to do nothing.

Resistance to change can result in stagnation or devolution. Embracing change, if done well, can result in evolution and growth.

Using an Architecture Framework to shape business decisions

With many different factors influencing change it is good practice to establish a framework to work within.

A framework

  • provides the opportunity to capture what is important to the enterprise and to define relationships.
  • establishes a common vocabulary and structure around which conversations can be held.

A framework can be acquired from external sources and used to help shape the business. Useful frameworks, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, can be found in:

  • The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF)
  • Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture Framework (PEAF)
  • Australian Government Architecture Framework (AGA). This is based on version 1.0 of FEAF)
  • Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF) , developed by the US Government. This has moved on from the based that the Australian Government adopted with the significant inclusion of a Security Reference Model.

 

TOGAF

PEAF

AGA

FEAF

It is not essential that any of the published frameworks be applied to a business in its entirety. In practice it is more likely that a business will, if it decides that a framework should be adopted, select those components of a framework (or frameworks) which resonate with the existing organisation.

Adopting a framework is a wise decision. A framework however is only a tool which, in its application, can facilitate better decisions being made. A framework is not an end its own right.

In populating a framework with information various views can be established which can provide valuable insight into how the enterprise operates. If nothing else were developed other than an Operations Model at least the enterprise would have a good understanding of what it actually (or should) be doing.

Example ‘Not For profit’ Operations Model
This model can be extended by incorporating other factors influencing or being affected by the enterprise. Such a model provides the enterprise with a context for making decisions.

Example ‘Not For profit’ Operations Model with context
With a basic Operations Model it becomes easier to drill in further in order to establish the business functions or processes needed to support required business activity.

Example ‘Not For profit’ Operations Model drill-down

The model, to do itself justice, should capture not only what is being done but also what is needed but not currently done by the enterprise. With a full view a capability maturity assessment of the maturity level can be made. This exposes both the strengths and weaknesses of an enterprise which in turn suggests what areas need to be further developed and over what time-frame.

Example ‘Not For profit’ Maturity Model template
More generically a maturity model can be established highlighting those facets of the enterprise deemed to important.

The following is an example of the conceptual model developed to describe the operations within a state government department. The model’s first incarnation was based on an application of the Australian Government Architecture framework but was then modified, after consultation with the business, to include a strong security flavour. This then better aligned with the later version of FEAF.

Relationships between the different components of the model were established by developing and publishing a meta-model. This allowed for better and more productive conversations to be had between both the business and IT as well as identifying how change in one area could influence other parts of the business.

Processes associated to the Operations Model can be recorded using standardised modelling notations. Doing so provides a mechanism by which a line-of-sight can be established for all activities undertaken by the enterprise.

Example ‘Not For profit’ Process modelled using Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN)
With different notation standards available it is important, in order to maintain consistency that a single notation be adopted.

Example Idea Management Process modelled using Event driven Process Chain notation (EPC)
Above are a subset of models that can be developed using various frameworks. No single framework provides and all encompassing solution. There is no concept of ‘one size fits all’ when managing change.

There are many different frameworks that can be explored and should be. Considering an option and discarding it may be better than not having considered it the first place.

As well as those mentioned above it can be worthwhile looking at the Process Classification Framework from APQC – www.apqc.org and/or the ‘Skills Framework for the Informational Age’ (SFIA) – www.sfia-online.org/en. These give insight on what processes may be needed and what skills an enterprise may need to succeed.

 

 

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Where is the vision and the good decisions supporting it?

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What has happened to the practice of having a vision, determining goals and objectives, defining a need, establishing benefits then making good decisions.

Recently an email sent by the Australian Prime Minister indicated that expenditure on education in Australia would be increased by 75% for the next 10 years. The email  neither indicated how the funds would be spent nor what was expected to be achieved when expended.

The email did not acknowledge that over a 10 year period, on the basis of current trends, that the school population could be 13% larger than it is now and that the cost of living could be 23% higher. It also did not recognise, what many believe, that current expenditure is deficient. Without a defined goal it did not suggest how much money is actually needed.

Spending money just for the sake of spending it and without having an expected and measurable outcome is not wise. Announcing decisions that do nothing than superficially say “look at how good we are” or “we are spending so we must be doing something worthwhile” is not good policy.

This is marketing not strategy.

A government or a business needs to make strategic decisions that progress defined goals and objectives. Modelling potential outcomes in order to establish what benefits can be realised should be undertaken. The expected benefits justifying the expenditure should be explicitly defined, measurable and measured so that future decisions can be influenced by lessons learned.

To do otherwise is wasting time and scarce resources that could be better deployed. Worse still is the potential loss of real and long lasting opportunity.

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Wishful thinking – the antithesis of good management.

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Poor decisions with poor outcomes are common when a business engages in ‘wishful thinking’. Agreeing to pursue a course of action because of what the decision maker wants to occur is not always wise.

Ignoring drivers, constraints and capabilities when focused on a specific outcome is easy. Being mindful of all influences should be second nature but is not.

A decision maker in an organisation needs to be pragmatic. Focusing on the want at the expense of the possible leads to waste and potential failure.

Wanting something to occur will not make it happen. Making plans based on reality is the only viable option.  To do otherwise and expect a good result is delusional.

Actions resulting from wishful thinking may pay off but more likely not.

Successful businesses rely on good management not good luck.

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