Who is the best individual to lead your transformation efforts?
When it comes to a major business transformation program, should the leader of it necessarily be an expert in change or should it be a Subject Matter Expert? Perhaps the best person to be leading the transformation, should be a senior employee who knows the business inside out and back again? For example, BPM initiatives appear to be led primarily by IT, but is that always best? (These are all questions I would only ask a client over a beer, as it has the potential to actually be somewhat contentious!)
Much seems to depend on the existing corporate culture and what accountability is in place for management performance. Overall, it’s fair to say, that opinions differ, even among business and IT when it comes to who should be leading the program. This decision is clearly a critical issue, with success of the program hinging on the decision (Of course the approach, ability to think out of the box and the techniques that will be used, are also major influencers). Many Directors that I work with offer different perspectives, with some firmly believing that any improvement or transformation project should be led by someone who is an expert in their industry. The field gets narrowed further, when the decision is taken to use someone inside the business.
In my view…
I understand that industry and company knowledge are important but too much focus on this leaves the need for key business transformation skills being overlooked. Surely the experience of actually leading the transforming of operations is the key and is a resource that I believe is rare. Critical skills concern the definition of tasks, building the common approaches, setting the standards and techniques to be followed and having sound project management skills. These come at the front of the queue in order of importance and are seldom found in companies, unless they have been built internally through trial and error. Unfortunately very few companies can tolerate this in today’s current corporate environment. It’s easier to find people with business vertical skills or good IT skills, but to find people who know how to deliver business change – especially large, complex change – that’s surprisingly tough!
I confess that industry and company knowledge are also of high importance to the success of any programme or project, so this isn’t the point for debate, but these skills should be part of the transformation team. My view is that they are not needed in the transformation project’s definition and management, but in the team itself. It’s not a question that many businesses need to answer currently, as a short term fix is to mobilise quickly and use a consulting option.
Longer term, who should be leading?
This program leader needs to be defining, conducting and managing change, teaching/mentoring the transformation team, coaching industry experts, subject matter experts, technology experts, legal experts, and production experts. I’d be interested to get more views and opinions, given longer term, firms will need a strategy to build their own transformation capabilities. Ultimately, I can see plenty of firms opting for a business expert or industry expert, which I question the wisdom of. Surely it has to be a business led program or project manager every time?