Realising the Benefits of Change
“I’m planning work that will drive substantial change in our organisation. It will be disruptive and is likely to face some resistance, but the potential payoff is significant. We’re good at making sure we start by defining what we want to achieve from change initiatives, but once we’re implementing projects we tend to get buried in the delivery work. Afterwards we’re usually relieved to have the job done and just want to put the tough change work behind us. How do I make sure we stay focused on delivering those ultimate outcomes – the ‘why’, not just the ‘what’?”
Great question. The benefits of change are much more likely to be achieved if you have material activities relating to delivering outcomes (the benefits) in addition to outputs (the scope of work to deliver the change). That’s the principle underlying ‘benefits realisation management’.
If we think in terms of change projects, there are perhaps four levels of maturity organisations move through with respect to managing benefits:
- We justify change by explicitly defining the benefits we expect it to deliver, typically in a business case. (Benefits should be quantified where possible, with targets and timelines stated.)
- After change has been delivered and is bedded in, we apply our measures and evaluate success.
- We give ourselves the best chance of achieving success by building benefits management into delivery work from the start.
- We learn from our experience over time and systematise benefits realisation management. We start to apply it more widely, not only to discrete change projects.
Benefits realisation management isn’t the same as delivery quality management, but should integrate with it to avoid creating too much compliance and reporting work. Benefits management supports investment logic in that it provides increased assurance that outcomes will be achieved. Delivery quality management is a support function comprising quality assurance (management quality) and quality control (work output quality) activities.
So how can you make a start? Effective benefits realisation management needn’t be complex or ‘heavy’. It should start with a management plan that raises and maintains the visibility of the target benefits. The plan should set out the processes through which benefits realisation will be actively managed and monitored, and will encourage the behaviour changes needed across the organisation. This will be especially important in your situation where you expect to encounter resistance.
The benefits management plan must centre on the definition of success. If you make use of some form of outcome-deliverable mapping such as investment logic maps, then you should already have an appropriate set of key success measures. If you don’t and are not sure where to start, then let us know and we’ll share a useful set of principles to guide the development of effective measures. Aim to ensure that each measure states specific targets and timelines for achievement.
What does it take to deliver benefits? People. Benefits realisation work can be less tangible and time-bound than day-to-day change delivery work. It’s essential that responsibilities are clearly defined, understood and assigned. Consider and document the following:
- Benefits ownership and governance. Who will have overall accountability for the realisation of benefits?
- Benefits delivery. This is the most critical benefit achievement role. Who will ensure change is integrated into business-as-usual operations? Who will manage the changes in behaviour needed to ensure maximum value is achieved? Who will provide commentary on the usefulness of change outputs and the impact on organisation strategies / outcomes?
- Evidence collation and analysis. Who will collate and report on measures data? What subject matter expertise will be needed to undertake analysis? Who will integrate benefits reporting into existing organisation reports if that is appropriate?
- Assurance. Who will monitor and ensure the integrity of the benefits management approach and processes?
Identify factors that put the achievement of benefits at risk. Discuss these and identify mitigation activities.
Remember how important it is to keep the definition of success in people’s minds. For planning and communication purposes create a matrix (it should fit on one A4 or A3 page) that specifies at least each benefit, each key success measure, and for each measure:
- the rationale for selecting it
- delivery and reporting responsibilities
- the sources of information needed to apply the measure
- the mechanism for reporting
- the schedule for reporting.
This should give you a solid foundation to build on.
For more information on benefits realisation management email us at Maven@consultmaven.co.nz or call us on +64 4 801 6026.