By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Part 2 of a 3-Part Series
Do you have a digital transformation plan and want to learn best practice steps for successful execution? If so, would you also like to learn some tips on avoiding potential pitfalls?
[If you don’t have a plan and want to start one, then click here for best-practice tips.]
Thanks to Michael Cantu’ of Accelerate, he's outlined the following best-practice steps to help you succeed with plan execution.
As a side note, these tips can apply to any project, not just digital transformation!
Let's get started!
Create the Right Team
1. Assess Your Internal Human Capital
The first thing to do is determine the skill sets you need for your team to accomplish the plan. Ask yourself:
This assessment is vitally important, because as you're digitally transforming, you’ll want to add people from outside of your organization to address any skill set deficit you may have.
2. Determine How to Fill Skill Gaps
You can add to your team one of two ways—through either a consulting firm or a direct hire/augmentation firm. If you decide to go the consulting route, their people can work with your team to fill particular types of skill deficits. The same goes for the direct-hire or augmentation pathway.
Whichever path you choose, you're looking for people who can take initiative to push your plan forward.
3. Conduct Interviews
Before you start, ensure you have a solid interview process in place with established objectives. Consider the following best practices:
Involve Your Team in the Interview Process
Since you will be bringing two groups together, it’s best for your internal team to be involved in the interview process. This is so important! Your goal is to jointly assess the strengths and weaknesses of the interviewees and for you to observe how they interact with your current team members.
The goal is to determine in advance how the individuals are going to meld together and whether they're going to get along, because that's going to determine the success of your project.
One thing you’ll want to do is observe how your team members respond to the interviewees, particularly if the candidates have more knowledge in a particular area than your team members possess. It’s important to gauge in advance the reaction and response between the two, observing the quality of “Yes/No” from your team in regard to a particular individual. You want to determine if there could be potential problems, such as a current team member feeling intimidated by an in-coming person, due to a knowledge gap in a certain area.
The other thing that will determine the success of your project is if the candidate will be able to do the task at hand. You’ll need to ask yourself: will this person fulfill the skill set deficit that we advertised in the job description? That's important, because if you just hire somebody your team likes, and they have similar skills, it doesn't solve your skill set need to create a competent team to successfully execute the plan.
After you’ve completed the interviews, it’s best to get feedback from your team on the interviewees while letting them know you have the final say. It’s important to get that buy-in and get your teams’ opinion before you make your final decision; otherwise, you could encounter a lot of friction down the road between team members.
Getting that buy-in should eliminate a lot of the comments like: “this person doesn’t meet what we need” or “I didn’t get any input in bringing this person on board” or “I don't even feel like they're a good part of our team.”
This is vital, because you don’t want anyone copping out midway on your digital transformation projects by making up excuses for why they don't think the team can be successful. Ultimately, the team’s success is going to rely upon the success of all team members.
4. Establish Group Vision
After you bring the two groups together, start with the following questions:
This last point deserves more in-depth attention, so let’s dive into that.
Identify the Roadblocks
It’s important that your team has the opportunity to voice potential roadblocks at the very beginning without fear of being punished. So, create a safe environment where people can call the x’s and the y’s the way they see them instead of the way they think you may want to hear.
If they don’t feel safe identifying potential roadblocks, or for some reason they can’t identify them, the team will typically run into problems later on down the road. If you’ve done a good job of creating that safe environment, and they’re unwilling to share their thoughts, it could mean this—they're not thinking through the problem they're looking to solve. Every plan has problems or roadblocks that you're going to encounter, so diving deeper into their reluctance is a good tactic to pursue.
This is key: active listening and creating that safe environment is going to be a big determining factor of your success as their leader and the teams’ as well.
Using Roadblocks to Extend Group Vision
Uncovering roadblocks is also beneficial for extending group vision. It comes down to looking at the following:
As a rule of thumb, having less time will require more resources. If you have extra time, you’ll be able to compensate from different areas. And if you have a smaller budget, you’ll have to uniquely approach the problem in a different way, but together as a team. Clarifying these constraints upfront helps the team to more effectively identify the roadblocks that currently exist and helps them to operate more effectively in their environment.
These roadblocks can be either known and unknown. The known roadblocks are always top-of-mind. Say, for instance, your team has needed to attend to some data for a long time. If they’ve previously defined the preexisting parameters, they could determine more quickly whether or not something is truly attainable.
Here’s an example for unknowns. Say, your team has been working on a project where the data has a lot of unknowns, but the timeline for project completion is short. In this case, they’ll need to get creative when bringing together data sets.
Here’s another important point: every compensation for a roadblock leads to other compensating behaviors, so it’s best to have a clear picture of all items—while cultivating that safe environment we mentioned earlier. This helps to ensure that all parties have a clear understanding of the objectives and the percentage likelihood of achieving them. Having this clarity increases the likelihood of project success.
In the end, it is of utmost important that everybody knows the objective and the timeline. Uncovering roadblocks can help elevate what needs to happen, contributing to a more solid project plan and corresponding vision.
When all is said and done, success is going to be determined in no small way by people being honest with each other.
5. Review the Plan
This involves looking over the plan and ensuring the best use of your team’s capabilities. A great way to start is talking through the tasks you want to accomplish, from a software development perspective, through T-shirt sizing,
When looking at the smaller units of your plan, ask each team member:
For example, you may have a particular feature of your digital transformation roadmap that is currently assigned to John on the team; however, he may not be the most competent to do that task.
For instance, John may say it’s a large size while everyone else in the group thinks it's a small or medium. His “large” assessment points out that someone else on the team could potentially finish it much quicker than he could. That way you can give John another task that is a small or medium item.
The goal is to have the team working to their strengths—that’s what great about this exercise. It’s an excellent approach to quickly figure out who will be the best fit for the task at hand.
6. Make Alterations
After you've ensured the capabilities within the team, it’s best to make alterations to the plan to include unforeseen items, which is always the case. Once you start executing the plan, new things are going to arise, because your brains didn't go down those particular pathways when you first developed it.
For example, you may have some legacy systems that weren’t considered or something that was not part of the original scope that interact or interfere with the process. You’ll need to escalate that to a particular business stakeholder, letting them know about the change.
Or, there might be something unforeseen that crops up mid-project, requiring an adjustment. It could be a newly identified skill set that’s needed or perhaps someone’s on medical leave. This could be problematic if that skill set or the person on leave is on the critical path.
So, it’s necessary at times to make alterations such as these. While doing that, it’s helpful to look for secondary or deviating pathways that are non-critical to get around those particular items.
7. Set Project Kick-Off and Start Cadence
This involves setting a cadence of follow-ups and check-ins based on the plan, the assignments you’ve made and the sizings you’ve put together.
This cadence should be tied to the project velocity, which is based on the resources you have as well as the project constraints you’ve established.
For example, if you have four team members on a project, and you know that they can work 40 hours a week over a period of three months, your velocity is 160 (4 weeks x40 hours = 160) for the month, per person.
Velocity is important, because it’s going to clue you in on what’s important, what tasks needs to be removed and whether you can meet that actual deadlines.
Final Thoughts on Execution
Every day when you're working through executing the plan, it’s an assessment and reassessment of how you’re keeping to the plan. It involves check-ins with people to determine if they have the proper resources, etc. It’s vital to know where your team’s at all the time to help ensure success. Obviously, you’ll make pivots as needed, which hopefully won’t be as frequent as check-ins.
So, by performing this due diligence, you’ll execute a plan and keep to a cadence that will help ensure your project is successful.
Interested in kicking off a more intentional focus on digital transformation? If so, Michael Cantu’ and I would love to talk with you--to hear about your challenges and answer your questions. We'd love the opportunity to point you in the right direction!
If that's you, click here to get a time on our calendars!
Kathy Kent Toney
I'm passionate about helping organizations grow profitably in ways they haven't imagined!