It seems obvious: internal initiatives are successful in direct proportion to how ready the organization is to make them a success.
But time and time again companies fail to realize full return on their process/technology investments because readiness is improperly defined or not defined at all. Here are 5 things that must be done to guarantee your organization is prepared regardless of the size or scope of the effort.
1. Start with one clear definition of success
Different aspects of the effort have different measures of success. Timing, budgets and quality each have different metrics. And still, a project successfully brought in at spec, on time and under budget that fails to be adopted is ultimately a failure. While a late, over-budget, enlarged scope project wildly accepted is deemed a success.
When developing your definition be clear, unambiguous and as simple as possible . If what defines success is muddy, fractured or ambiguous, your initiative may look the same way when completed. Use “Land a person on the moon and bring them back safely.” as your guide to a clear, unambiguous and simple success definition (with credit to JFK).
The Charter or primary organizing document is the best place to memorialize this decision, but it shouldn’t be the only place people see it or hear about it. Every stakeholder should be able to recite the goal and that will take deliberate communication. See #5 below.
2. Identify everyone who needs to be prepared
Remember that a key group or individual who is not ready can destroy momentum and retard progress. Knowing who is ready and who is not is critical.
Augment the project’s Stakeholder List with Readiness info. Review and refine this list during the arc of the effort.
3. Pay attention to momentum and critical mass
Trying to jam in needed promotion and testing at the tail end of an initiative rarely achieves the same result as a deliberate and steady orchestration of messages over time.
Judiciously apply Just In Time methods to fill gaps.
4. Continuously test and gauge who is ready and who is not
Understand what each group identified in #2 needs to be ready.
Call it training, instruction, testing, assessment, temperature taking, etc., this activity can move readiness from an assumption to a documented fact.
It will also expose gaps.
5. Construct the communication plan from the outside-in
Regardless of the method used to deliver the outcome, every initiative needs a communication plan. Plans focused on communicating status and metrics typically do not address the social aspects of getting ready. Everyone involved has a personal role in getting ready and being ready when needed. Use the communication plan to make it happen.
Do not underestimate the power of social interactions to lift or sink your effort. From water cooler gossip to company blogs, opportunities exist to positively leverage social interaction.
Finally, all communication must anticipate how the audience will interpret the message if it is to be optimally effective – an outside-in approach. The timing of messages and how things are written, contribute significantly to whether people truly understand. If you find yourself hearing or saying – “we need to tell them” the focus is inside-out.
Readiness is the overarching critical success factor all initiatives have. But I repeatedly see readiness as a negotiated or mandated event, rather than an orchestrated and validated precursor to success. The activities above will ensure everyone is ready to achieve success; ignore them at your peril.