Ghislain Taschini

Ghislain Taschini, Senior Consultant of Renault-Nissan Consulting, reflects on leaning corporate transformations.

Corporate Transformation Programmes are top-down, company and worldwide initiatives decided by the CEO and its Leadership team. These programs may be reactive to decrease costs or proactive to develop sales, revenue or market share and the motives are numerous: implement a revised organization, enable the leadership of a new management team, execute an ambitious corporate sales & marketing strategy, succeed in a merger & acquisition.

  • From a program management perspective, how do you ensure these programs deliver tangible results?

  • How can the Lean principles and mindset contribute to the success of these initiatives?

In the case of Corporate Programme deployment, Programme Management has to listen to two Voices of the Customer.

1) The CEO and his Senior Management team represent the first Voice of the Customer and usually express the critical need and concern to “move fast”.

2) Operational Units are the second Voice of the Customer: they expect a clear Corporate vision and as well as guidelines that link their short and medium term actions to this vision.

Senior Management and Operational Units are thus customers of the Programme but also major if not the most important stakeholders. As instigators and sponsors of a Corporate Programme, Senior Management must play an active change agent role so it is key the leadership team is unified from the outset of the Programme and commits to the vision. From an operational standpoint, employees must be engaged as soon as possible around this vision and this often a challenge as there is a gap between the Operational Units’ perception of the value of a Corporate Transformation programme and the top management’s : common opinions about Corporate Programmes are “Not another global initiative from HQ”, “We’ve tried this before”, “We have no time and means for this.”

As a remedy, like in any lean project charter, Programme objectives should be SMART* and desired states and results will be clearly formulated in the Programme guidelines. This will enable, amongst other key framing discussions, to address the subjects of initiative prioritization and resource-allocation.

Preparation and stakeholder management are definitely important but this should not be at the expense of speed and “paralysis by analysis” should be avoided by any means. Businesses and organizations are often running at full capacity so the sense of urgency can be encouraged with a separate and focused management process for "quick win" projects.  This includes setting up a roadmap with specific waypoints and dates. 

A common mistake to avoid is the piling up of initiatives without optimized coherence in over-dimensioned Corporate Transformation Programmes. On the contrary, the selection of initiatives must be drastic and a particular attention must be paid to the interfaces as time and energy wasting impediments usually occur managing overlaps. 

Once the Programme and Programme initiatives are defined and launched, typical delays and waste sources should be identified and eliminated. For example, there can be too few checks of the value and relevance of information exchanged. Similarly, there is usually too much delay between the time information is obtained and the moment it is effectively used to add business value.

One way to ensure maximum value flow is to encourage the teams to get away from a cautious management culture and move to a more collaborative mode. Creativity and new opportunity generation will come from the sharing of Best Practices and Programme participants will take but also give more value if they proactively go and look for information, benchmark best practices in the information provided by  the Corporate Programme.

Finally, the Programme management team should create and maintain a permanent mindset of continuous improvement.  Regular team meetings will be organized to discuss successes and failures observed during major milestones.

Programme management teams are often caught between the obligation to deploy programme approaches and the necessity to take into account Operational Units’ business realities. There needs to be a fine balance and permanent arbitration between global expectations and local constraints.

Ultimately, the Programme Management team will have embedded the Corporate Transformation Programme objectives, processes and behaviors in the Operational Units and will be able to stop its activity and existence. This will only happen if the whole organization has worked along two of the key lean principles : keep it simple and move fast.

* SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-related. 

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