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Transformation challenges: We want it all, and we want it now!

“What are the goals and the most important projects?” the manager asks. “Everything is important,” his supervisor answers. “Go get organized!” How many times have I heard or witnessed some version of that scenario in an organization? So what comes next? Here are my thoughts.

When everything is important…!

Everything is critical. You need to transform, develop new products, tap into new markets, cut costs, standardize your processes, change your systems, be more agile and innovative, become more collaborative, change your organizational structure, address your quality issues, boost client satisfaction and… the list could go on forever.

Executives and managers are under intense pressure, from both external issues (clients, markets, competitors, new technologies) and internal issues (obsolete systems, ineffective processes, shortage of resources and expertise, unnecessarily heavy structures, production problems).

The risk of multiple initiatives

How do you deal with those issues? You quite rightly undertake multiple initiatives. However, even if each individual initiative is fully warranted, without rigorous management across the entire company and its teams, a multiplicity of initiatives can have adverse effects, such as:

  • Resources that are too thinly spread
  • Amounts spend in vain and resources allocated to secondary projects
  • Exhaustion of team members (managers and experts) assigned to multiple projects on top of their usual tasks
  • Projects that miss their deadlines, overrun their budgets and fail to deliver the desired results
  • A drop in engagement due to overwork and the frustration of investing effort with no concrete results to show for it.

Learn to say NO

How can you respond to pressure, both external and internal, and transform rapidly at all levels without becoming overwhelmed by multiple initiatives? There is no magic formula, only proven practices from other leaders and organizations:

“It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” — Steve Jobs

  • Learn to say no to initiatives and opportunities that deviate from your vision, goals and high-priority projects, no matter how interesting.
  • Set up an "idea to project" process to run good ideas through before they can become formal projects.
  • Create a transformation office or similar structure that allows you to prioritize, sequence and track all of your organization's projects and initiatives (technology, business or other).

As a leader, beware of your own impatience, because that is often the source of the burgeoning of initiatives.

Marcel Auclair,
Cofounder, Vice President and Strategic Consultant

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