6 key steps for embedding new ways of working

Given the complexity of customer-centric transformation, it is easy for leaders to get distracted by changing priorities and short-term thinking. However, in order to realise the full business case benefits, it is crucial to embed new ways of working. In this post we explore six key steps that leading organisations must focus on, to ensure they approach transformation as an ongoing process for continuous improvement – rather than a one-off, linear change.

Organisations often spend an enormous amount of time and energy designing and building a future state solution, only to under-invest in the implementation and embedding aspects. However it’s not just about the dollars invested, but also ensuring focus and resource allocation are balanced and maintained across the end-to-end process.

While transformation leaders typically start off well, they often get distracted by the next shiny new toy or get consumed by competing BAU priorities, before seeing the initiative successfully embedded into the frontline. Change fatigue sets in when projects falter or complexity hits, and leaders often start to make compromises to the solution that prevent full value from being delivered. So how do you maintain momentum?

Organisations need to shine a light on early indicators of adoption, effectiveness and efficiency, allowing leaders to balance execution discipline with continuous improvement.
Step 1 – Provide Executive Focus
The foundation for successful execution is having leaders actively create the right environment for change to happen. Sponsor focus is about ensuring that transformation leaders are visible, vocal, and aligned throughout the transition and beyond. Leaders play an important role in generating belief in – and commitment to change. It’s vital that they’re seen as credible and authentic champions of the project.

When embedding change, leaders need to:

  • Engage the team with a compelling vision, centred around the customer
  • Mobilise people with vocal and visible leadership throughout the process
  • Stay the course to motivate people to overcome their frustrations and early challenges

Step 2 – Create Execution Accountability
Transformation objectives need to be woven into both the organisation’s and individual’s performance measures – it creates the vital link to operational outcomes and encourages accountability. Taking relevant elements of the business case benefits and hardwiring them directly into business plans, KPIs and reward schemes will also ensure middle managers are playing their part in delivering success.

It is crucial to ensure execution accountability for leaders at all levels and across all functions by:
  • Translating the high-level benefits of the change initiative at an operational level and incorporating the achievement of these benefits into their business plans
  • Including change objectives in regular performance management processes to bring clarity and focus across the levels where the work gets done
  • Aligning reward and incentive schemes to have a significant component measuring the achievement of implementation objectives and future state benefits

Step 3 – Embed New Capabilities
It is the people within an organisation that make change happen – not the organisation itself. Organisations can implement changes to process, structure or technology, but unless people adopt these changes with confidence, it is unlikely that the real vision for a transformation will be achieved.

Training and communication alone aren’t sufficient to support people along the path to success. The new skills, mindsets and behaviours required must be:
  • Practiced and demonstrated in a challenging environment that reflects real life
  • Supported with self-paced digital learning to enable easy accessibility ‘on-the-go’ and engage the employee over a longer timeframe
  • Reinforced with frontline coaching to provide support at the points of greatest stress, where it is easy to revert to old habits

Step 4 – Establish Adoption & Lead Indicator Tracking
Adoption is not binary, it is an evolving process that happens over an extensive period leading up to and beyond implementation.  Having the right strategy to measure the progress of adoption, will not only provide evidence of headway, but also act as an early warning of issues to address.

Transformation is often long, difficult and complex, so leaders must track progress with:
  • An adoption strategy that helps monitor and manage adoption along a maturity curve over an extended period of time
  • A fit-for-purpose set of metrics that enable effective measurement of transformation implementation
  • Lead indicators of adoption, effectiveness and efficiency to provide early warning signs for course correction

Step 5 – Ensure Frontline Engagement
It is crucial to foster trust and momentum at the frontline, where changes to ways of working will be activated. This can be achieved by keeping the frontline focused on transformation goals, helping them connect with stories of success, and addressing early pain points and frustrations. Learning and adapting the new ways of working takes energy. Balancing the pressures of normal business cycles with the need to learn and apply new skills can be taxing on the frontline.

To minimise fatigue and maintain the momentum for your transformation journey, it is critical to:
  • Over-invest in the pivotal role of the frontline manager, as success at the individual and team level is often determined by the amount of follow-up and coaching provided by them
  • Anchor the change narrative in CX & EX improvements to provide a powerful platform for organisations to engage their people
  • Sequence change ‘packages’ to make adoption easier, by front-loading changes that address employee pain points

Step 6 – Focus on Continuous Improvement
When going through significant change, many organisations mobilise around bursts of transformation energy, before lapsing into periods of consolidation as change beds down. In today’s dynamic customer environment, we observe that high-performing organisations maintain continual business momentum – embracing a culture of ‘restless excellence’ and considering learning and improvement as BAU.

To maintain this energy and focus on continuous improvement, organisations must:
  • Define the criteria for success to identify whether the organisation is staying true to its change vision
  • Establish a culture of data-driven optimisation by using the proliferation of data emerging through digital and physical channels, to enable more informed decisions about what is working and what is not
  • Identify areas to apply increased focus and embrace this business momentum to rev the engine even harder, ensuring the CX is seen as everyone’s responsibility
Co-authored by Abhik Sengupta and Jessica Flynn.