Post Implementation Reviews

"One of the most common reasons that redesigns fail is the all too common assumption that the job essentially ends with the announcement of the new design."

This quote is taken from Competing by Design, by David A. Nadler, Michael L. Tushman. Although written a while ago it still holds true. However, I've found that suggesting review meets with resistance. But without reviewing opportunities for improvement are lost and/or things can go disastrously wrong.

There are several good reasons for doing reviews:

  • They help you to evaluate your success in achieving your design's objectives.
  • They identify anything that is out of alignment that needs work, and surface tasks still to be completed. (These may be things on the list or they may arise out of the review work).
  • They identify the impact of change so far – using the measures and metrics, you have in place to track success.
  • They provide the opportunity to recognize and reward the achievement of project team members and others involved.
  • They enable you and your team to reflect on the organization design process and learn from your experience: reviewing gives you information and knowledge to share with other projects teams and with your stakeholders

What reviews commonly find are that:

  • Implementation took more time than originally allocated: If you do a phased transition it is sometimes difficult to know when you have reached a point where it is clear that you have reached the new design.
  • Major problems surfaced during implementation that you had not identified beforehand: These can be internal or external and either way will have an adverse impact on implementation. However good your risk analysis you may leave out something that you could not anticipate.
  • Co-ordination of implementation activities was not effective enough: This talks to project and program management abilities. You must have a governance structure that keeps clear over-sight of all project work streams provides a coherent framework for them to operate within.
  • You do not define key implementation tasks and activities in enough detail: The cliché 'the devil is in the detail' holds true in redesign projects. However, the trick is to get enough detail without becoming bureaucratic and prescriptive.

  • Competing activities and crises distracted attention from implementing this decision: Day to day running of the business has to happen even through the redesign process. People's tendency is to work on the urgent rather than the important. Design work usually falls into their 'important' category.
  • Capabilities of employees involved were not enough: Where people move to new roles or responsibilities they must have the skills to deliver quickly in these. Too often people try to do new things without adequate preparation and instruction.
  • Training and instruction given to lower level employees was not adequate: Remember front-line staff are the people delivering your business. Unfortunately, they often come last in the pecking order of communication, training, and support in new processes.

  • Leadership and direction provided by departmental managers was not adequate: Leading a redesign is a difficult task and before you embark on it take thorough stock of your skills and abilities to lead and manage through the long haul. (See John Chambers, CEO Cisco, talking about this aspect on You Tube)
  • Information systems used to monitor implementation were not adequate: Use systems that are quick, simple, and transparent to monitor implementation. A balanced scorecard or dashboard approach works well. Getting all the information on one sheet weekly and paying attention to this week's progress compared with last week's is helpful.
  • People resist the change, try to shift the burden, and/or become accidental adversaries: The people issues that reviews uncover are often significant. Traditional operational metrics do not monitor people's responses to change. However, these usually untracked responses act against the project.

So all ammunition in the recommendation that an organizational design review is worth the investment – if you knew you were going to be reviewed would you take more steps to mitigate the risks of failure than if you knew that a review was unlikely?

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