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Strategic Initiatives

Why do so many strategic initiatives fail? No matter what they involve - new technologies, process changes, or organizational changes - most initiatives do not deliver the results promised in their business cases.

Our experience with hundreds of implementations suggests three  main root causes, and our approach is based on overcoming them, specifically and systematically.

Change management


A large initiative forces significant changes in both the people and operational environment. Most implementations cover the latter well - deployment plans address the changes in work processes, data, and the supporting technology infrastructure. However, they often fail to consider the changes required in behavior. It is assumed that people will “buy in” to the initiative and do what is needed to make it succeed because it is the right thing to do.


What most implementations fail to realize is that behavior change is actually very hard to sustain. People resist efforts to change a proven process, sometimes even if the benefits of the change are obvious. Large-scale change is taxing, and, by its very nature, risky and uncertain.


Three key enablers need to be in place for behavior change to occur:


  • Knowledge: What is changing, and how will I need to change my behavior?

  • Motivation: Why is this change necessary, and how will it help me and the organization?

  • Support: What education and ongoing coaching and structural changes will be required to sustain the change?


Our RACE methodology ensures that the deployment plan systematically considers the stakeholders involved and the barriers to change and develops specific strategies that address those barriers. We encourage our clients to invest the time and resources necessary to plan for the change and develop strategies to promote it.


Change readiness


Sometimes there is no choice but to change and change fast. M&A, product failures, and market crises can all lead to change that is fast and furious. Of course, well thought-through and well-executed change management is all the more important in such situations.


Absent such an imperative, the pace of change should relate inversely to the organization’s readiness to change. Readiness to change depends upon a number of factors, both operational and people-related.


In the former category, availability of clean and ready data is often the primary dimension that defines readiness. Others include the process and technology infrastructure in place to support the change. In the latter category, readiness depends upon how much change is already ongoing in the organization (leading to change weariness) and the attitude, skill level, and motivation of the team members.


At HMC, we have developed organizational assessment tools - such as the Heat Map and the OCM diagnostic - that thoroughly examine the organization’s change readiness relative to the extent of the planned change. This brings a change management perspective to? the initiative road map and helps ensure that the initiative will actually be adopted and therefore bring the desired results. When it comes to organizational change, timing really is everything.

The change initiative


Not all programs work in all organizations. Understanding what type of initiative is right for the organization is a vital part of the ability to deliver results. A good initiative must be consistent with the strategy, the operational environment, and the people environment of the organization.


For example, a time and resource tracking application that may work fine in Clinical Operations might well be counterproductive in the Discovery organization. That’s because the latter is usually a very organic structure dependent largely on the motivation of its very talented people and not so much on how precisely they manage their time across different projects. Similarly, a sales tracking application that precisely measures "reach and frequency of interactions" may not be a great answer for managed care account managers whose ticket to success is the quality (not quantity) of interactions with key accounts. A sound initiative must address a need or improve upon the strengths of an operation.


The essential document that answers the “why?” question is the business case. Typically, the business case lays out the benefits - financial and non-financial - that can be expected from the initiative. It also outlines the risks, particularly those in the financial and technological areas. At HMC, we look at the business case more comprehensively. In addition to the value and risks, we make sure that organizational fit is part of the assessment. This puts organizational elements and the change management front and center from the very start of the program.

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