Five Keys You Should Know for Organizational Initiatives

MCD has been working with numerous clients to implement organization-wide initiatives.  Many of these efforts have focused on project management or knowledge management.  Through our work with dozens of clients we have consistently seen these 5 keys as essential to successful implementation of these important efforts. Many of these seem like common sense but they are often overlooked or not clearly addressed.  

1.     Set clear expectations that serve as the target the organization strives to achieve through the initiative or change.  Too often organizations articulate a broad range vision or strategic plan but fail to clearly communicate what that plan means to staff expectations of performance.  Leadership teams need to ensure that they clearly express their expectations of staff with regard to the initiative or change.  These expectations allow all people in the organization an understanding of what they have to deliver.  Expectations do not have to be static and can be adapted, modified and changed as conditions change.  Expectations can also vary as organizations deliver a wide array of services and products. However, they have to consistently and clearly communicated so that there is universal understanding.  Expectations help establish a new policy regime to which the organization must comply.

2.     Develop the mechanisms to fulfill the established expectations.  Once the expectations have been agreed to, staff need to have the mechanisms – tools and processes – to meet the new demands.  Most organizations already have many good tools and processes that can be utilized to meet the expectations, however, few staff often only know of these tools.  Unearthing what is currently working and shining a light on those practices and tools is an important way to quickly create consistency out of existing best practices.  Where gaps in mechanisms exist, internal cross-cutting working groups and teams can be assigned the work of building new systems. 

3.     Encourage innovation in implementing the initiative or change.  Too often organizations want to dictate the process or mechanisms staff need to utilize and forget the big picture.  If staff are meeting the expectations, does it really matter what tool they use?  Staff may want to adapt the tools developed or use their own tools and systems and this should be encouraged.  It may lead to enhancements to the overall suite of tools and processes or collective mechanism.  It also emphasizes results instead of workflow which can be empowering to staff, creating greater support for the initiative or change.

4.     Build capacity of staff to effectively utilize the mechanisms that allow them to deliver the expectations.  Having the right mechanisms is not enough if staff cannot effectively use them.  Staff need to be introduced to and trained on the expectations, the mechanisms and the processes associated with the new initiative or change.  All staff should be involved in at least a high-level training and other staff may need deeper dives into specific content as appropriate.  Training should be accompanied with coaching.  No one will remember everything they are introduced to in a training and different elements of the system will be actualized at different times within a staff person’s time with an organization.  Point of use coaching is essential to ensuring staff are able to effectively utilize the new mechanisms.  On-going training plans for new staff and as refreshers for existing staff also have to be considered and planned.

5.     Sustain the initiative or change by treating it as a fluid construct.  No initiative or change will continue without needing to adapt to changing external and internal environments.   However, constant changing and adaptation leads to confusion and diminishes effective and consistent practice.  Organizations need to conduct at least an annual review when both expectations can be revisited by the leadership team and key mechanisms and processes adapted or changed by staff.  Adjustments may need to be made outside of these regular timeframes, but those should be treated as special circumstances.  After annual reviews, the organization must ensure effective and consistent communications around all modifications-- the one constant will be communications.


What do you think of these ideas?  Do you have other ideas for organizations planning on embarking on such efforts?  Please share with us your keys as we are constantly looking to expand our learning.