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Manage benefits and measure change success

I learnt early on in my career that if you want to change something, measuring it is a sure fire way to get results and a good tool to see the impacts of action in a quantifiable way. You've probably heard the statistic that 50-70% of projects fail. When we dig into this it is not the measurements against planned dates or the estimated costs that drive this but it is the failure to quantifiably measure the variety of outcomes and rely on anecdotal observations.  

In the latest Change Management Institute London Event: 'The importance of managing benefits in change', Claire Dellar, senior benefits realisation manager for NHS Digital, expertly showcased why investments to change or transform a business have to start with metrics or KPI’s. We started with defining what is a benefit – it is described as anything that is a measurable improvement in the delivery of a specified outcome – if you can’t measure it, it isn’t a benefit. Conversely, the notion of a 'dis-benefit' exists too – a measurable negative consequence of a change. This is a really important point – those desiring change at senior level, often believe change only brings positive outcomes. The truth in fact is that there are negatives too but generally they greatly are outweighed by the benefits that it remains worthwhile to pursue.

Setting our change initiatives with a clear vision is fundamental but how often do we also understand that vision in the context of a set of metrics we can monitor along the way to help us navigate, course correct and know when we have arrived at our destination. It’s rare that in a room of 30+ change managers we find tools that the majority have not heard of – but we are a group who welcome surprises - Claire introduced two key concepts to us that benefits managers know well:  

  1. the ‘Problem Statement’ – a series of six questions which help deconstruct the problem to arrive at a list of objectives, actions and dependencies. We got the opportunity to workshop this on our own examples and it was great to see how this could work in practice.
  2. the ‘Benefits Map’ – this in essence is the overview of the landscape of the change. It takes all of the things discovered in the Problem Statement and links, action (project plan activities), dependencies with outcomes and benefits. Most critically it identified the benefits / dis-benefits which we can use to measure and manage progress the context of the whole plan.

On reflection the Problem Statement feels similar to 'Five Whys' but it’s real power is in turning that logic into the Benefits Map.   

An equally critical point, which extends from so many other aspects of executing change is that you have to have a sponsor or group of senior stakeholders that care enough about the initiative to help champion the priority at an enterprise level and unblock obstacles when lower levels of coordination are misaligned. In relation to metrics, someone at a senior level has to care about the numbers that shape the delivery and progress of change - if they don't, your are going to struggle to deliver.

Some really useful, practical information which I for one will be looking to utilise in future change initiatives. 

If you're interested in finding out more about change management, keep an eye on the Change Management Institute events calendar.

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