Does Hitting Business Transformation Milestones Equal a Moment of Truth?
Reed Deshler | October 19, 2016
In the past, I have written about how to measure your business transformation efforts and how alignment leaders and change partners alike can determine, as an organization, when a transformation is completed. This discussion sits squarely between these two subjects and attempts to examine the point at which customers and employees notice that organization change is happening—the moment of truth.
We often refer to this point in a transformation as the moment of truth because it is the tipping point for the organization. It signifies that the organization is moving in the desired direction, allows the organization to begin to gauge customer reactions to the changes, and facilitates a glimpse into the results the business transformation is likely to achieve. To use a baseball analogy, hitting a project milestone is like getting on base. Definitely progress, but not enough to declare victory. Similarly, hitting a transformation milestone does not mean that you have won the game. The milestones you may “hit” are likely one of many that will be required to get enough runs across the plate to beat your opponent. Achieving a couple of milestones won’t be enough to claim victory, but it will help you make progress and start to convince customers and employees alike that victory is within reach.
Seen this way, the moment of truth (the winning run) is still in front of you. So, what does a moment of truth look like? How do you know you are on the right track in between initial measurement and declaring project completion? How can you separate milestones from a definitive moment of truth?
We might think about a moment of truth as the moment when the project truly changes state: like when water turns to ice or vapor. At that moment, the organization becomes substantively different and noticeably altered reflecting the desired end state of the business transformation. This does not mean that the transition is complete, but rather that people can finally see and understand the changes and recognize that the organization is different and envision where it is going.
For many organizations, it can be helpful to think of a moment of truth in two parts: one for customers and one for employees. For it to be a moment of truth, employees should be able to answer questions like: Do employees know how their work has changed and do they have the skills and training necessary to execute in new ways? And, for customers, do they notice the organizational changes and what feedback do they have about them?
Before customers can begin to see the changes in the organization, most often employees have to change first. As mentioned earlier, a moment of truth does not mean that employees have their new responsibilities perfected or even completely implemented. Instead, it means that they have a clear understanding of the new direction and the tools necessary to begin executing in new ways.
To give an example of how this might work, a while ago we did some work for an organization that wanted to change an organization-wide product development process. We were engaged to help them communicate how the changes would affect employees and create training materials that employees could use to obtain the information and skills necessary to function in the new process.
The moment of truth here was most clearly seen directly after the training took place. At that moment, employees had the vision and tools to make the changes to their actual work. They certainly had a lot of work to do to fully implement the new process, but they were confident that they knew what was expected, how their role had changed, had the tools/training mechanisms to help them, and knew who to contact if they had any additional questions or needed more training.
In many ways, a customer’s moment of truth is an extension of employees’ moments of truth. When employees begin to change their processes, work, and products, like in the product development example mentioned, customers notice. Because customers often interact directly with employees, as changes take hold with employees, customers are sure to feel the transformation starting to gain traction.
Regardless of how customers experience the changes, it is an important moment of truth when the accumulation of business transformation “singles” lead to runs on the board and signal to customers that positive change is on the way.
Keep in mind, however, that much like employees, the experience of having a moment of truth for customers does not signify a final state. Often, results will be sporadic or inconsistent as the entire organization engages, trains, and implements the processes and systems that will lead to the realization of full transformation.
So, are you creating a moment of truth for employees and customers or merely hitting project milestones? Both are important, but moments of truth generate energy, buy-in, and momentum that are crucial in the late innings of an organizational transformation and help see the effort through to the end.