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Beginnings, Middles and Ends: A Systematic Approach to Organizational Transformation

FEATURED PAPER

By Bob Prieto

Fluor Corporation

Princeton, New Jersey, USA
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Some years ago I had a very bright Australian colleague, Sally, helping with a transformational program. During that effort she accomplished all that I could have asked, and more, and in the process educated me a bit about the notion of beginnings, middles and ends.

This paper in no way captures what she taught me at the time but I remain struck by the notional idea that many organizational programs suffer from failing to recognize that the nature of the transformational program and therefore the tools and techniques used, must in themselves “transform” throughout the course of the program.

The beginnings, middles and ends of an organizational transformation program strike me today as involving three distinct phases:

  • Defining the imperative
  • Unlocking the current paradigm
  • Re-forming to achieve desired outcomes

I will touch on each drawing on experiences leading, supporting and coaching from the sidelines and perhaps begin with a crucial point. It is important for each player to understand their role, much in the way that Sally “coached from the sideline”, but had her effect felt throughout the firm.

Defining the Imperative 

The beginning of any organizational transformation program starts with the creation or assumption of an “imperative” or in the extreme an “existential event” such as a major financial or legal event. The imperative may often be described as “vision” or “burning platform” or other such euphemisms.

At this stage, independent of the initiating imperative, there are a few key considerations that are essential for a good beginning.

First, the imperative itself must be clearly articulated – no fuzzy words, no ambiguity, no corporate doublespeak, no pabulum. Importantly, it must be articulated by the responsible individual. To the extent that this is the CEO, board level support must be evident but not be seen as usurping the authority of the CEO. Board level support can include select engagement, consistent oversight and challenge and due recognition of progress. If the organizational transformation is at a lower level in the organization superior and peer elements must be seen to be supportive even if they themselves are not directly impacted. I tend to group these various articulation and supporting efforts into a category of actions I refer to as building the round hole. Much effort will go into defining the round peg but often too little into building the round hole into which we want it to snuggly fit.

Second, with imperative in hand, I will default to my program management mindset and talk about SBOs. In my program management writings I have referred to SBOs as strategic business objectives but in an organizational transformation context I believe SBOs should be re-termed as strategic business outcomes since the ability to explicitly define the end state of an organizational transformation effort as achievement of a defined set of objectives is too narrow a view from my experience. With SBO now defined as Strategic Business Outcome, it is important that these outcomes be defined in the clearest and simplest of terms, much like the imperative statement described above. Many organizational transformation efforts fail at this stage because the desired outcomes are:

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About the Author

bob prietoBob Prietoflag-usa 

Senior Vice President

Fluor

Princeton, NJ, USA 

Bob Prieto is a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest, publicly traded engineering and construction companies in the world. He is responsible for strategy for the firm’s Industrial & Infrastructure group which focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide. The group encompasses three major business lines including Infrastructure, with an emphasis on Public Private Partnerships; Mining; and Industrial Services. Bob consults with owners of large engineering & construction capital construction programs across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies encompassing planning, engineering, procurement, construction and financing. He is author of “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry” and “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and “Topics in Strategic Program Management” as well as over 450 other papers and presentations.

Bob is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction and a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America. Bob served until 2006 as one of three U.S. presidential appointees to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth and had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce.  Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), one of the world’s leading engineering companies.  Bob Prieto can be contacted at [email protected].