4 minute read 12 Aug 2019
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Purpose ensures projects are aligned to the strategic plan

By

Florian Plass

Ernst & Young – Ireland (EY Ireland) Director

Head of EY Ireland’s Programme Management competency. Programme Director with significant experience delivering regulatory and complex transformation programmes in the Financial Services sector.

4 minute read 12 Aug 2019

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To deliver effective change a programme needs to be rooted in a common goal or purpose, with all stakeholders committed to the desired outcome.

Simply translated, ‘purpose’ is the reason why something is done or for which it exists. This may seem obvious, but when it comes to delivering change or reform in an organisation, too often a sense of purpose can be lost.

Successful delivery of major business transformation is often harder than expected, requiring all elements of the transformation from people, process, system, data and governance to be aligned in order to make a significant impact on business operations.

Throughout the journey, clear and effective governance is needed to support timely decision making. This, coupled with a relentless focus on what the transformation will deliver helps to ensure the delivery of real outcomes and benefits.

Transform programme delivery

To deliver effective change a programme needs to be rooted in a common goal or purpose, with all stakeholders committed to the desired outcome.

EY recently published our inaugural Irish Project and Programme Management Guide using the results of a survey that identified the key concerns and challenges facing businesses in Ireland.

The survey identified a set of key challenges in delivering transformation projects.

While 67% of project teams are aware of the purpose of the project only 54% of the project leadership teams are using purpose as a tool to drive delivery.

When deciding whether to take on a project a clearly defined purpose and outcome ranks low in the selection process with cost, complexity and regulatory obligation all ranking higher. As a result, many organisations are engaged in projects which lack clarity and alignment to an overall strategy. This lack of purpose often leads to project drift, a loss of momentum and ultimately project failure.

Start with ‘why?’

Leading change in an organisation requires more than just a clear definition of ‘what’ you are doing, but a focus on ‘why’ you are doing it. The ‘why’ allows organisations to use purpose as a lever in their change portfolios to deliver outcomes effectively.

Many transformation programmes are clear about what they will deliver, the solution that will be put in place or the new capability that will be established – different versions of the ‘what’ – but are not always clear on the ‘why’. Understanding why a programme is being implemented requires a focus on the problem that will be solved or the new way of working that will be established.

Having a clear purpose allows projects to:

  • align leadership and sharpen priorities
  • enable transformation at a more agile pace
  • mobilise the full culture
  • unlock strategic thinking and innovation
  • In fact, the survey found that 86% of projects have improved their ability to meet their objectives, where purpose is used as a delivery tool.

A clear purpose not only enhances the chances of project success, a purpose that resonates with employees also helps attract and retain the best people. Team members are 1.4 times more engaged and 1.7 times more satisfied when an organisation has a purpose, which in turn translates into those employees being three times more likely to stay.

However, a third (33%) of project teams are still unaware of the purpose of their project.

This means that a large proportion of projects risk opening themselves up to a higher degree of project team attrition, which leads to knowledge leakage, impact on team morale and loss of connection with intended benefits.

To realise a purpose you must understand both tangible and intangible elements and find a way to quantify both. While many leading organisations understand the power of purpose, they find that integrating purpose into their strategy and realising its full value is much more challenging.

Three key steps are vital when implementing a purpose-driven project:

  • Define the project purpose and align this to the organisation’s overall purpose
  • Communicate the purpose, talk about the purpose over and over
  • Live and breathe the purpose, demonstrate and focus your actions on the purpose daily

Conclusion

Many programmes, especially regulatory or compliance-driven programmes, are often seen as tick box exercises. Unearthing and communicating the purpose of the regulation for both customers, businesses and employees alike helps organisations take advantage of regulatory obligations and drive additional benefits and value.

This allows stakeholders and programme teams to see beyond the mechanics of delivering a project or being compliant, and helps motivate people to drive change for a business and customer-driven outcome.

Summary

Successful delivery of major business transformation is often harder than expected, requiring all elements from people, process, system, data and governance to be aligned in order to make a significant impact on business operations.

About this article

By

Florian Plass

Ernst & Young – Ireland (EY Ireland) Director

Head of EY Ireland’s Programme Management competency. Programme Director with significant experience delivering regulatory and complex transformation programmes in the Financial Services sector.