Transformation Management

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Transformation Management

N Cubed Group
Transformation Manager and Programme Manager: Are they really different?
What exactly are a Transformation and a Programme, and how do they differ in management?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the grammatical definitions for each:
Programme: noun – “A planned series of future events or performances
Transformation: noun – “A marked change in form, nature, or appearance
(Oxford English Dictionary)

It appears from these definitions that a ‘Transformation’ is a change in something and a ‘Programme’ is a vehicle within which to manage such a change.

Before we explore these further, let’s see what the Project Management Institute (PMI) says about these terms:
Program (US Spelling): A group of related projects, subprograms, and program activities managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually

Interestingly, the PMI has no formal definition for ‘Transformation’. In the entire Third Edition of the Standard for Program Management there is no use of the word ‘Transformation’.

So what does this tell us? To me, this supports the idea that they are not the same thing, or at least not different ways of saying the same thing.

If this is the case, what exactly IS a ‘Transformation’? We already know what a ‘Programme’ is from the published definitions, but from a business perspective, what is a ‘Transformation’ and who would manage one?

In order to understand more about what a ‘Transformation’ is, let’s consider the definition SAP uses in its industry standard Business Transformation Management Methodology (BTM2)©:
Any radical organizational change can be termed business transformation. Typical transformation projects include mergers and acquisitions, business process outsourcing, and the introduction of shared service centers, enterprise software, and initiatives motivated by sustainability requirements. Unlike business process re-engineering, which closely focuses on business processes, business transformation requires a more holistic approach.

What can be surmised from this is that a ‘Transformation’ is something more than a simple (or even complex) change project and needs to incorporate emotional management as well as hard skill practical management.

So far this doesn’t shed any more light on whether a ‘Transformation Manager’ is a ‘Programme Manager’ and therefor why these terms seem to be used interchangeably by many organisations and recruiters.

If you consider the definitions for ‘Transformation’ and ‘Programme’ for a moment, it points toward them being different concepts, possibly related by the need to have a ‘Manager’ manage a ‘Transformation’. This certainly fits to the understanding by those academics involved in the guidance and process definitions for how to manage a ‘Transformation’.

Certainly when I think about the ‘Transformations’ I have been involved in, they have been considerably more challenging than any of the ‘Change’ programmes because of the fact that typically more varied skills are needed and more dimensions are involved especially related to the human elements.

A ‘Transformation’ will include a holistic view of not just the specific changes that are planned but also the impacts to the business and its personnel. All too often a change programme such as a new Finance system is seen as being limited to the IT department and the finance teams who will use the system. Business processes are defined, structures for reporting and capturing data are created and a plan put in place to manage the lifecycle from definition through to adoption.

Rarely though does enough, if any, consideration get placed on how the changes will affect the business as a whole, such as the corporate strategy, which if changed could affect the value of the company both holistically and to the markets, and this will alter the risk profiles. How will the employees feel about changes? Will they need to learn something new? Are they ready or capable? What happens if they don’t want to or can’t?

A seemingly simple and straightforward IT project now includes executive decision making on strategy, value and risk, and a host of HR related activities to ‘manage’ people into or out of the roles. Any training curriculum needs to be developed and delivered.

It should now be becoming clearer as to why many change projects or programmes fail to deliver the benefits expected.

When making ‘radical’ organisational changes, often prompted by projects considered less invasive across the other business disciplines, an extended set of skills is needed to manage this, which is where a ‘Transformation’ Manager comes into play. They will consider and plan for all of the following pillars of business impact using hard and soft management skills to ensure the often overlooked impacts are evaluated, scaled and estimated.

Figure 1 - Pillars of a Transformation

The next question is whether a typical Programme Manager has the skills required to manage a ‘Transformation’ programme. We already know the skills required to manage a ‘Programme’ are different to those required to run a ‘Project’, but considering what we have learnt about a ‘Transformation’, does this add additional requirements to our Programme Manager’s skillset?

The answer is yes, and whether your particular Programme Manager is the right one, is really down to whether or not they have experienced ‘programmes’ that covered the soft skills and the corporate analysis needed to assess the cross company impacts of a ‘Transformation’, and whether they have developed those extended capabilities to be able to provide the ‘Holistic’ management at the ‘Meta-Management’ level, that considers and guides all of the impacts and inter-operational elements shown in the core pillars of a ‘Transformation’ (see figure 1).

If they have added this dimension of expertise to their armoury, they can be considered a ‘Transformation Programme Manager’ or ‘Transformation Manager’, otherwise I would suggest they are better positioned to manage one or two of the pillars, supporting the ‘Transformation Manager’ in the overall ‘Programme’.

So what have we learnt about this currently popular buzzword or hot skill that is doing the rounds and how can it be positioned in the established world of Programme Management?

First, Transformation is more than just change. It includes soft human skills such as ‘Emotional Intelligence and Management’ for those elements of a transformation that affects individuals in the organisation.

Secondly, a Transformation is a specialist type of programme, but a programme none-the-less, and as such needs a suitably skilled and experienced Programme Manager to head the initiative.

Finally, the ‘Transformation Manager’ needs to have the relevant experience of using soft skills in order to successfully navigate and guide the relevant activities in the ‘Programme’ related to individuals and cultural considerations.

A Transformation is a real and tangible type of programme, and is a complex initiative that requires a seasoned and experienced Programme Manager to make a success of it. If you really want to get close to your desired benefits from such an undertaking, it would be folly not to engage an interim with the skills to deliver the Transformation as successfully as possible.

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