It’s an unfortunate truth that the vast majority of Business Improvement project reports undersell and underwhelm when you first read them. Although the bones of the project may not be bad, a failure to present the results in an exciting and informative manner means that the true benefits of the project are buried in hard to read documents. The result is that the person or team responsible fails to get the recognition that they deserve, and that others in the business don’t instantly see the benefit of Business Improvement.
In some cases this can translate to a slowdown, or even bring a complete halt, to engagement throughout the company.
It usually takes a lot of effort for a company to undertake any form of Business Improvement. Normally a champion pushes the cause and – supported by people like me – they eventually get sign off, sometimes reluctantly. But we know that for a company to whole-heartedly engage in Business Improvement, it needs the senior managers to understand and buy into the concept. They must be won over, they must be convinced, they must be persuaded.
The first pioneers who run the first projects are therefore vital ambassadors for the change. They must be seen to have followed the structure and obtained good results. If they don’t, it pushes the neutrals into negative territory and provides the initial naysayers with ammunition. The same shift in attitude can be seen when first projects are delayed or take much longer than expected.
To avoid this, we think it is essential that the pioneers excel at promoting the successes, approach and benefits of Business Improvement. Getting off on an optimistic footing will give senior managers the confidence they need, and positivity will filter down in the organisation as people see and hear about the benefits. A very strong start neutralises the argument of the cynics.
Against this backdrop why aren’t the vast majority of projects I review great at selling the benefits? Why do they bury the improvements and fail to champion the cause? Why do so many people underplay their project successes and keep the information to themselves?
There are a number of reasons:
- Our British culture – It’s not in our nature to promote ourselves or our achievements for fear of being seen as arrogant or self-serving.
- Lack of skills – We don’t know how to structure our projects and outcomes to maximise publicity internally
- Lack of awareness – We don’t realise ourselves what impact the changes will have
- Lack of data – We have not collected the figures to show the cost savings, income generation or other benefits associated with our project so can’t prove it
- Lack of confidence – If we feel we could have achieved a better outcome with more time and resources, we feel embarrassed regardless of the successes we have achieved.
So what’s the advice for people about to embark on their first project? How can they enhance their own reputation in the firm, their team’s reputation and the reputation of the Business Improvement approach?
- Recognise what you have achieved. Lots of projects don’t realise what they have done. They don’t look at the bigger picture and how this fits in. They don’t spend enough time thinking about hard and soft benefits and the impact the solution has had on the business
- Ensure that your problem statement or definition makes it clear how bad things were. Make it clear to anyone who reads it the terrible situation that was in existence. Don’t sugar-coat it, tell it exactly as it is. If you have written a good problem statement any stakeholder who reads it should be thinking that action needs taking immediately.
- Make sure you show how the project relates to the corporate goals or the strategy of the business. If you do then every senior manager in the place will be interested.
- Make sure that through a stakeholder analysis you have understood which one of the senior managers solving this problem will help and then communicate this to them. Show them how this will help them achieve their goals or improve their performance
- Make sure you have the data to show the whole story. Your data collection plan needs to include all the key data for you to show the benefits and the size of the problem. Think about the questions you will be asked after the project – such as the impact on cost and resources – and collect the data now so you are able to make the comparison.
- Ensure the final presentation tell a story. Use the data to make it rich and engaging. Structure the presentation to capture your audience and then slam home the benefits, both hard and soft. Use quotes from team members and other managers to give the story colour and life. Make it so that nobody can leave the room without understanding what the problem was, how you and your team solved it and the amazing benefits as a result.
- Look for other areas in the company where you can roll out your solutions as this will amplify the benefits to the company, and the positive press.
- Ask to present it to other areas of the company. If you have a good story to tell make sure you get maximum exposure, don’t hide under a bushel.
- If you have a communications team talk to them about how you can get into the internal newsletter or share the story. They are always looking for material and will also help you shape the story most effectively.
- Look to write a case study that you can use externally this will help promote both the company and your team’s success.
If you can correctly promote the project you have just completed, it has a massive effect on everyone – yourself, your team, your sponsor and business development in the business. It will maintain the momentum of Business Improvement and convince others to engage in the process.
We realise both culturally and technically this is a hard thing for you to do. So why not talk to us about how we can help you with internal PR? We know that individuals who spend time working in this way are far more likely to be promoted, looked on favourably and given thanks in some way. They are typically recognised by senior managers as the go-to people in the business and have a better experience in their role.
Successful internal PR of your project is vital so spend time and energy on it and the results for everyone will be fantastic.
Good article, John. But it’s not about the PR. PR is needed to promote/market successful results, but first you must have results. Talk without a demonstration of quantifiable customer benefits will fall on deaf ears.
Thanks for the comment I appreciate it. I agree fully we must have good results in the first instance. If you follow Lean Six Sigma and DMAIC properly then that is what you should get. We see countless examples of people who save hundreds of thousands but don’t get the credit. So people in business improvement need to work on both areas – getting results and getting good PR.