Posted by Mike Rollings
Maybe I'm just sensitive, but the recent McKinsey Quarterly article "Using IT to enable a lean transformation" by Nicklas Ilebrand, Tor Mesøy, and Remco Vlemmix was a disappointment.
The article started out okay, "Senior leaders can play an important role in assembling a lean program by involving the CIO more closely in designing and executing the transformation." Definitely agree that transforming one cog in a machine that needs to be redesigned is a bad idea.
The authors continued,
"At one large European bank, executives wanted to speed the account-opening process for corporate customers...While lean techniques could address these issues, the bank had experienced roadblocks in previous lean programs, which in the end failed to deliver the hoped-for returns...Operational changes failed to gain a toehold as employees fell back into their old ways of working, and the program fizzled once the start-up phase ended...Senior managers, determined not to launch yet another stalled implementation effort, knew that IT had to play a central role in the lean redesign of the corporate-account program..."
But the conclusion did not match the story, "Because IT can help not only to coordinate program deliverables but also to spot opportunities to lower costs and boost innovation, CIOs are often well placed to lead the joint effort." McKinsey, have you been reading your own publications?
I think the article builds a case for the following conclusions, just not the conclusion that "CIOs are often well placed to lead the joint effort":
- IT is as relevant as manufacturing, marketing, sales, and other organizations as part of a business transformation. Leaving out a major piece of the puzzle was a fatal flaw.
- Business transformation must be led by the business to succeed, and cross-functional participation is a must.
- Don't believe that just because you tell someone to change that it will happen without support to make it happen.
- LEAN helps you focus on an outcome. Changing the outcome requires getting all the players in the room to figure out the new play.
This is a posterchild for "how not to conduct a transformation". I bet the authors looked at the pieces of the story that illustrate the cross-silo coordination of technology changes and for that aspect I agree, the CIO is best positioned. But the CIO does not rule over the domain where these other failures happened -- the business. I just don't want to see CIOs thrown under the train as they try to push transformation when the business is not on board.
Check out the other Executive Advisory Program transformation blog posts here.