Engaging Stakeholders from Innovation Pilot to Scaled Solution | The Work Done Right Book! 🎉

Today we have a very special episode of Work Done Right. Cumulus CEO Matt Kleiman will be sharing an excerpt from his brand new book: Work Done Right: Using Systems Thinking To Guide Your Digital Transformation. 

The book is all about how companies operating in the industrial construction, manufacturing, and maintenance fields can leverage a tried-and-true tactic used successfully by the aviation and aerospace industries, systems thinking, to amplify personnel bandwidth and ensure that all work is done right the first time, every time.

Please enjoy this excerpt from Work Done Right. You can purchase the entire book from Amazon using the link below.

Chapter 6: Engaging Project Stakeholders—From Innovation Pilot to Scaled Solution

“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but when done wrong, all you have is a expensive caterpillar.”

—George Westerman, MIT Senior Lecturer

You have now identified a promising solution you hope will improve work quality at your company, and you’ve conducted an extensive analysis for its potential return to prove that this solution makes sense. It’s now finally time to put your foot on the accelerator and commission a pilot to test your hypothesis. Right? 

Hold your horses, Tonto. Before you jump into a pilot, let’s make sure you set your pilot up for success. 

At some point in the evolution of industrial digitalization, innovation pilots became synonymous with success. The company conducts a Proof of Concept (POC), releases an exciting video of the technology in action, and pats itself on the back for a job well done. The digitalization team has a celebratory dinner, then quietly departs, leaving the technology in a storage locker to collect dust. 

I’ve seen this very phenomenon occur many times. I call it “pilot purgatory” and it’s a genuine problem for the industry. The good news is that if you’ve followed the recommended steps so far, pilot purgatory is relatively easy to avoid. The key is engaging the right project stakeholders from the beginning who will help you scale the technology from the POC to fully deployed. 

When engaging these stakeholders, you might be told, “Don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution.” With your systems study and financial return analyses in hand, you already have both. You’ve defined your key success metrics, and you can quantify the cost of doing nothing convincingly. This will help you gain credibility and help them help you. Your job is to provide enough information to make stakeholders want to solve the problem you’re addressing. 

Another important factor is to assume success from the very beginning. In your plans, define what a successful pilot looks like and outline the next steps for how to deploy that solution at scale. While I can’t tell you the specifics about what a scaled deployment might look like for your company, I’m certain the systems analysis you’ve already compiled will be a powerful source of information. 


Identifying Your Primary Stakeholders 

As previously discussed, identifying the right stakeholders is critical. I commonly work with companies that assume IT will be the primary stakeholder for any digitalization solution. This is a mistake. While IT must be involved in compatibility, integration, and security planning, they’re typically not the primary stakeholder because they’re not the team with the most to gain from a successful implementation. This pilot is just one of many technologies the company asks them to look after. For those reasons, they won’t serve as the most effective advocate to help the pilot, and subsequent deployment across the finish line. 

Set yourself up for success by recruiting or appointing an end user as the primary champion. Ask yourself, which person or team is feeling the pain point you’re solving the most? Who is the most senior person experiencing that pain? That’s who should be the champion in chief, since they’ll be intimately familiar with the intricacies of the problem and will have a personal interest in implementing a meaningful solution. 

Regardless of who you select as the primary stakeholder, it must be someone with a high level of buy-in. Arm this person with the information they need to quantify the hidden costs and the potential benefits for their team. 


Innovation and Digitalization Leaders as a Resource 

In many larger organizations, one person or a group has been tasked with digitalization or innovation. While I’m the first person to advocate for this role as a powerful tool in moving the industry forward, I offer a word of caution. An individual in an innovation role is not the person feeling the most pain from the problem. 

Instead of appointing an innovation professional as a primary stakeholder, consider them a valuable resource. They can serve as a subject matter expert in understanding new technologies and assist the primary champion with many tasks throughout the process. This includes getting funding and working with functional support, such as procurement and IT. 


End Users as Advocates 

Any innovation will ultimately need to be used and be usable by people on a day-to-day basis. You should loop these end users in from day one, as they’re critical stakeholders. After all, they’re the ones who will use the new solution. Their opinion matters. 

Many technology deployments do not succeed because end users fail to adopt the systems as the promoters anticipated. This isn’t the end users’ fault. It’s the responsibility of the technology advocates to ensure they consider the end users’ needs and experiences throughout the process. People are a key part of any system and we must consider them from the beginning. 

In fact, people are such a critical part of your system that I’ve dedicated the next chapter almost entirely to overcoming the challenges associated with managing your workforce. I’ll give you the tools you need to effectively turn end users from obstacles into advocates.