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Experiential delivery: safely navigating the uncertainty and complexity of change

Under pressure to provide upfront predictability to sponsors and custodians of funds, change programs often make predictions about delivery too early and in too much detail at the expense of:

  • Underestimating the uncertainty and complexity of execution;
  • Overstating benefits to justify upfront funding; and
  • Over emphasising the deployment of technical solutions without appreciating the business changes required to deliver the benefits.

Forced predictability

Despite these weaknesses, programs carry on enforcing these unreliable predictions, embedding them in fixed contracts with suppliers, forcing the extraction of financial benefits from budgets, and controlling them during execution as if they were viable commitments to delivery.

When reality later proves a lot more fluid than initially predicted, especially in today’s uncertain and complex business environment, large and frequent variations to plan emerge during execution. In such context, stakeholders gradually lose confidence in delivery and the program becomes less open to discuss new variations, which delays trade-off decisions only to create larger variations later on.

This vicious cycle is a known pattern in many programs of change — especially large ones — where big “surprises” are experienced towards the end of delivery, when changes are more costly and decisions are more difficult to make due to the large investment already made. With the pressure to stop overruns, programs typically react by cutting their scope based on cost savings, but without fully understanding the impacts on unrealised benefits.

Navigating change

After going through a few of these vicious cycles of delivery, many organisations today realise that the delivery of complex change under uncertainty is less about the tight control against early predictions and more about the skilful navigation of change as it unfolds.

Like a boat on the sea does not attempt to control nature, but instead uses its power and every favourable current or wind to advance in its desired direction, modern change programs navigate towards valued destinations, fully recognising uncertainty and complexity, and acting in a timely manner to mitigate risks and leverage opportunities of new conditions.

Figure showing a single path to the past and a wide range of paths or possibilities to the future.

While a map usually guides the journey of value creation, the most valuable path is actually discovered and made viable as stakeholders experience change, understand it and progressively make commitments to it.

This experiential perspective of change is based on the understanding that:

  • The best way for stakeholders to fully appreciate a complex reality is to experience it. Today, stakeholders jointly experience change in collaborative environments;
  • There are many possible paths to successfully realise value from change. The most valuable and viable one has to be explored, validated and prioritised as it emerges;
  • Uncertainty has to be navigated, not artificially controlled. For effective execution, change programs need to be transparent and flexible, continuously create options and make timely trade-offs;
  • Creativity and innovation are needed but they cannot be forced, they have to be enabled. For instance, funding and supplier arrangements need to support collaboration and discovery.

Experiential delivery at work

In combination with the use of value delivery maps and well understood principles of program execution, River Plate Projects (RPP) has used experiential delivery to assist a large business in:

  • Reducing program risks through iterative and incremental delivery of business outcomes and benefits;
  • Engaging stakeholders in the joint design, development and delivery of business performance improvements;
  • Developing rapid business solutions through the use of agile technologies;
  • Enabling creativity and innovation through “learning by doing” — pilots, prototypes and use of visual techniques.
If you feel this information is relevant to your business needs and would like to know more about it, please contact RPP for an obligation-free discussion.

Written by: Fernando Gaggero — founder and director of River Plate Projects | RPP

Principle Led Execution® and Connecting People with the Value of Change are service marks of River Plate Projects Pty Ltd. | Value Delivery Map (VDM) is River Plate Projects’ adaptation of concepts from Benefit Dependency Mapping – Gerald Bradley (2010), “Benefit Realisation Management – a practical guide to achieving benefits through change” – 2nd Ed, Gower, England. Adopted in partnership with Gerald Bradley.
Feature Image: Gualtiero Boffi | Shutterstock.com — Adaptations and other images: River Plate Projects.

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About River Plate Projects (RPP)

River Plate Projects (RPP)
River Plate Projects | RPP is a boutique management services company specialised in the agile execution of business change programs and PMOs. Since 2007, implementing modern management practices that optimise value delivery, enable business agility and safely navigate the uncertainty and complexity of change.