This week the business alchemist was asked "Why it is that many organisations fail to recognise the importance of business cases and benefits management?" Whilst there are many ways to answer this question perhaps the thoughts of Albert Einstein may be of use. He reportedly said that the definition of insanity was:
"Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results"
Now and again the business alchemist hears of and experiences examples of organisations which have developed a mature approach towards investment decisions surrounding change. Unfortunately, these instances do not conform to typical organisational practice in this domain.
If you accept that there is a problem with the maturity of governance, processes and outputs associated with investment decision making it would be prudent to ask why this is the case. One area for investigation could be factors influencing success or failure in the development and implementation of robust business case and benefits management practices.
Factors which are common to organisations enhancing capability in this domain include:
- An open, collaborative culture which welcomes both feedback and continuous improvement
- Strong leadership in the delivery of long term benefits to the organisation as a result of investments made in change
- Acceptance and agreement on who has ‘Accountability’ and ‘Responsibility’ for business cases and benefits management
- The development of robust processes and governance and supporting individuals in the implementation of these
If an organisation only rewards change professionals for project delivery (on time, on budget on scope) then it should be of no surprise that these individuals focus on these aspects.This is at the cost of taking a longer-term view.Benefits management therefore becomes nothing more than a distant dream.
If you want to make positive steps in this space looking at the culture of the organisation would be a useful starting point.The following questions may also be of use before embarking on this journey:
- Does the organisation reward its people for benefit delivery, project delivery (or both)?
- Does the organisational culture support open and objective communication surrounding both successes and failures?
- Is the organisation open to looking at the reasons why the current approach to business cases and benefits management has evolved in the way that it has?
- Does leadership exist in the organisation to support the development of a robust and long term approach towards investment decision making and benefits management?
Einstein also said that:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge'"
Whilst knowledge is undoubtedly invaluable it is perhaps time for us to use our collective imagination about how to enhance both investment decision making and the realisation of benefits.