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Cost-effective people transformation

  • 5 Min Read

How can businesses successfully transform their people through cost-effective solutions? David Roberts, People and Business Transformation expert shares his thoughts.

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I’ve written a number of pieces on transformation and I’m constantly asked questions from “how can you do this with minimum budget” to “what do you prioritise to add most impact” and even “this sounds great but I don’t have the time to engage or manage the transition”….all valid questions, well, the last one is often a naive one! All these questions do depict some of the challenges we face as business or people professionals. 

Companies and individuals more than ever are demanding immediate impact and at an acceptable cost. I can almost hear some of you saying that this is no different to previous years as we always want acceptable costs but I would say some of the glory days of spending endless amounts of money on transformations are gone. I’m personally glad to hear it and even more glad to step up to the challenge to meet these demands.

I would suggest that this all comes down to value, or perceived value. Much like when you head down to your local shops or order takeaway from an online app (yes, you might have spotted I’m working with one of these). You’re looking for balancing quality, time and cost…thus achieving the perception of value. Broadly speaking, this runs true in people transformations, no matter how big or how small. You recognise the need, you set out the time, the cost and what you will deliver.

For the purpose of this piece and where I’m getting most of my questions, I will focus on getting the most value by ensuring the cost is attractive. Here are some simple suggestions or principles to hopefully help you.

Don’t over-promise

You need to understand the problem statement, the end state and transition to get to the end state. You also need buy-in from stakeholders. I’m sure you will want to do this at pace and you may have a tendency to oversell or promise. Just remember what you commit to early on will have the perceived cost-benefit when you actually deliver. For example, if I buy a plain pizza (sorry, another food example) then I am expecting a plain pizza and if to the desired quality then I would see that as cost-effective or good value. If I buy a pizza but I am offered extra toppings and they don’t come or are given below my expectation, this is not value. I’m not suggesting you just make plain pizzas as I personally dislike plain pizzas but be careful before you offer all the trimmings.

Keep it simple

Too many times have I seen programmes being over-complicated and through collaboration more and more being added to what becomes an unrealistic backlog. It comes back to over-promising but keeping it simple also allows you to get from A to B at the least cost and time.

Use what you have

Never completely re-invent the wheel as in most instances, someone would have been through the same transformation. They will have tools, techniques, suggestions etc you can leverage or add to. This extends to when you deliver the programme as well, can you leverage teams around you to deliver elements, or what is in flight that can be adapted to compliment your delivery?

Act early

The flip side to using what you have is that there will always be extra help that you need. Make sure you scope these early and act fast to get them in place. Businesses change and one day the CEO might say you can have x amount of resources to deliver the plan, then the next day it’s not the case as they are being utilised elsewhere. Confirm the commitment, act straight away, mobilise and get them on board as soon as you can. I have seen so many examples where people take time to get things in place and I hear the excuse of “I haven’t had the time to recruit” or the worst “it was just easier to do myself”.


I’m one of those people who loves a good negotiation but I don’t always see this. If you’re working with suppliers then remember what cards you hold, what influence you can have on the supplier and don’t be afraid to walk away to get the best deal. If you have the luxury of a procurement team (I would recommend them) then leverage their expertise. 

As I write these points they do seem straight forward and it’s hard to be specific unless I know the specific costs associated although if you keep to these core principles it’s hard not to show the true value. I’m also assuming your idea is a good one though! Good luck and I’m always happy to help if I can.

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