First of all, let’s explore what people mean by Business Transformation…
If the word “Transformation” can be defined as radical, profound or fundamental change to something, then applying this is a business sense means making large, widespread and fundamental changes to the way your business operates. Reasons you might do this range from coping with market changes or new market entrants to reducing complexity in your processes, pursuing greater scale or future-proofing the business. Whatever the reasons, business transformations are significant and should not be undertaken lightly or without the right leadership and commitment. Do they always deliver? No! Let’s look at some of the reasons why not and provide insight into why many do.
A compelling Why – Any significant evolution needs to have a compelling reason for change and it helps if it’s an urgent one too. Change is hard at the best of times and most people don’t choose it willingly, but if the reason is clear, compelling and understood by all, you maximise your chances of success. Once defined, it must be communicated and re-communicated at every opportunity. People need to hear things many times before they truly stick. If the reason for change feels personal and heartfelt by the organisation, it enables employees to make an emotional connection to the changes and success is more likely.
People, Process, Technology – Successful business transformation happens at the intersection of People, Process and Technology. This “sweetspot” means all
three areas must be addressed thoughtfully and deliberately. For example, if you drive significant process changes and/or introduce new technologies without bringing the employees on the journey with you, you are increasing the likelihood of failure or lack of adoption. I cannot stress enough the important role that culture plays in successful business transformations.
All-in Leadership and a guiding coalition – While the majority of business transformations are led from the top down, the most successful ones are led by an aligned and committed leadership team who walk the talk and have a high Say:Do ratio. They lead by example thereby inspiring a group of people, a guiding coalition, who become effective influencers and advocates of the change.
Investment: Business transformations don’t happen overnight and they can’t be turned around on a dime. They are typically multi-year projects and attempts to skip steps or declare success too fast can result in failure or not reaching their potential. Financial investment must also be made. If employees think that all the cost is on their side, they are likely to resent the changes. The level of investment should be a smart one though. Throwing endless cash at it does not guarantee success as it drives the wrong behaviours. ‘Reinvent to reinvest‘ programs should be championed in order to encourage employees to think differently so savings can be made and re-invested in new solutions. This works best when savings made in one area are reinvested in the same area.
Business transformations are complex, fast-paced and lengthy. Planned and executed well, they can result in the transformation desired and future-proof your organisation for years to come. Rushed or half-committed can result in failure and employee disengagement. If you’re not sure where to start, give thought to culture and lead with the people stuff!