There's barely an organisation today that isn't talking about launching 'a transformation' if they aren't already in the midst of one. But in times of accelerated societal, economic and technological change, such as we are across the globe, ‘transformation’ cannot be viewed as a finite event in the same way as that of caterpillar to butterfly. When ‘business as usual’ is an increasingly transient state, organisations need to develop the capabilities and structures that allow them to successfully adapt to constant change, to innovate, and enable ‘transformation as usual’.
Where do you start when everything is changing so fast?
Firstly, remember that the successful achievement of any ‘transformation’ goal depends more on the engagement and enablement of people than the deployment of technology. That requires leaders to create three things:
- A compelling narrative for change: you won’t move people (employees, customers, stakeholders, society) to action and towards your North Star through spreadsheets and targets, but through connecting with them at an emotional level. If your vision isn’t bold, but only incremental, then incremental improvement is all you’ll get, not transformation.
- A culture of collaboration and curiosity: your colleagues and teams must be encouraged to question the status quo, so that they lead the transformation, rather than it being something that is done to them. Increasingly they must understand not only customer perspectives, but broader stakeholder and societal perspectives.
- A sense of urgency: your colleagues and teams must understand why transformation is imperative right now, not tomorrow, and ongoing. How you communicate the macro-trends and forces of change should inspire and motivate teams to capture transient waves of opportunity, rather than to perceive them fearfully and retreat.
Secondly, ensure that the impact of ‘transformation’ and ‘digital strategies’ conceived to address only discrete aspects of a business - the operating model, the product-service offering or the customer experience - are considered within their broader context. In order to thrive in the era of fourth industrial revolution, an ever more deeply interconnected future, it is essential to develop a systems view, and an integrated approach to transforming business models:
- Transformation, requires reassessing not the industry but the arena within which your business operates. It requires re-imagining how to leverage your assets and capabilities to play a role within new, collaborative ecosystems of value.
- Transformation requires not merely digitising an existing process, service or experience; it requires examining the end-to-end delivery and capture of value, and exploring how this might be re-imagined, particularly to meet changing expectations of responsible business practice.
- Transformation, as with innovation, is a team sport. No single leader has all the answers. To move fast and effectively at scale requires the collaboration of SMEs and leaders across traditional business units and disciplines, enabled through agile methodologies and organisational structures.
Organisations at their heart are powered by collectives of humans, and shifting to ‘transformation as usual’ requires a big shift in mindset for many senior leaders whose professional lives have spanned more stable times. But we humans have proved ourselves to be extremely adaptable through the current pandemic. When necessity demanded, we demonstrated the flexibility and moved quickly to make possible and to adopt everything from online shopping and education to remote working and tele-medicine.
Successfully prosecuting ‘transformation as usual’ of course requires careful selection, integration, delivery and deployment of new technologies over time that enable delivery of more valuable, reliable solutions to customer problems, drive customer engagement and loyalty, and capture business value whilst offering maximum optionality in envisaged future scenarios.
But moreover it requires ensuring that your organisation has a well-articulated strategy in support of a purposeful North Star; leaders who can communicate a compelling narrative, ensure that the transformation effort is holistic, and can identify the points of leverage to prioritise the work; and teams who understand how their contribution impacts the achievement of the whole and are empowered to collaborate and experiment towards creating the future.