Business Transformation is a hot subject right now. Boardrooms are buzzing with the latest idea for how to change their business to reduce the bottom line, grow the top line, eliminate waste, increase efficiency, grow deeper relationships with customers. Chief Executives look at their competitors with a jealous eye, thinking how they can implement the industry best practice used by their competitors into their organisation. They believe that others are doing things better than they are… and do you know what? They’re right.
For any organisation that is planning a business transformation programme, understanding the meaning of transformation is a good start. Changing the paperclip supplier won’t deliver a marked change – even if you’re a stationery shop. Transformations are big, they’re important, they often require big investment and they often fail!
Business Transformation programmes are by their very nature a risk for any organisation to undertake. Did I mention that they often fail? Well they do. Often. Fail. Those that do fail usually have one or more of the following characteristics:
- They don’t set out with a clear strategy for change
- They don’t set out with a clear vision for the future
- They don’t have a champion to drive the change through
- They don’t have board level support
- They don’t consider the people impact
- They don’t have support of their people
- They don’t have a customer strategy
- They don’t have customer advocacy
- They don’t see it through
- They don’t prevent backfill of old ways
So lets pick these off, two at a time.
Strategy and Vision
Firstly, you need to be clear on why you’re setting out on your transformation journey. “We’d like to be the uber of…” isn’t a great reason for risking the future of your business. If you can’t clearly articulate what you want to transform, why you want to transform it, where the transformation will take you, when you’ll complete and realise the benefits and how you’ll achieve it then stop. Don’t go any further. It will only end badly.
Champion with board level support
If you get as far as agreeing your strategy and vision, the next thing that you need is a champion. This is the person who will be carried around aloft when the transformation is successful. This is the saviour of your organisation. Treat them as such. They need the support and authority of the entire organisation. If they don’t sit on your board, make a space for them. They need to have equal respect from above and below. They must be a champion in every sense of the word. If you don’t have someone to fulfil this role, who will be there from the start to the very end, then stop. Don’t go any further. It will only end badly.
It’s all about people
With a champion in place, you can then go ahead and look at the people impacts. If the result of your transformation means that you’ll have a smaller workforce or day to day roles will change you need to deal with this upfront. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, don’t mislead and don’t ignore the feelings of others. This is the most disruptive part of your transformation. Expect it. Manage it. Deal with it. Without the support of the workforce you can’t implement effective change. If you haven’t dealt with this head on, then stop. Don’t go any further. It will only end badly.
Customer strategy and advocacy
A engaged and supportive internal people plan in place then allows you to look outwards to your customers. You can have the most efficient processes in the world, though if your customers no longer want to buy your product you won’t last long. Your customer strategy needs to clearly align to your transformation strategy. Do you expect disruption? Will things get worse before they get better? Having someone to represent the voice of the customer at every meeting, there for every decision and making sure that they’re listened to as the voice of many is vital. The voice of your customer needs to be just that – they need to get insight, they need to go and test with focus groups. If you don’t have advocacy from your customers for your programme, then stop. Don’t go any further. It will only end badly.
See it through and move forward
Finally, if you are going ahead you need to see it through. By now you should know that this wasn’t a straightforward thing to do. There needs to be realistic expectation and there needs to be contingency within your plans not outside it. If you’ve ripped the plaster off expect to see a little blood. Sticking another plaster over it takes you back to square one – though this time without any money, support or will. If you’re new processes are being replaced by old processes quicker than you can roll them out when you get to the end you’ll be back to where you started. This is where you find out whether you picked the right champion. If you grit your teeth and see it through right to the end then you’ll see whether your strategy and vision were right.
There’s no guarantee of success even if you do everything right – though your chances of success are far higher – and if it’s not going to success you should have given up far sooner.
Business Transformation favours the bold – so rip it up and start again.
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Bryn Robinson-Morgan is an independent Business Consultant with interests in Identity Assurance, Agile Organisational Design and Customer Centric Architecture. Bryn has near 20 years experience working with some of the United Kingdom’s leading brands and largest organisations.
Follow Bryn on Twitter: @No1_BA