Businesses undertake transformations to fundamentally reshape how they operate so that they can cope with new challenges. From March 2020 and for the foreseeable future, businesses of all sizes face existential threats – the ongoing impact of covid-19, Brexit, high levels of national debt, recession, climate crisis and technological change from AI and robotics. Disruption is all around us.
Transformational change goes beyond incremental change to changes that alter the context in which it is taking place. It is not business as usual, and tomorrow will not be the same as yesterday. Most often it is irreversible – the technical challenge is too hard, the financial impact too great, the media and shareholder impact too painful and the loss of credibility for the leadership team unbearable. Failure, and doing nothing, are likely to be fatal.
Transformation is a blend of process, organisational and technology change aligned to a cultural shift. Not only does the business work differently, but it has new values and behaviours. It embodies the concept of institutionally sustained results, a consistency of achievement over time.
Transformation is not just project management. There are some critical differences and thinking of transformation as a collection of project process steps can lead to failure according to McKinsey.
Project methodologies focus on tasks. Transformation is driven by outcomes. Tracking tasks is easy – the MI is about completion rates. Outcomes require far more extensive MI and a strong leadership team willing to stop failing initiatives, rework and reinvest.
Projects benefit from a well-supported, crisply-articulated and over-communicated vision. It is critical for transformation, partly because the journey to the transformed business will require many people to put “skin the game”.
Transformation puts a burden on the C-Suite and challenges vested interests, silos and their resolve around the common vision. They need to resist the easy compromises, deal with the obstacles, maintain the pace and be passionate evangelists.
Projects rarely require a hearts and minds change. At the transformation level, the messaging is not an update to process but a complete reboot on the way the organisation views itself. Customers, investors, employees and suppliers need to be willing (and ideally active) partners in a journey.
Most organisations are not immediately capable of transformation – it is not a muscle that will get much exercise and few organisations can afford to keep all the talent they need on tap. Before starting, capability needs to be assessed and key gaps plugged.
We have delivered high-profile transformations for most of the UK banks and bring fresh thinking. Our perspective is that employees and customers should have a louder voice in shaping transformation, upfront investment is needed in MI, leadership alignment and creating a vision which resonates emotionally and logically. Communication needs particular attention to create an interactive dialogue with showcased prototypes, visible quick wins and transparency of the process. Throughout the transformation we should demonstrate the authentic commitment of the leadership, emphasise urgency and crystallise the benefits to customers and colleagues.
If your business needs fundamental changes then please get in touch and find out how we can help.