Over the past decade, global seismic shocks – pandemics, war, supply shortages, climate change and the exponential advancement of AI – have meant that organisations have had to evolve far more quickly than ever. Traditional ways of managing transformations are no longer appropriate. In this article, we explore what this means for transformation leaders and share perspectives on how you can best equip yourself and your teams to proactively progress in the ever evolving business world.
Breaking down silos is a common aim of any transformation programme, with the intention of creating a truly cross-functional organisation. Transformation teams are often referred to as ‘the glue’ that joins the dots, highlighting dependencies, connections and knock-on impacts between different functions. However, for the change to truly stick once the transformation team have left, business owners need to take ownership throughout the transformation.
Supporting leaders at all levels in the organisation to adopt a CEO mindset, where they understand the wider context of the change, will help empower them to ‘be their own super glue’. This requires transformation professionals to invest heavily in the storytelling around the context, rationale and true impact of the change, and so enable greater accountability and ownership by individuals.
The “Judo strategy” is comprised of three elements – rapid movement, flexibility and leverage. A 1999 Harvard Business Review article highlights these elements in light of the competitiveness between Microsoft and Netscape at the advent of the internet. Although the business world has dramatically changed since this article was published, the principles remain the same, and we can draw parallels to leaders driving transformation today:
An empowered, centralised Transformation Management Office to drive decision-making, assess risks, adapt accordingly, and proactively understand and effectively engage with your stakeholders is critical to driving the Judo principles in your organisation.
Governance can be a dirty word in transformation. Ultimately, all that matters is that the right people are working on the right things to support the business’s strategic objectives. Embedding a longer-term outcome focus for the transformation, rather than fixating on tasks and activities, helps to drive real impact by empowering individuals to think about the different ways they can achieve the same outcome rather than be deterred if their course becomes blocked or needs to divert. To support this, adopting a ‘flexible by design’ mentality is key – given that the original plan will most likely change – so it will be imperative to have a robust methodology to review (and potentially deprioritise) projects and communicate across the stakeholder group.
It has been impossible to ignore the rapid advancement of AI over the past year, and the rate of development will likely only increase. For transformation leaders, there are certainly benefits, including automation of manual, non-value-adding activities. However, we’re all cognisant that it also presents challenges and unknowns. The launch of Microsoft co-pilot will be a good test. Are teams really equipped with the skills and capabilities needed to make the most of these new technologies? Do we understand AI’s limitations and full potential? However, we also need the foundations in place. We’ve all heard “rubbish data in, rubbish data out”, and in a world where we rely more and more on technology to inform our decisions, it will be vital to ensure a data-driven mindset, that is, everyone in the business taking true ownership for their data.
Ultimately, for a transformation to be successful, you need your people on board. Developing deep, authentic, and trusted relationships with the business teams you’re supporting is critical, and the value and complexity of human connections should not be underestimated. In practice, this highlights the need for transformation professionals to ensure a robust communication and engagement strategy supporting the change they are trying to embed. Ranging from the “mechanical” touch points such as steering committees and engagement-focused interventions, including town halls and leadership roadshows, to “organic” informal check-ins with key stakeholders, water-cooler moments and team huddles, a coherent plan is critical to make sure that people remain at the heart of the transformation.
Ambiguity is the only certainty, and the winners in the new world will be those who not only embrace this but use it to their competitive advantage. Transformation is transforming… are you ready?
Complete our Transformation is Transforming benchmark survey to assess how ready your organisation is to transform within an ever-changing world. We will be sharing the results of the benchmark survey with all participants in the New Year.
Authors: Cat Brownlie and Helen Woodley