Transformation in 2018 – What Really Matters? (Part 3)

What do our clients think?

In the first blog in this series, we explored the most significant drivers for transformation in 2018 as well as what that means for leaders. In the second blog, we looked at the areas to focus on right now to succeed in overcoming those challenges. In this third and final blog of the series, we reflect on our clients’ experiences.

North Highland recently held a breakfast event for senior leaders where we explored what they believe is most important to get right and frequently hard to do well during business transformations. At the event, North Highland’s own Charles Vivian (2017 UK Business Awards ‘Inspirational Leader of the Year’ winner) shared his personal transformation story and inspiration. Charles shared Edmund Hillary’s quote, “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things,” to focus the conversation on a human centered approach to transformation. As it relates to business, we have the technology and insight to do so much, but we won’t succeed if our people don’t buy in. One attendee articulated this point by saying, “our biggest job is not technical, it’s getting the organisation bought in.”

Disruption Rules

To face disruption and succeed in today’s marketplace is hard.

To provide our customers with what they want when it’s ever changing, to support and develop five different generations in the workplace and to seize the opportunities that come with new technological advances and data insight are all hard.

Combine that with the reality that no one is too young to be a CEO, and anyone can be an expert, and there is someone out there, right now, working to disrupt our business.

Co-Creation, Ownership and Engagement

After hearing from one of our clients about how they had engaged with everyone in their large organisation around their transformation plans and at all stages of the journey, we debated the need to co-create with large parts of the organisation vs. using small group of experts to set the vision, direction and priorities. We discussed when to involve wider groups and how to engage them effectively.

We strongly agreed on the need to generate ownership and the need for engagement and concluded that co-creation can take three main forms:

  1. There is a need to co-create the design of a transformation. It is key for the transformation vision and strategic objectives to be created by a group who are close to the strategic direction of the organisation as a whole. The entire senior leadership team needs to be aligned and have ownership of the reasons for the transformation and what the end outcome will be.
  2. You can co-create on how to deliver the design. No matter how clear the roadmap is that you start with, there will need to be changes as the delivery teams get more involved, to dig into the detail and see what’s working. Learning as you transform brings huge value to your organisation’s mindset and ways of working as does being prepared to stop if it’s not working.
  3. You can co-create through engagement. Transformation is an emotional journey and as one of our attendees said, “the difficult part is to get the middle engaged and bought in.”

The Grey Areas

Our attendees also indicated that one of the toughest challenges that many of us face is, “managing the grey.” Even if we lead transformation with a clear vision and purpose, structure our transformations well, create realistic and empowering roadmaps and engage the middle, there are still huge challenges when leaders take the vision and add in their own personal goals and interpretations. This creates the grey areas.

Managing the grey takes time, can often focus on the detractors and takes us away from our ‘day job’ which we often fail to factor in.

We can help smooth the way though by being clear on the 3-5 priorities that we need to be bought into and talking about consistently. We can also focus on getting the operating model right.

Terminology Re-Think

One of the most controversial topics discussed was if we should even be using the term “Transformation” at all. As one attendee stated, “Transformation is a dirty word associated with cost reduction and not connected to growth,” alluding to it creating an environment of mistrust. Words like “Customer-Driven Change” were offered as new terminology that can be used to create a constructive vision of demand creation and growth. They also have the ability to promote a more positive sense of change and trigger a greater desire to be involved.

As leaders, we often find ourselves spending a lot of time telling others what they need to do to succeed. Perhaps it’s worth each of us taking a step back and considering, what is it that I can do differently today to help a transformation succeed?

In case you missed it, check out Part One of this series here and Part Two here.