• Chris Bevan

Transforming Your Organisation – There is a Different Way

The news this week of the possible availability of a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus has injected an initial sense of optimism into the business world. A few conversations I have had in the past two days has revealed intention from business leaders to reinvigorate their pre-pandemic transformation objectives most including the word “digital” in the conversation.

Every year, one of the large global consultancies produce a report which concludes that 70% of all transformations fail. Our research has shown that this message has been pretty consistent since 1985. The earliest report we have found was authored by Dr Alexander at the Cardiff School of Management.

For the past 30 plus years we have known the high rate of failure, but we still repeat the mistakes and fail in delivering the outcomes our companies need.

The consultancies that produce the reports lament the rate of failure and produce examples of those companies that, in their opinion, have made it into the 30% part of the equation. Yet, why are these consultancies, with all their combined knowledge and experience unable to turn the tide and hammer down the 70%ers?

There are five key areas we would suggest that are the foundations for success and ensuring that you are not in 70% club.

1. Don’t Rush to Execution.

Having spent time and effort on evolving your strategy, the urge is to set up the PMO, write up business cases for projects and launch them. This betting the company on opinion and akin to deciding to build a house and immediately starting up the JCB!

You wouldn’t do that, you would engage an architect and start the design, which would probably go through a number of iterations before you and your family land on the final version. Now you have a great understanding of what the outcomes will be, what capabilities you will need and the stages you will need to go through to get the house built. And by the way, your “final” version of the design has probably changed a dozen times since you said “yes!”

So why would you not take a similar approach to transforming your business?

Research shows that 95% of companies have a robust strategy but only 30% deliver on their objectives.

2. Ditch the Operational Thinking.

Most senior executives have progressed through their organisation by climbing their functional ladder. They have risen vertically up the organisation and those who have achieved Board status will probably have that functional, vertical thinking embedded in their muscle memory. All their points of reference are historical. The pandemic has shown us that there are alternative ways of delivering your business.

Most companies have gone through the survival stage and into stabilising their operation. A large number have found ways of moving on to adapting their operating models. The challenge now is to scale the adaptions so that they can prosper as we come through the current restrictions.

3. Find the Truth.

The truth of the organisation is usually unseen because it is unheard, because it is unspoken. There are also many versions of the truth. There is a version for the Board, a version for senior leaders and managers and another at the operational level and probably many more in between. The Board members & senior leaders are usually so distant from the operation, their memory of the truth is historic and out of date. Until the truth is recognised and consistent, dialogue through any transformation is unauthentic, unbelievable, and sometimes dishonest.

4. Don’t Ignore the prevailing Culture.

Culture is the glue that holds the company together. Even toxic culture does that, and I have worked in a few. The leadership are the shapers of the culture and it can facilitate transformation or block it all ways up. If you think of culture being driven by behaviours, then you can design the culture you want or at least design the vehicle for evolving the culture. This is a core element in the design mentioned above in ‘Don’t Rush to Execution’.

5. Humanity-led.

In the fourth industrial revolution (today) we must ensure that we are humanity-led. In the previous industrial revolutions, people supported machines. This was necessary because of the need to provide the scale of operation. From the Mills of Lancashire to the coal fields of the Rhondda to transportation, the word “mass” preceded “production,” and the only way to achieve that was through mechanisation. Today we must recognise that technology must now support people. Digital Transformation is on every leaders’ lips, but when you drill down into the conversation what the majority mean is replace the older technology without transforming their operating model and environment.

The fantastic strides made in the advancement of digital technologies has produced insight that we could only have dreamt of even 5 years ago. How are we gathering this insight and more importantly, how are we deploying it?

Embarking on a company transformation is a risky endeavour. There is risk to company brand, risk to your professional standing and a very real risk to your personal brand. However, this awful pandemic has shown us that the past operating models are not flexible and agile or resilient enough. Transforming the operating model and environment is a must. Technology has a critical part to play, but you need to understand what other parts are required to make up the whole.

You don’t have to be part of the 70%. Commit to growing that 30%.

Chris Bevan is a Co-Founder of Outvie Consulting

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