This article was featured in our Ideas to Impact newsletter. Each month we explore the ideas that create real impact with exclusive insights from our team to help accelerate your strategic business outcomes. Subscribe today to receive each issue in your inbox as soon as it’s published.
Transformation is a hot-button topic throughout the business world. Social and economic crises have accelerated the desire to explore transformation plans for many organizations. But what do we mean by “transformation”, and what can an organization expect by undergoing it?
The ultimate goal of a business is to be successful both now and in the future. Companies want to thrive for the sake of their customers, staff, partners, and investors. We believe that when a business is thriving it has three defining characteristics:
- Excellent products and experiences so that customers buy, come back and recommend the company and its products and services to others
- Productive staff and partners able to provide external value to consumers and internal value to colleagues
- Stability and growth with economics that are sound for the business, enabling the business to learn and improve
If a company sees that any of these characteristics don’t quite ring true, then it stands to reason that the long-term health of the business might be at risk. It also means that something needs to change. Transformation comes into the picture when questions around these characteristics uncover significant problems.
Know what to change
Providing value to its customers should be the most important thing to a business; if there’s no value, there will be no customers… and, ultimately, no business! So the first thing to do is to ask whether that value is there. Or whether it could be there. This forces leaders to look at what it means for the business to succeed as a whole. Only then does it make sense to examine to what extent does change need to happen and whether it needs to be transformative. It also allows everyone in the company to align on the goals and ambitions of the business.
Know how to change
Perhaps the business is fine on the value front but in trouble on productivity? Maybe the economics don’t stack up? Whatever the problem might be, the business needs to pinpoint it first so that everyone knows what to focus on. Transformation should always be fit for purpose and incremental. Unfortunately, many businesses start “big T” transformation projects without sufficient clarity. Worse, they believe that different parts of the organization – like departments or teams – can transform in isolation. This doesn’t work because a business is like a living organism that needs all of its parts working seamlessly together. Any transformation strategy that doesn’t pursue change in the context of the end-to-end flow of value is doomed to failure.
Adapt to the future
Every business is meant to solve customer problems, to meet needs. Businesses also operate under constraints. Since customer problems and the constraints evolve, businesses must be able to do so as well. Transformation cannot aim to offer a solution and be done with it. You can bet that by the time it is “finished”, you’ll need another one!
Instead, transformation ought to be about securing a future for the business so that the people inside it are capable of adapting to changing circumstances without a major revolution each time. We believe that the key to doing this lies with organizing work and people around the creation and evolution of products and services. Businesses that take time to reflect on what is important to their customers and focus on the most pressing changes at a point in time will be able to redefine themselves, thrive, and emerge as leaders in their industry.