"The best organisations frequently use transformation programmes to test fundamental issues about their business"
The pace of change is faster than ever. But it is still the slowest it will be in our lives. This fact dominates business today. And it is leading companies and governments to embrace business transformation in ways they never dreamt they would.
Sector by sector, we see the emergence of new products and services, challenger business models, innovative reform of distribution and supply chains, the extraordinary power of digital technology. New generations of consumers and employees bring vastly different expectations. Look at what’s happening in banking, music, retail, healthcare, higher education and so much more.
And overlaying it all, for us in the UK, is the disruption of Brexit and tougher economic times. We won’t settle into a new norm. Indeed, transformation is now arguably business as usual, and organisations must embrace it as a strategic priority, making themselves ready for change at every moment.
Of course, transformation isn’t easy. It is disruptive and challenging, as well as necessary and rewarding. Transformation demands clear thinking, a strong sense of purpose and skill in bringing people with you.
Transformation must be owned not just by the leaders of an organisation, but throughout the workforce. And, ideally, by shareholders, customers and other stakeholders as well. This often means that we need to do more than win the logical argument for change. We need to convince hearts as well as minds.
Much of the human response to change is emotional rather than rational. Of course, there should be a robust business case behind any decision to change. But business leaders must also get their tone and approach right if they want to succeed. This applies even more when the project involves technology, particularly digital.
Too many organisations are tempted to see digital as a quick fix. Recognising the need to respond to aggregators and agitators in their marketplace, incumbent businesses sometimes just bolt digital capability on to their existing firms and hope this will do the trick. It won’t.
The best organisations, by contrast, frequently use digital or technology transformation programmes to test even more fundamental issues about their business.
How do we relate to our customers? Are we enabling our people to make the most of technology? Are we in the right markets? Should we partner, diversify or look for a merger? What sort of organisation do we want to be in five years’ time? What is our purpose and can we articulate it in way that makes sense to our key audiences?
By getting to the answers to these questions, transforming organisations are far more likely to achieve the results they want and to get value for money from the changes they implement.
The best transformation teams learn and adapt as they go along. They are constantly looking for signals of where they need to adjust and respond, and where the opportunities are to push the boundaries. They use our unprecedented access to data, and our astonishing power to analyse and interrogate, it to inform their thinking, but not to dictate it. They share intelligence and look for inspiration from a wide range of sources.
Marrying a strong sense of strategy, priorities and programme management with this new agility and ability to learn is tough for even the best organisations. It is one of the reasons why diversity of thought, experience and perspective are so important around the board table and throughout an organisation, as well as within the consulting industry.
Yes, we’re all having to change. And we can certainly make it a change for the better.
First published in Raconteur’s Business Transformation special report for The Times.