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Business transformation: avoid the revolving door of organizational change

Learn how to avoid the flawed cycle of organizational change by switching to a more dynamic, iterative approach to business transformation

Published by Orgvue 

Whether we’re talking more tactical digital initiatives or a wholesale company restructuring, there are plenty of examples of organizations undergoing repeated attempts at business transformation.

Transformation programs are large scale, ambitious affairs that take time and concerted effort, so it’s no surprise companies find it hard to get them right first time. In some industries, by the time a project is complete, the commercial environment may have changed so much that the organization faces another transformation just to keep up.

The problem is that even the most lightweight transformation program can be highly disruptive to an organization’s everyday operations. Productivity, morale and competitiveness can all take a hit. And a business in transition can find hiring and retaining key talent especially challenging.

At the same time, resisting change can leave an organization being outpaced by competitors, uncompetitive in its costs and increasingly unattractive to customers. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

There has to be a better way.

From one-and-done to always-on

There’s a tendency for organizations to view business transformation as a one-time deal. We start at point A, do the necessary work and end up at point B. Job done. One version of business-as-usual is replaced by another that’s a better fit for the environment we find ourselves in.

By viewing transformation as a project or series of projects, we can ringfence activities and assign budgets more easily. We can deploy resources temporarily and return them to their day jobs when the project is done. It’s simply neater that way.

But the world of business is rarely neat. It’s a dynamic system of ever-shifting rules, tactics, demands, strategies, objectives, pressures… the list goes on. So, it’s unsurprising that the one-and-done approach rarely delivers what it suggests. At best, we can achieve one-and-done-for-now.

Instead, we suggest businesses should always be in a process of transformation if they’re to remain competitive and serve changing customer needs. Done right, this should be an iterative process of minor changes that build on each other over time.

By approaching change management this way, organizations can minimize the negative impact that large, time-bound transformation initiatives can have. It becomes less of a revolving door and more of an escalator moving the business onwards and upwards.

The challenge, of course, is how to achieve this.

Too much data, too late to help

A key part of the issue is that review cycles are typically too long and too infrequent. Because of the timescales and complexity involved, measuring impact can be challenging. It requires managers to harness a mass of data from many different sources; data that they run through a series of systems and spreadsheets before being able to draw insight from the analysis.

By the time this is done, it’s often too late to make small course corrections. If things aren’t going to plan, larger more disruptive change will be needed. Ultimately, it’s better to have fewer KPIs that are continuously available through a system dashboard and which will show whether the program is on target or not.

While these KPIs may not give you the full picture, they’ll be important early indicators of what’s happening in the real world of your business transformation. If the results show that you’re off track, you’ll be able to look in more detail at specific areas of concern.

With near-real-time measurement at your disposal, you can significantly reduce the time lag between what’s happening in the business and action being taken at senior management level. This will enable the business to adopt a continuous cycle of incremental improvement, exploring options for change, developing a plan and monitoring its effectiveness over time. It’ll enable you to move away from business transformation as a highly disruptive one-time event to an ongoing process of becoming more efficient, more effective and more competitive.

And that’s a better outcome for everyone.

Read more about business transformation

In a world where the only constant is change, organizations thrive by continually adapting to capitalize on new opportunities and fend off challenges.

In this new reality, there’s no place for large-scale business transformations. Instead, an evolutionary approach to change is needed that’s more discrete and more frequent.

Building the adaptive enterprise: how to run an effective business transformation program

To help you make your business transformation a success, we’ve published a new guide. Download your copy to learn:

• Why making change happen (and making it stick) is so difficult

• How to achieve the clarity you need to move forward with confidence

• How to quickly explore different design options and identify the best one for your organization

• How to translate your strategy into what people actually do on a daily basis

• How to stay on track and ensure everyone else comes with you on the journey