We’re now well into 2020 and some of us may be feeling the benefits of the personal resolutions we made at the start of the year. 

Maybe a dress isn’t so firm round the waist, or there’s an uplift of new energy from a new mindfulness practice.

Personal transformation is rarely seen as a negative, given the focus on self-improvement and learning.  Why then when we speak of organisational transformation do colleagues groan and expect the worst? It is common rhetoric that organisations need to adapt, to respond to this ever-changing VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) environment. We don’t want to be a Kodak or a Blockbuster but “change”… ‘this is going to be a disaster (again)’.

Clayton Christensen explained in the ‘Innovators Dilemma’ that it is the exact behaviours that make companies successful that inhibit them from adapting. Resources need to be focussed on the activities that address the most profitable customers’ needs, new technologies that offer promise but are not mature yet cannot be taken seriously. The existing customers would not be satisfied with minimum viable product solutions.  

So how can organisations transform successfully – leveraging what they are great at but preparing themselves to be ready at the moment of breakthrough to still be in the market and viable?

Communication is critical

Communicate, communicate and communicate. Be clear on the why, find the purpose and make sure this is clear to everyone in the organisation. Use a multi-channel approach and repeat, repeat, repeat. In the absence of understanding, people fear the worst.  

Look through the customer lens

Start the transformation one slice at a time. That’s not one existing team – it’s the functional silos you need to cut through. Take the customer lens – how they see and interact with you, not how you are structured. Use the customer lens to determine your slice. There is nothing more frustrating than the customer service representative that says “oh that’s not me, let me transfer you to another team”. 

Make sure you’re working as a team

Bring the end to end team together, map the customer journey and make sure that everyone on the team understands the vision and why. The risk person, the legal person, the product person and the technology person all need to work together to deliver for the customer and when it goes wrong, they should all feel the pain. 

It's not about command and control

The leaders don’t need to know all the answers; they are there to support the team and unblock issues. They are not the directors; they are conductors. The best ideas are not born they are formed – built upon by allowing people with different perspectives to bring in their ideas. Leaders need to create psychologically safe places for all the team to contribute, so they feel that their ideas are valued and they feel empowered regardless of level or expertise to make suggestions.

Be clear on outcomes

Rewards need to be team-based and dependent on customer outcomes. If the password reset process has only reduced the calls for password resets by 60%, keep going. The outcome wasn’t to deliver a password reset functionality, it was to improve the process for customers so they didn’t need to sit in the call waiting queue for twenty minutes.  

Always in Beta

Allow the team to test and learn, limit the risk and let the customer feedback and data guide your development pipeline. Definitely don’t let the highest paid person make all the decisions: when was the last time your C-suite director was a customer?

Constantly evolve

As the process or product is improved, bring in more processes and products. Scale by rolling in more volume, not by trying to push it out. Expand the team to the next customer journey, learn the lessons from the previous journey and let the teams teach each other.  

Business change and transformation should be as delightful as personal transformation. Your colleagues just need to understand why they are doing it and how they contribute. It’s not easy, but all that agile jargon makes it seem more complicated than it is.

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