i-Transform - It's All About The People

Your Furniture Will Not Transform Your Business

Answer: You Need To Engage Your People To Do That

So often, we hear of “transformation” initiatives where the result has somehow been pre-ordained. In relatively low maturity organisations, the management team might think it is just question of “add technology and stir” – as though, all they need is a believable sounding plan and then to make someone accountable for making it happen.

Their mental models are often stuck in a top-down, mandate the change and it will happen mode. They hire a big name consulting outfit to do it for help them. Everyone seemed to nod at the right times when the leader stood at the front of the room and explained the challenges on the road ahead:

    • Management have set out to reduce headcount costs by 30-40%. But we’ve yet to work out where we can make those savings without affecting the customer outcomes we deliver. Each functional leader thinks that it’s someone else’s problem. Either way, we certainly won’t announce it to the workforce for fear of upsetting the unions.
    • All we need is a new simplified system. We’re all preparing to implement the new accounting system to finally replace the current approach where 16 different systems have to deal with 12 different payment platforms across 10 countries. But you’ve all got to resist the temptation to ask for customisations. The real challenge is that we haven’t quite reconciled the fact that it only deals with 80% of our current business.
    • Don’t touch my org chart. Given that we re-organised just a year ago, the last thing we want is yet another reorg. The elephant in the room is the inability to grapple with change in the past, and the current functional structure that’s determined to stay “in control”.

The organisation is now determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, yet many are still wondering how this change programme is different from the last, and why the expected results never quite materialised from that previous failure. Sound familiar?

So often, we find that change programs – particularly those that have a heavy cultural change element – get stuck in the mud before they get started. Everyone acknowledges the need for change, but they see it only in terms of a change in systems, or a change in processes. Management really haven’t come to terms with the need to change their governance and decision making, or the potential for changes in the org structure.

Individual self-awareness is just not there. They think that they can apply the very same methods that created the current mess structures, using them to solve for the constantly evolving challenges of the 21st century – be they rapidly evolving customer expectations, new regulations, new technologies, or the actions of competitors.

The Soft Stuff Is The Hard Stuff

The reality is that when people talk about “managing change,” they often mean managing the implementation of change; as though some small clique of senior managers and strategy experts decided on the shape of the future, and all we now need is a robust plan to get us there. This perspective couldn’t be further from reality.

“Business transformation means being prepared to change everything you do—but most importantly—how you think” COO, Major Wealth Management Organization

To really move the organisation ahead – i.e. doing more than just putting go faster stripes on the existing departments, or applying yet another Band-Aid to some “burning platform” – means changing the way the organisation thinks about how it approaches the transformation programme. Changing the way the organisation thinks about change means changing the way it engages its employees into the change programme.

Go To The End And Work Backwards

So rather than assuming employees have little to contribute to the strategy discussion, the best engagement approach is to bring multiple teams together in parallel and challenge them to co-create the future. Those teams need a certain “requisite variety”—lots of different perspectives and learning styles—with change agents coming together from across the business including strategy, IT, customer experience and key central functions.

Their core challenge is to rethink how the firm delivers value to its customers. Starting with customer personas and customer journey maps, the teams work backwards into the desired customer experience and the processes and capabilities needed to support that experience. Along the way, the teams share artefacts with each other; collectively they industrialize their approach by working “outside-in,” bypassing the political challenges of individual silos.

If done right, the people involved become passionate about their outcomes ... they are their services, their ideas, their methods, their new ways of working. We know it works:

    • A major European Bank chartered its Business Architecture function. Existing architecture resources were challenged to design a set of service propositions for Business Architecture within the Bank. Employees worked outside-in to first understand the service consumer (customer) context and the journey they were on, before designing the desired delivery experience, and ultimately all the way back into the capabilities and processes needed within Business Architecture. Brought together and socialised internally, these service propositions formed the core of the Business Architecture charter.
    • A large US insurance organisation brought 100 people together in one room. Between them, they started 12 co-dependent projects needed to reinvent the organisation. The workshop was so successful, they reorganised the seating arrangements to bring IT and change project teams face-to-face on a full time basis.
    • A major European airline brought 50 Enterprise Architects together from across their federated organisation. They challenged them to reinvent the way they delivered value to the rest of the organisation. In two days they completely rewrote the playbook for how they engage the business and their role in ensuring alignment between business vision and execution.
    • The exec management team of a Tier 2 Life Insurer came together to explore the challenges facing the organisation as it reinvents itself. Along the way, they realised that their three change programmes needed to be joined at the hip – the new member administration system, the organisational transformation programme, and the digital marketing initiative were all intimately related.
    • A software company engaged its partners and key customers to reinvent the way the whole ecosystem works. Rather than standing at the front of the room and telling partners how to work, this organisation put them through a variant of the co-creation exercise to design service propositions and the related delivery mechanisms that ensured all participants contributed effectively.

So it’s not the furniture that will transform your organisation. It’s your people that will do that. This key point was again underscored in our survey of organisational change programmes. You can download the full report with registration here

About Us

We bring together strong capabilities in business transformation and organizational change—from overall programme design, through business architecture and engagement methods, down to team facilitation and executive coaching.