“Transformation” was the defining operational focus of organizations in 2018. Whether companies are going through a digital transformation, an organizational restructuring, or just changing the way they serve their customers, the “T word” is at the top of every executives' minds as the number one priority to be executed. However, if the statistics are to be trusted only 1 in 10 executives believe they are more than 75% successful in executing on their strategy.
That’s the same as 9 out of 10 saying they get execution wrong at least 25% of the time according to a survey conducted by Wipro Digital. If your organization is like most companies, you are probably struggling between designing a transformation strategy and executing on one. That's because a transformational journey is made up of many moving parts with the most critical element being your employees themselves. If employees and executives don’t really see the upside of a change process, then they are apt to resist and even sabotage it at every turn. The hey days of turning over a strategy to front line employees and asking them to execute without explaining the bigger picture and their role in it are quickly fading into the rear-view mirror.
In executing a strategy, especially one that requires new ways of thinking and serving customers, executives must go beyond mandating change and imposing the use of technologies without also addressing mindsets as a key element on that journey. In their recent survey of 400 US senior executives , Wipro Digital asked what were the major obstacles that prohibited companies from achieving their full digital potential? with executives being split on the many barriers. However, nearly half of CEOs (47%) and CIOs (49%) and over half of COOs (50%) and Chief Design Officers (75%) believing that resistance to new ways of working was the top barrier, closely followed by the complexity of implementing the strategy itself.
In nailing a transformational Journey just right, executives must gain a keen understanding of their organizational mindset. This, much more than new technologies or even processes will be the best predictor of failure or success inside and out. Executives should first assess their own bias and mental barriers to change. The truth is that human beings are hard wired to resist change, especially from a perspective of safety and unwillingness to move away from a model that seems to be working. However, if anything the current environment has demonstrated is the disastrous consequences of waiting too long to think about your emerging business model of the future.
The second key element of a transformational process is equipping staff (including executives) with the new mental models and tools that will help them easily make the shift. New ways of engaging customers and employees alike are quickly emerging through methodologies such as design thinking, leadership agility, systems thinking and strategic foresight to name a few. Investing in training and development of these new approaches can go a long way in helping ease the tension and anxiety that staff will justifiably undergo when faced with a change process on a massive scale.
Last but certainly not least, no matter how large or small the change process, attempting to shift the entire organization all at once is a sure recipe for disaster. Just as in an agile or design thinking process, it is best to start with a prototype and to test it on a smaller scale with either one department or business unit. Once you collect both qualitative and quantitative data from the “experiment”, you can now iterate the process and gain momentum through “lessons learned” and begin implementing at a faster and more successful scale.
There is no doubt that transforming organizations is the imperative for our age and it promises to be front and center for the next decade. The sooner organizations learn how to navigate this precarious time, the better their chances at survival. The market is replete of examples of companies who did not pay attention to the writing on the wall, and many others will also follow suit for failing to get the change management process right. Organizations who wish to write a different story need to start by shifting their focus to the one element that can either make or break this process: their people. But if companies can embrace and engage end users in the transformation process, it has a much greater chance of taking hold.