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Busi­ness Transformation

Busi­ness Trans­for­ma­tion in 2020: Quick tips to go beyond the buzzword

January 10, 2020

With every start of the year, many busi­ness­es, would be look­ing to imple­ment their trans­for­ma­tion plans (Did you know that “dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion” became one of the top man­age­ment buzz­words at the turn of the decade?).

Many are prob­a­bly also well aware by now that the major­i­ty of trans­for­ma­tion plans under-deliver or fail. Any­one who has gone through a con­ven­tion­al top-down trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme – involv­ing cost-cutting, dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion and/or organ­i­sa­tion­al restruc­ture – often comes out of it with very lit­tle to show. Organ­i­sa­tions sim­ply can’t fol­low the “fire, ready, aim” approach to transformation.

What was lack­ing in most of these fail­ures? Ade­quate change management.

To shed light on this top­ic, we sat down with five lead­ers of Renoir Con­sult­ing – our very own Renoir Change­mak­ers – on the com­mon pit­falls they’ve seen, in more than 90 years of col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence in change man­age­ment and transformation.

They shared with us the com­mon ques­tions that need to be asked, to increase the odds of suc­cess for any trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme. But first, let’s dis­pel a com­mon myth.

“Peo­ple are resis­tant to change” (?)

To begin with, busi­ness lead­ers need to first make this one men­tal shift – though peo­ple may be crea­tures of habit, but they are def­i­nite­ly NOT resis­tant to well-managed change. Here, CEO of Renoir Con­sult­ing, Tom Verkooi­jen elab­o­rates: “The resis­tance to change comes from the pain of change and a fear of the unknown. If a suf­fi­cient­ly secured base is pro­vid­ed for peo­ple to hold onto through­out the process, they will be more accept­ing of the ini­tia­tives in a short­er peri­od of time.”

3 ques­tions a trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme should be able to answer

To pro­vide that secure base for peo­ple, every trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tive will require a tai­lored approach to change man­age­ment. Hav­ing worked with clients who have embarked on a vari­ety of trans­for­ma­tion jour­neys, from function-specific to organisation-wide, we’ve found that suc­cess­ful trans­for­ma­tions con­sid­ered the fol­low­ing three fac­tors when plan­ning their approach to change management:

1) Who are ALL the cus­tomers of change?

Who is the change going to impact and what does it mean to them? As peo­ple are the main agents of change, instead of forc­ing trans­for­ma­tion down their throats, organ­i­sa­tions need to focus on onboard­ing all stakeholders.
In most tra­di­tion­al organ­i­sa­tions, trans­for­ma­tion plans are devel­oped by a small group of senior lead­ers. Whilst direction-setting from top man­age­ment is cru­cial, sus­tain­able change can only hap­pen when it is insti­tut­ed from both the top-down and bottom-up.

“Stake­hold­er engage­ment is so often insuf­fi­cient despite the blind­ing­ly obvi­ous need to onboard EVERYONE affect­ed by the change. Take them on the proven change man­age­ment cycle, from under­stand­ing the rea­sons for change all the way to how it could be done,” Iain Mul­vey, our CEO in South Africa explains.

That is what makes change sus­tain­able — it must reach all employ­ees at the indi­vid­ual lev­el. Also, don’t stop at just the busi­ness’ inter­nal stake­hold­ers – this is equal­ly applic­a­ble to exter­nal ser­vice providers to whom process­es are often outsourced.

The best way is always to make it a team effort from the get-go and define both prob­lems as well as solu­tions togeth­er. Farouk Jivani, Head of Busi­ness and Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion, believes that this cru­cial first step is what sets the suc­cess­ful ones apart: “Involv­ing the wider organ­i­sa­tion and invest­ed indi­vid­u­als in defin­ing what needs to be done is a key com­po­nent to cre­at­ing align­ment and devel­op­ing own­er­ship around transformation.”

2) Can peo­ple see the course of change ahead?

It’s like­ly busi­ness lead­ers already have defined a clear and desir­able vision for its trans­for­ma­tion jour­ney. It now needs to be tak­en a step fur­ther, and made action­able, by look­ing at both the big and small pic­ture simultaneously.
Sus­tain­able trans­for­ma­tion requires sys­temic change. That’s where see­ing the big pic­ture is key. This means zoom­ing out and break­ing down each trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tive into its com­po­nent parts.

To do this, our Head of Analy­sis, Daniel Menezes sug­gests that process reengi­neer­ing with clear Key Per­for­mance Indi­ca­tors (KPIs) and report­ing mech­a­nisms, togeth­er with defin­ing the right coor­di­na­tion meet­ings is para­mount. KPIs must be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly applied to all steps of the val­ue chain to allow for sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance improve­ment. In oth­er words, the process has to be sys­temic in con­sid­er­a­tion of the envi­ron­ment in which change is imposed. There’s an addi­tion­al upside of get­ting this right: by empow­er­ing the very peo­ple doing the change, it also reduces the need for senior lead­er­ship intervention.

Beyond opti­mis­ing how dif­fer­ent parts of the busi­ness inter­act, busi­ness lead­ers need to also “think small” when it comes to mak­ing the change with­in each of those parts; Mar­tyn Web­ber, our CEO in South East Asia, offered this piece of advice: “Plan it with mil­i­tary precision.”

Mar­tyn empha­sised on the impor­tance of thor­ough change plan­ning by advis­ing that change cycles needs to be planned care­ful­ly down to the last com­mu­ni­ca­tion ses­sion, the move­ment of the peo­ple, even to the intro­duc­tion of change itself. “Leave noth­ing to chance”, Mar­tyn concludes.

3) Who are the change cham­pi­ons at each level?

For some, the excite­ment around launch­ing (yet anoth­er) promis­ing trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme needs to be tem­pered by this sober­ing fact: “Change doesn’t hap­pen in newslet­ters and emails about pro­grammes but through the peo­ple in an organ­i­sa­tion”, Farouk reminds.

Suc­cess­ful trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes rely on a net­work of cham­pi­ons that play dif­fer­ent roles in the change process — from execu­tors on the ground floor to senior man­age­ment remov­ing road­blocks and paint­ing the big­ger pic­ture. Busi­ness lead­ers also need to con­sid­er both peo­ple with for­mal and infor­mal influ­ence on the behav­iours of their col­leagues. Iden­ti­fy­ing and engag­ing a wider change net­work is what will allow the organ­i­sa­tion to scale-up change efforts. Farouk calls this step, “Estab­lish­ing your coali­tions of change.”

The most impor­tant step, fol­low it through
Keep­ing to all of the above is still no guar­an­tee of suc­cess. Liv­ing in a VUCA (volatile, uncer­tain, com­plex, and ambigu­ous) world means even the best laid plans can go awry if organ­i­sa­tions don’t rein­force the process with appro­pri­ate change man­age­ment tools.

“Trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes only begin at GO-LIVE and the jour­ney is often hard­er than expect­ed. Imple­men­ta­tion is where every­one strug­gles and sup­port­ing behav­ioral change, through a com­pre­hen­sive change man­age­ment plan, is the only way to ensure trans­for­ma­tions are suc­cess­ful,” said Farouk. So whether it’s onboard­ing indi­vid­u­als to their new role in the organ­i­sa­tion, or get­ting peo­ple to use and make deci­sions through a new­ly installed ana­lyt­ics plat­form, GO-LIVE is where behav­iour­al change starts.

Iain also adds some part­ing advice, remind­ing busi­ness lead­ers that it is impor­tant to light­en the mood of the envi­ron­ment by main­tain­ing a sense of humour to ease the trans­for­ma­tion. “After all, whilst peo­ple are not resis­tant to change, they are cer­tain­ly resis­tant to poor­ly exe­cut­ed change,” Iain reminds.

Hav­ing dis­cussed the com­mon pit­falls of trans­for­ma­tion, Farouk summed it up by say­ing: “Change man­age­ment is a key suc­cess fac­tor to any trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme, and every pro­gramme requires a tai­lored approach to it.”
While these key fac­tors dis­cussed have been uni­ver­sal­ly crit­i­cal in all the suc­cess­ful trans­for­ma­tions that Renoir has had the priv­i­lege of work­ing on, the way they are applied will vary from one com­pa­ny to the next.

To dis­cov­er how our proven approach to change man­age­ment, craft­ed through expe­ri­ence and best prac­tice, can help imple­ment and scale up your trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tive, feel free to reach out to us. Change starts now

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