Article

Busi­ness Transformation

Cri­sis Or No Cri­sis: Com­pa­nies Still Need To Transform

September 1, 2021

Author

Krish­na Paupamah

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

With more of their cit­i­zens vac­ci­nat­ed, the Unit­ed States and the Unit­ed King­dom are see­ing increas­ing opti­mism over the econ­o­my, promis­ing a time when things will get back to nor­mal. How­ev­er, in oth­er parts of the world things remain uncer­tain, with many gov­ern­ments reim­pos­ing lock­downs. I began to won­der how organ­i­sa­tions were han­dling their trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes dur­ing these uncer­tain times.

In 2008, we were work­ing for a large infra­struc­ture busi­ness. They were enjoy­ing an increase in busi­ness, but they were hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties cop­ing with the high vol­ume of activ­i­ty that they had to cope with to meet the demand.

We were brought in to help them man­age this. How­ev­er, a few weeks after we start­ed, the glob­al finan­cial cri­sis happened.

Overnight, their vol­umes dropped dramatically.

For a while, man­age­ment were like star­tled cats, run­ning around with no clue what to do and were con­tem­plat­ing on clos­ing the trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme to save fees. When you get hit with such a dra­mat­ic shift, what else can you do but look at what needs to be done to come out of the mess?

We had to get cre­ative to help them main­tain their trans­for­ma­tion momentum.

Our team fig­ured that we could look at all the costs in the busi­ness. We found sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ties to reduce the cost base and keep the com­pa­ny on even keel. By show­ing this to the man­age­ment, not only did we keep the trans­for­ma­tion going but togeth­er with the man­age­ment we stream­lined the com­pa­ny to be fit for pur­pose. Today, it is still one of the most suc­cess­ful in its industry.

The dan­ger of compromise

“Fatigue” almost always hap­pens in any trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme, even dur­ing the best of the times with the best run projects. When projects hit a road­block, gets too com­plex and over­whelm­ing, lead­ers often make com­pro­mis­es, but this often ends up com­pro­mis­ing the full val­ue of the transformation.

When a cri­sis hits, this gets worse, as you can see from what hap­pened with the infra­struc­ture com­pa­ny. The temp­ta­tion to address the urgent prob­lem at hand and shelve or delay trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes is great. Yet, this is prob­a­bly the most impor­tant time to buck­le down and main­tain momen­tum towards build­ing the organisation’s trans­for­ma­tion capa­bil­i­ty and make cru­cial changes to improve the company’s effi­cien­cy and effec­tive­ness. If you aren’t doing this, your com­peti­tors cer­tain­ly are, and inac­tion will allow them to sprint ahead.

Why is it so dif­fi­cult to main­tain the momen­tum of change? It comes down to human behav­iour. How many times have we made plans to change an aspect of our dai­ly rou­tine, only to have those plans not trans­late into new rou­tines or behaviours?

Get­ting organ­i­sa­tions through a trans­for­ma­tion is no dif­fer­ent. Main­tain­ing momen­tum is nev­er an easy task. Many busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes run for years and any num­ber of events can derail the momentum!

While it seems inevitable to lose momen­tum dur­ing a trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme, there are ways we can mit­i­gate its side effects. We do this by hav­ing a frame­work that keeps the engine of trans­for­ma­tion going. Some of the enablers of this engine include:

Trans­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment Office or a Project Man­age­ment Office

When ded­i­cat­ed resources are allo­cat­ed to over­see ini­tia­tives and mak­ing sure they are deliv­er­ing results as expect­ed, they can dri­ve the momen­tum of transformation.

Change cham­pi­ons

These are the peo­ple who are select­ed to facil­i­tate and advo­cate for change in the organ­i­sa­tion. These ambas­sadors of change sup­port the imple­men­ta­tion of the programme.

When things get hard, get creative

One step towards embed­ding change capa­bil­i­ty in an organ­i­sa­tion is to teach peo­ple not to fear fail­ure but to think of to fail­ure as redi­rec­tion. With the infra­struc­ture com­pa­ny, we decid­ed to look for oppor­tu­ni­ties in the cri­sis so that we can keep going forward.

At the end of a trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme, many exec­u­tives heave a sigh of relief. “The hard work is done. Now we can con­tin­ue our lives like we did before.” Not quite. In fact, this can be a dan­ger­ous time when the com­pa­ny ends up slip­ping back to old habits and waste all the work that was done to trans­form the organisation.

We often tell our clients that after the hard work of trans­for­ma­tion ends, it’s the begin­ning of anoth­er change. This is not the kind of news exec­u­tives want to hear, but they must now answer this ques­tion: How do we main­tain the new way of work and con­tin­ue to reap the fruits of change?

Krish­na Pau­pamah has worked with com­pa­nies glob­al­ly to trans­form their busi­ness for over 35 years. He is the Founder and Group CEO of Renoir Con­sult­ing.

This col­umn was first pub­lished in Busi­ness Today.

Author

Krish­na Paupamah

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

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