Transforming how we transform

Or how to kill two birds with one stone?

Transforming an organisation is a holistic endeavour by nature. But you’ve got to start somewhere and for that, opportunism is the key.

Transformation is not a purpose in itself, it is an enabler for a vision and a strategy. Most organisations launching a transformation program tend to dissociate the ‘running of the business’ and the ‘transforming the business’. A mistake we often make though, is to think about these two sequentially. “I transform and as a result, I create value by doing business differently. The articulation between the two will be taken care of by change management and training activities”.

The opportunity here is to break the sequentiality in order to embrace the holistic nature of transformation.

By experience, there is a lot of potential value to be created by combining the two in a simultaneous effort. Transforming by doing things differently and as you do, developing the appetite and the skills for the new world as you experience it. I see at least three value levers:

  • Connecting the transformation journey to business priorities gives it context and makes it more meaningful.
  • Wrapping the transformation around the creation of business outcomes allows you to actually measure value created.
  • Combining the running/managing and transforming of the business improves the focus of decision making and investments on value created.

Concretely — what does it look like?

Our natural reaction, in front of an opportunity or a challenge, is to rely on our learnt behaviours and on the current organisational patterns, even when we can see their limits. Better the devil you know!. With the right help and a genuine support, however, everything becomes possible.

Think of biking. You don’t learn it in a classroom. You put on a helmet, a pair of side wheels and… you hit the road. As you build up confidence and start to enjoy the thrill of riding, you get closer to the day where you will take of the side wheels with a combination of fear and excitement. You’ll keep the helmet, mum and dad will be there, but it is you on the bike, trying to do something you have never done before but are determined to master.

You will fall, and you will bleed, and you will cry. Your parents will be saddened to see you in pain and they will invest a lot of time caring and praising. This will last for as long as biking is an effort. It will stop when it becomes natural and intuitive. Swimming? Singing? SkyDiving? Think of what it took you to become good at something.

Why would we not approach transformation in this way?

Take a concrete and meaningful business challenge and build the supporting mechanisms around it to allow your people to engage in experimental ways. A little like scaffolding — light structure wrapped around a building to facilitate heavy work on it. In our context, the scaffolding consists in easier access to knowledge and expertise, to conversation partners and coaches, to the right physical and digital working environment, etc. All this to encourage, accelerate and amplify the emergence of the ‘new way’.

In this process, it is essential to balance the focus on business outcomes — we’re doing this for real — with an opportunistic focus on transformation — we have to change to become better professionals and a better organisation. This thinking also works the other way round. You may start with a transformation imperative and be opportunistic around creating business value as you transform by designing the program around real life opportunities and challenges.

It sounds simple but… what if it was?

Note: this article was originally published on LinkedIn in October 2016

Openfield

We help leaders from across sectors deal with complexity and achieve their boldest ambition from vision to execution. We do that by designing and delivering programs of work to help our clients better collaborate, innovate and transform.

Philippe Coullomb

Written by

CEO and Co-founder of Openfield #SystemsThinker, #designer and #BusinessConsultant driven by #humanism and #idealism.

Openfield

Openfield

We help leaders from across sectors deal with complexity and achieve their boldest ambition from vision to execution. We do that by designing and delivering programs of work to help our clients better collaborate, innovate and transform.

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