Set The Vision, Align Stakeholders, And Communicate
The volume, velocity, and complexity of change thrust upon us leave little room to avoid transformation. The only constant is change, and transforming ourselves and our organizations is the only way to withstand such change. In this article series titled “Transformation Blueprint,” we explore the various levers of transformation available for an organization and offer practical tips and tools on how to activate them. This article explores five key tactics to help you successfully transform your organization.
Set The Strategic Vision
Setting the strategic vision for the transformation effort is imperative because it helps teams understand why the organization needs to transform, how it will transform, and what actions teams and individuals need to take. By setting the strategic vision, you will be able to not only highlight the potential but also warn the team about the challenges that come with the transformation. You will identify which levers to pull, when, and why. This tactic requires defining the “why” of the transformation, the “how,” and the “what. The “why” clarifies the big picture and the raison d’etre, whereas the “how” tackles the scope of the effort. How will you drive the transformation? What is and is not included in your efforts? Finally, the “what” will help define the various metrics, goals, and pilot projects your teams and organization will need to implement so that you can put the strategic vision to the test.
Ensure Stakeholder Alignment
For your transformation effort to succeed, you must ensure you are engaging all the relevant stakeholders individually and also connecting and aligning them with each other and with the overall strategy and goals. Your coalition-building skills will be quite useful here. First, you will need to understand each stakeholder group’s concerns, aspirations, and agendas. Next, you will need to address the concerns, especially if they do not precisely align with the transformation efforts, and finally, you will need to demonstrate how the transformation efforts will benefit each stakeholder’s WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”). The concept of a “high tide raising all boats” could be useful to explain here.
Focus On Execution
Execution and strategic vision go hand in hand. Vision without execution is akin to daydreaming. Executing without vision is similar to flying blind. When it comes to transformation, execution and implementation are foundational. With the strategic vision, you define which levers to pull, and during execution, you and your teams actually pull the levers with specific transformation pilots concurrently to improve the customer experience, improve productivity, cut costs, or decrease risks, among other key performance goals. Additionally, even the most well-thought-out execution plan will not succeed without a well-thought-out, consistent and continuous communications, and awareness strategy. You will need to inform your teams and organizations early and often about the journey, the small (and big wins), and the challenges along the way. Two ways of doing this include sending a weekly email update and a weekly meeting. I prefer to send the weekly email on Monday morning, reiterating the project big picture goals, summarizing the previous week’s completed steps, and focusing on the upcoming week’s focal points. I also set up a 30 or 45-minute “drumbeat” weekly meeting to give the team members a voice to discuss concerns about the key elements of the email and share new ideas and suggestions.
Cultivate Organizational Receptivity
For a transformation effort to succeed, you will need to continuously cultivate organizational receptivity by persuading the stakeholders and everyone involved on the value of the transformation. This really means that you will need to communicate transparently about the various transformation initiatives, highlighting the wins, embracing the failures, and presenting the data against the success metrics you set during the strategic vision formulation to gauge receptivity and adoption of the transformation efforts. Organizational receptivity is often lumped into culture change. However, it is broader than culture as it also includes the processes, technologies, and data relating to the transformation implementation efforts.
As you and your teams drive transformation, you have to ensure that you are staying abreast of changes in technologies, processes, and next practices communicated by industry and academia. Doing so allows will allow the organization to remain flexible and ready to pivot. This means that while the original strategic vision of the ‘why’ discussed earlier remains largely the same; the “how” and the “what” of the transformation may change along the way. There are several strategies to consider when practicing foresight, including the CIPHER model developed by futurist Amy Webb, which explores contradictions, inflection, practices, hacks, extremes, and rarities. The model focuses on cultivating a process of observing and decoding weak signals and constructing an understanding and approach to tackling continuous change. While not all elements may be present in your context, it will be useful to explore contradictions in the usual way of doing business; analyze inflection points such as a sudden need for more funding or a change in policy; observe practices that disrupt previous maxims such as “renewable energy will never replace carbon-based energy sources”; review hacks whereby people are using existing means differently to solve new problems; examine extremes or new practices where people are changing the way they usually do things; and finally, do not neglect rarities, or outliers because they could point to new technologies, ideas, and innovations not encountered previously.
Implementing transformation in an organization is complex and arduous. It requires that you, your team, and the organization as a whole remain flexible, open to change, and enthusiastic about the unknown, behaviors that are easier to describe than to actually apply. Applying tried and tested tactics to succeed can make your journey easier. Five winning tactics include setting the strategic vision, focusing on execution, cultivating organizational receptivity, ensuring stakeholder alignment, and practicing foresight. The key is to engage your teams to embrace and apply these tactics concurrently while communicating early and often about your organizational transformation journey so that you can carve a successful path to leading your organization to successfully transform and continue to grow and meet customer needs.