What? Change doesn’t necessarily mean transformation? The next thing you’ll be telling us is that the Earth is round and not flat!
Over the past 30 years, Chris has been personally involved in many companies’ change ‘initiatives’, and watched from a distance as many others try to remake themselves. Such as Barclays, Rentokil, Wolseley, to name a few.
Personal involvement has included large companies who were successful in their markets, such as Sainsbury’s, recognising the need to evolve through some remodelling of process, people and IT. Through to much smaller ones like Travelodge, where the threat of failure created an immediate engagement in a Company Voluntary Administration for survival.
Initiatives come with a multitude of titles: re-engineering, business transformation, leadership through teamwork, supporting teams to achieve results, simplifying store operations, SMART, building better business, rightsizing, total quality management, performance improvement centre of operations…
Yet in the most simple form they all have one aim: to maximise competitive advantage in their market, or to change the ‘way things get done round here’ in order to be better placed to cope with the challenges of their changing market conditions.
In some cases, the results may not reach the intended benefits but, in each and every case, something – or more likely someone – will have changed a working method, their thinking, attitude or something else, as a result of that ‘initiative’ being signed off to fly. However, change can be just another initiative but transformation cannot!
The most general learning is that whilst change can be achieved in a ‘one off’, successful transformation follows a series of steps: some iterative, some in parallel and always over a considerable amount of time. Shortcutting or missing steps may create an illusion of pace and of achieving the desired future state sooner … but inevitably, by not following the given path, mistakes are made with a resultant and hard bite on the bum that slows momentum and reduces the appetite for change.
So, what are these steps?
- Create the burning platform – no going back, the choice is no choice, forward only. Dissenters are listened to and influenced through encouragement, but are not allowed to slow the rolling stone of inevitability. An engaging approach where right upfront you’re clear that your aim is to understand your business, your people and your business aims, such that together you’re aiming for outcomes that are meaningful, supported and measurable.
- Establish a strong vision that allows simple clarity for all and is sold by the leadership, who ‘walk the talk’ at all times to all people. From birth, we adopt and adapt our ways from the actions, words and compromises of those we see around us – and business change works in much the same way. Getting your hands dirty in your business for honest, and to the point, opinion based on the ‘live’ observation of your business, its market, the economic and political forces it faces will help build knowledge. Armed with this, you can publish a Project Charter that really gets the clarity of objectives that will bind your organisation together and ensure delivery of your initiative.
- Recruit an empowered team (and don’t compromise) with the right capabilities for the specific project: a team that will enjoy what they have to do. ‘Right people, right place, right time’ makes for an effective and high performing team.
- Plan the project thoroughly, taking the time for ruthless analysis in order to get to the ‘nub’ of the matter. Deep dive through the layers and complexities of your business to unearth both the opportunities and, as importantly, the ‘sacred cows’. This will help you create and agree realistic change actions that will deliver the vision.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate the vision – the benefits, the consequences, and the current position. It should be totally unacceptable for anyone affected by the change to have missed its point. Tell it from the rooftops to the foundations to ensure that you maximize soaring eagles and minimise the squawking parrots!
- The Earth is round – start it all over again!