Transformation - why a concrete framework will ultimately become concrete boots
Updated: Aug 4, 2022
It is almost impossible to have a digital transformation conversation in business these days, without talking about frameworks. Some old and some new. Yet, I think it is fair to say that most transformations are not ticking all the boxes, unlike many of the frameworks of choice, that are currently being used in transformation program development. Pun intended!
I say this with a wince because I am sure to get some opposition. However, the transformation statistics speak for themselves, as do the frustrated management teams, not to mention the finance departments with blown-out budgets and the fatigue of our people in the organisations we are attempting to transform.
I have seen my fair share looking across the landscape of a career spanning more than 25 years, and I have to say the majority of the view is not pretty. Neither is the pain that we feel working in these organisations, whether we are employees trying to maintain the status quo or the team of people contracted to roll out the transformation. Burn-out and stress factors are high.
So why do the frameworks we diligently apply so often become concrete boots in business, leaving businesses confused by complexity in lengthy reports?
It is all about capability and visibility, stacked with our inability to pivot between intuition and rational behaviour because most of us are running on fear and want certainty, in a world where certainty is simply an illusion of the overused rational mind.
There is often little or no internal expertise to begin the long road of bringing transformation into practice. This sudden realisation in itself can be a stressful environment in the making when we realise we are without the capability we need to move our business forward.
These frameworks are a mix of human desire for certainty, lavished with a good dose of rehashed safe ideas! The only problem is that as humans one of the things we do best is to rehash ideas through a rinse and repeat cycle, particularly in a world where fear rules and psychological safety doesn't exist in the majority of workplaces at all.
This becomes problematic because we don't address the individual needs of the organisation, and most importantly its people. Don't get me wrong, the rinse and repeat cycle is most often done in good faith. We call it the tried and tested way. However, technology is moving at a super high speed creating great changes in the way we need to do business every day, leaving 'tried and tested' to fast become irrelevant and obsolete. We need a new way, and it is not simply a new framework, it's in embracing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. By design, they are embraced through the building blocks of resilience.
What worked in an organisation yesterday is not guaranteed to work today. And too often we do this without even understanding our current position. The pressure to digitally transform can be high, but the need to stay relevant to industry demands is equally relevant in today's marketplace.
This brings me to the most important part of any digital transformation success. Your people! That's right, your people and their ability to connect with all your other customers, but that is a whole other blog right there. If you are cringing here, we need to be absolutely clear, people transform organisations, not the other way around.
It takes personal transformation to impact your ways of working across an organisation, and it begins at the top. As the age-old saying goes; 'A fish rots at the head'. If you want your people to work differently, you need to lead by example, by working differently yourself.
Where are all the dreamers? The visionaries and the people prepared to embrace vulnerability?
These people could be hidden within your organisation right under your nose. However, they may be obscured from view because you likely don't have a psychologically safe culture that promotes speaking up and risk-taking.
So where is your organisation sitting in this equation? Have you spent millions already attempting to digitally transform? Has your budget blown out? Has your organisation successfully transformed in the way you envisioned in your two hundred-page strategic transformation road map? Are your people engaged?
These questions can be painful to answer, however, they are the harsh realities of business transformation on the rinse and repeat cycle.
Like most organisations, you are likely muddling through the murky water of transformation, gritting your teeth and making many mistakes, whilst spending more money than you might care to divulge.
You are in good company. I hate to say it, but this is the norm in business transformations today. Why do we keep doing this, when it does not have to be this way?
We make stepping onto the proverbial train of transformation much more complicated than it needs to be. Which invariably leads to spending excessive money on things the organisation doesn’t need, whilst at the same time not getting the things it does need. This happens by going to the market unprepared and unsupported. Then the vendors sell you what they think you need, or even worse, what they want you to buy, and well the rest is history. I have seen this too many times. Why? Because it is rampant in business transformation programs everywhere.
Add then there are the mobile workforces of what I like to call transformation pit crews. They move from transformation to transformation bringing their preconceived ideas, forced to take shortcuts due to pressure demands on time, finances and resources, then leaving your people to pick up the pieces after the fallout, when they move on.
Statistically, it can take three to ten years for real and lasting change to fully bed into an organisation. If the transformation pit crew arrives, delivers at warp speed and then moves on in a short space of time, the fallout is frequently a slow but steady reverse decline back to the old ways.
Don’t get me wrong, these transformation pit crews are full of highly qualified, motivated and experienced people, but they are treated as outsiders because we have built an industry around short-term transformations, that are delivered through short-term contractors with diminished power of influence. Why do I know this? Because I was there time and time again and it broke my heart to see the repeated pattern of failed transformation and people taking the hits personally.
This is why it is pivotal to successfully transform in any organisation that we engage and uplift our people, who then transform the organisation. A mixed skillset for both short and long-term participation is essential to provide expertise and a skill uplift for lasting success.
Transformation is not a short game, it is simply an organisation agreeing to step onto the train and never actually get off. The pace at which the train moves is a critical factor, that needs to be determined case by case.
In good business, you know your people best, not external organisations doing fact-gathering workshops under time pressures. Engage your people from the onset, and they will reward your business handsomely, for they are the glue holding it all together long into the future.
I like to use the analogy of the journey of transformation, to be like hopping into your car and entering your destination into the navigation system. You can’t go anywhere until your car knows where you are and where you want to be. No journey can be mapped without both upfront, or else it's like driving a car blindfolded, and I am sure nobody would do that, right?
Your car in this instance contains all of your people. Are you going to push the car, get in the car or attempt to tow it behind you with a blindfold on? The choice you make is your investment in the future success of the business which impacts every person within, along with those who it serves.
Of course, It is far better to use concrete to build a solid foundation, that your people can stand upon to transform your business, rather than a weight pulling them down.
Want to know more?
Reach out for a discussion today to see how we can help you make the transformation train journey, not only more successful but more enjoyable for everyone.
Let's face it we could all do with more joy in life!