Transformation – some call it digital transformation while some treat it as a business transformation. Nonetheless, transformation is a significant undertaking. Now the challenge is this; we are in the middle of a crisis, a significant disruption, and this makes things even more difficult for everyone. So, the critical question is, how do you lead transformation through the disruption?
I will attempt to address this question in this article. Moreover, even if it was not for the disruption, the advice will still be valid.
The lever and the fulcrum
You might recall what Archimedes said once, “Give me a lever long enough and fulcrum to place it on, and I shall move the earth!” And, this is where some companies face their first challenge.
People think in terms of IoT, Blockchain, and AI, they think these are cool technologies. Many companies believe that the deployment of these technologies means transformation. In doing so, they inadvertently spend more time, energy, and resources on technology. They focus on the lever but miss the fulcrum. If you want to achieve the best results from your transformation efforts, pay attention to people, process, and timing.
Technology is not a panacea; it takes people, processes, and timing to achieve the best results.
If one or more contributing aspects of the fulcrum are weak, it will develop cracks. Eventually, the lever will fail to solve the problem.
Four critical questions
Disruptions, not just this pandemic, but even of other kinds often add to your difficulties. Covid-19 has forced many companies to speed up their transformation initiatives, but as the pandemic progresses, how can you lead and make some meaningful impact? The answer lies in four critical questions: why, how, if, and what. The questions like why and how are very strategic, while if and what questions are tactical.
WHY: This is the mother of all questions. In the context of transformation, you need to answer, “why is it important?” When you are leading a team of humans, you have to clarify the larger purpose.
Do you remember the story of three brick-layers? Someone asked them, “What are you doing?” The first one said, “I am laying bricks.” The second said, “I am building a wall.” But it was the last one who was the most involved in his job said, “I am building a house for people to live in.”
Depending upon what purpose you give your team, their motivation will change, which will affect their involvement and so their contribution. But please, don’t give a whitewash, and talk about efficiency, competitiveness, or customer satisfaction. All businesses are doing that. All businesses at least say that. And it is not the real purpose, and it is mandatory anyway. Instead, talk about sustainability, talk about a better future for your organization, for your employees, and your society.
When it comes to purpose, talk about sustainability, talk about a better future for your organization, for your employees, and your society.
IF: Now, as you establish the purpose, you might give more tactical context too. Lay down what would be the outcome as team members take action. It will help them keep going. Just like a speedometer in your car, everyone can keep track of their bit and would know what to do for course correction.
HOW: Of course, all initiatives under the transformation plan need to be strategically linked. Besides laying down qualitative or quantitative metrics, you must also identify weak areas and constraints. Only focusing on better or the latest technology will not be useful. If the constraints are within your processes or if the culture is weak, no technology can fix it!
WHAT: Once you have set the context, the purpose, and a clear strategy, you can work on tactical steps. Under the current circumstances, it is better to let your teams drive and modify initiatives. Give them some autonomy.
Have you ever observed a seasoned cab driver using Google Maps or other navigation tools? They do not like turn-by-turn instructions; just a bit of guidance is all they prefer. The same is true for your capable team members. Trust is the crucial factor.
You will notice that these four questions are critical to addressing people, process, and timing issues. Highly essential to establish a stable fulcrum so that you can use a technology lever for your transformation, so do not miss it.
In general, every organization wants to be future-ready, and that is why most of them go on a transformation journey. So, everyone needs to understand what it takes to be a future-ready organization.
As I see it, future-ready companies exhibit the following seven characteristics:
- Operate at higher speed
- Are highly agile
- Foster creativity and innovation
- Build and nurture experimentation culture
- Have a strong technology foundation
- Treat their business as a platform
- Have immaculate foresight skills
Future-ready organizations will have to be innovative and agile. They will have to foster the innovation culture. Increase operating speed while setting up a robust technological foundation and learn to change business models creatively. But most importantly, all of the organizations need foresight skills.
Being able to develop foresight skills in your senior leadership is significant leverage. Create that leverage and stay on the right side of it!
Foresight skill in your senior leadership is significant leverage. Create it and stay on the right side of it!