Nigel Adams (pictured below) is a thought leader in operational excellence and author of Match Fit For Transformation – Realising The Potential Of Everyday Heroes. In this guest post, Adams offers his tips to transform any business while you’re snowed under running the business…
Running a business is hard. Transforming it while you’re running it is even harder. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that 69 per cent of the US$1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation last year was wasted. And with the major consulting firms citing success rates below 30 per cent, it’s not for the faint hearted.
The root of the problem is that decades of corporate evolution and change all leave their mark. That is a tangled web of process fragments and legacy infrastructure. In many large, mature organisations the web is so complex, it is a miracle anything works at all. Yet somehow these fragile ecosystems deliver products and services day-in, day-out. Changing it is fraught with danger and is always approached with trepidation. Any interruption to service and social media channels light up. And yet not changing it presents an even greater, more existential threat.
It’s Not About The Technology
Unfortunately it’s not the technical challenges that make digital transformation so challenging. It has more to do with the approach organisations take to embark on their transformation journey. They are faced with a dilemma: train existing staff, who understand the organisation but lack the new skills and cultural mindset that the digital natives tout as critical success factors or hire external staff with the new skills but limited knowledge of “how things get done around here”. Organisations tend to choose the latter and it is this that can sow the seeds of division.
There are a number of issues. The new hires (the Change Team) typically find the pace frustratingly slow and think the mindset and culture is more constraining than empowering. They struggle to understand how the organisation works, conclude that the bureaucracy is designed to impede progress and that the existing delivery team (the Run Team) “clearly don’t get it”.
The Run Team feel overwhelmed. They are expected to do far more, with far less because their budgets have been cut to fund the transformation. They also assume that the Change Team are being paid more and, when it’s over, the Run Team will bear the brunt of the job losses.
Unsurprisingly, there is resentment on both sides and unrealistic expectations at the executive level exacerbate the issues. The pressure builds.
The consequence of this is not only does the transformation become more expensive and drawn-out, day-to-day service, hence revenues, are also put at risk.
How Should You Respond?
In reality, many of the new roles are more of an evolution than a revolution and it’s easier and faster to train new technical skills than wait for new hires to adjust and adapt. Bearing this in mind, the key to success is to bring the Run Team into the transformational tent. They must feel that they have a role to play in the future and that, by keeping customers satisfied today, while helping to fund the transformation, they are assuring themselves of a role tomorrow. To achieve this, they must learn how to do more with less. They must lend their subject matter expertise to the Change Team, free-up capacity to re-train staff in the new skills and prepare the groundwork for the transformation by simplifying the existing processes. The Change Team will need a small number of external hires to anchor the new skills and mindset, but their primary role is to train and coach the day-to-day teams in the new skills.
Easy to say, but is it achievable?
What Will It Take?
There are three steps to make this possible:
- The executive team must acknowledge that the Run Team are equally critical to delivering the transformation and should enjoy the same level of executive attention, recognition and reward.
- Both the Run and Change Teams must develop a shared understanding of each other’s roles, learn how to communicate and work effectively together and embed joint accountability for delivering the transformation.
- The Run Team must implement an operational excellence program to control their workload and enable the simplification agenda.
This people-oriented approach will not only make the transformation more achievable but it will keep the day-to-day humming along as well. And it will be genuinely engaging!