When tides turn, it’s time to transform

Every organization needs to chart its course. Change can be hard—even more so if your employees don’t have a clear direction. Start any transformation by defining your vision and how it impacts your employees and customers.

“Transformation” is not an empty buzzword—but without the right strategy, it can become a false promise. Today, transformation efforts are more likely to fail than succeed in part because organizations still don’t understand them.

The key to successful, fundamental change is people. Yet 85% of employees globally are disengaged, according to a Gallup study. Here’s how to steer your team and prepare them to navigate rough waters.

Find your north star

Every organization needs to chart its course. Change can be hard—even more so if your employees don’t have a clear direction. Start any transformation by defining your vision and how it impacts your employees and customers.

In 2006, a doctor knew the world needed an early warning system of disease outbreaks using technology. His clear vision helped his global organization stay the course when working through multiple operating models. Eventually, his top-down structure shifted to prioritize collaboration and action at the local level. By empowering regional teams and centering action around a shared vision, the organization created technology that helped Cambodia revolutionize its disease reporting system, identified where new health centers were needed in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, and even located trapped people during the earthquake in Haiti.

Invite customers along for the journey

Transformation will affect your clients, too. Build empathy, learn their priorities, and let that knowledge help you keep a pulse on market changes and inform how to adapt your strategy. To better understand their needs, consider techniques like ethnographic analysis and behavior diaries. Ethnographic analysis places researchers or team members into the field to observe customers, while behavior diaries help you uncover how your customers interact with your products through self-reported observations. These are just some of the methods that you can use to analyze input regularly from customers.

One telecommunication services company, realized that even though they had an impressive list of customers, their own teams suffered from low team morale. How could they achieve their goal to become a billion-dollar business? To engage employees in the process and bring customers to the forefront of strategy, they had team members meet directly with loyal customers to understand where their needs were not being met. This close relationship helped them identify new trends including a shift to wireless. Ultimately, they reorganized the company to stay closer to customers and reached their revenue goals faster than expected. With customer insights in hand, you are more prepared to sail ahead and meet market demands.

Prep your crew for action

Bureaucracy will slow down your voyage. Instead, set up teams that will support bold, fast decision-making and fearless experimentation. These Rapid Response Teams should focus on a single area and be led by one key stakeholder who is ultimately responsible for the initiative’s success. For the telecommunications company, they recruited over 10% of the organization into 15 cross-functional teams, focusing on market, product, and processes. The teams used their varying expertise to establish benchmarks and discover the main source revenue, which then informed overall strategy.

These Rapid Response Teams may eventually dissolve back into the organization once their work is done. But by tapping them to solve your organization’s strategic shifts from the outset, these employees will stay involved in defining and promoting your transformation every step of the way.

Make captains out of your people

You don’t need an army of consultants to make your journey a success. At one of the largest publicly funded government hospital systems, empowering middle-management helped them transform from the inside-out. The 80-person Transformation Team gave members an equal voice, encouraging thought-leaders to emerge that may have stayed silent otherwise.

By empowering changemakers and identifying and developing internal leaders, you give people across your operation a stronger sense of ownership. This also helps prevent knowledge gaps developing over time and makes employees more motivated to deliver on their goals as the business transforms. Your next generation of captains may emerge from the people you empower during periods of uncertainty.

Check the sails

Even with the right crew and a clear path, your organization must stay sensitive to any changes along the way. If facing strong headwinds, review your strategy and straighten the course. How is the external environment shifting? How are your customers fairing? Are competitors catching up? Answering these questions will ensure you won’t veer off and fall behind.

You must also check in with your people. Make sure crew members have the frameworks and skills they need to succeed and the autonomy to make things happen. If they feel their personal strengths and goals are changing along with your overarching vision, you’ll help them understand how they have a role to play in the business’s future.

If it feels like you’re traveling through choppy waters, that’s okay. You’re on the right path. While every organization must follow its unique route to success, don’t forget that transformation doesn’t happen without the people steering the journey. For guidance, look to the Brightline Transformation Compass and learn how to bring people into the center of your process and harness a period of change to reach success.

Published on 8 June 2020, by Brightline Initiative