How to Lead a Successful Business Transformation

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Business transformation introduces massive change to diverse aspects of a business. The initiative consumes capital, time and effort. McKinsey research has shown that success rate is lower than 30%. The larger the business, the more complex and challenging it is to achieve the anticipated improvements and sustain them.

To be successful, leaders need to be clear on their goals and avoid falling into the technology trap. The natural tendency to lean heavily on technologies and overlook the people issues would dampen the overall success. There are five key areas leaders need to focus on. To be successful, leaders need to be clear on their goals and avoid falling into the technology trap. Click To Tweet

  1. Goal specificity

Business transformation can span from a new way to serve customers to digitizing internal processes. Leaders need to articulate clearly the results they want to achieve. For example, introducing a mobile app for customers to conduct business with you. The value to the customer is convenience. The result you aim for might be adoption of the mobile channel to reduce the need for agent interactions. Specificity helps to steer the app developer to focus on ease of use and functionalities that would facilitate minimizing or eliminating the need for agent interactions.

  1. Effective communication

Change tends to trigger alarm bells. When employees are unclear on the impacts, they become protective of their work, control and authority. Resistance is a way to defend the status quo. To minimize resistance, leaders need to build a convincing ‘story’ about the transformation. Be open and frank about the state of the business, the direction the business is headed, why the transformation is needed and the timeline. Use a dialogue approach rather than the one-way broadcasts. Make yourself available to address concerns throughout the initiative. There needs to be consistent and frequent communication at all levels of the operations. This builds trust. Keep employees abreast of progress, hurdles encountered, and successes achieved along the way.

  1. Commitment

This includes the executives who need to stand firmly behind the initiative and those who lead their teams through the transition. When employees sense that leaders are not firmly behind the initiative, they are quick to drag their feet on the project. The front line managers play a critical role in getting everyone on board. You need to ensure that you have their buy-in. You need to equip them with the appropriate skills to manage resistance and people issues that may arise. Be cognizant of managers who don’t have the skills and aptitude to step up to the challenge. It is not the best time to be accommodating.

  1. Collaborative mindset

Transformation effects change across business units and teams. Collaboration is a must to be successful. It is not a simple undertaking to discontinue a legacy system or replace several processes with an automated approach. There are bound to be rules and exceptions that need to be dealt with. Role model collaboration at the leadership level by co-facilitating meetings. Running a business is like navigating a network of activities. When you remove a link, you need to ensure that the new approach is adequate. Driving transformation in a siloed manner is a sure way to fail.

  1. Capability building

Training and coaching are the minimum requirements to prepare employees for the transition. Leaders need to plan for the long term. You want to build employee confidence through ongoing skills development. Recognizing that new skills would be required as the business transforms to be more competitive, you need to invest in developing talent. If mobile is a strategic direction for the business, for example, you want to encourage employees to build their expertise in mobile trends and technologies. That way, you are prepared for the next wave of transformation.

Even though transformation is often perceived as a one-time event, it needs to be viewed as an ongoing effort to build competitive advantages for a business. Sustainable improvements require leaders to plan for the long term and at the same time, maintain a healthy momentum for the current initiatives.

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