Business Transformation: How to Drive Successful Change

business transformation

The Need for Change

There are many reasons why an organization might come face to face with the need for a business transformation. Increasing competition, new seemingly unattainable prospects, large growth goals, or not meeting the expected return on investment are among many of the most common we see. These reasons and warning signs are by no means mutually exclusive.

A business transformation generally involves large shifts that dictate change at every level of the business and brand – small and large scale. And managing a change of this scale is no easy task for businesses or leaders today.

Too Much with Too Little

Many business transformations fail. In a recent McKinsey Quarterly survey, only 38% of executives believed their transformation had a “completely” or “mostly successful” impact on business performance.

Our observation is that when a transformation doesn’t deliver the expected results, it’s often because leaders take on too much with too little – too many initiatives with too few resources and not enough commitment to back them up. The transformation isn’t productive in the long term because support for it can’t be sustained, energy dwindles, and things are left undone.

Deciding where to focus energy is always a challenge. While some businesses find themselves trying to focus on too many initiatives at once, others place all focus on one initiative that, in the end, simply isn’t powerful enough to drive the entire transformation forward.

Transformations are dynamic, long-term processes, and it’s easy for the process to feel chaotic for those involved. Creating clarity and maintaining the momentum needed to create and manage long-term change is hard work. And it demands strong leadership and a rigorous process.

In order for a business transformation to be successful, leaders need to manage change through:  

1. A clear and deep understanding of the reasons for change:

Explaining the context for change is key to any transformation. In order to get everyone on board with change, you need to build a strong case about why it’s necessary and how it will pay off for the business and each individual within it. Especially at the early stages, metaphors, analogies, and illustrations can help.

In order to build trust, be transparent as leaders about why things need to change and how change can drive a larger transformation that positions the business and its people for success.

Make it a story and tell both sides –  emotional as well as rational. Being humble and credible as a leader goes a long way when trying to build context. Questions like – Why change? What will change? Who will change? How will we change? – are all crucial questions that help build a critical foundation of shared understanding.

2. A purpose for everyone to believe in:

Articulating the aspirations of a transformation has a lot of power. When people have a purpose they can believe in and a larger goal they can work towards together, they feel inspired and more connected. Defining the aspirations from the outset makes them more attainable. Everyone aims higher, thinks bigger, looks wider, and moves faster.

Constantly re-articulating these aspirations is key. By redefining them, you can put your greater vision in different contexts. Defining the payoff of the business transformation in terms of profitability and market value can also help make it real for people.

Other times, creating smaller aspirations that lead to a greater vision help make the long-term vision seem closer and more realistic to people. Creating small markers that gesture to the larger vision helps drive people to work with more ambition and feel more excited about the future.

3. Leadership that creates energy and champions change:

As a leader, you must be a consistent model for change. Behavior trickles down and building alignment at the top is key to ensuring your team gathers maximum momentum moving forward.

In order to create real energy, you have to make the transformation personal and exciting to people. When employees gain clarity about how their work might change today, tomorrow, and years down the line, it feels empowering. Clear direction creates energy and mobilizes people. And strong, focused leadership is key to reducing the anxiety around change and letting the positive excitement take over.

As we know, positive energy is hard to maintain and sustain, and as a leader your role is to manage the process. Creating a pace that builds momentum and moves quickly can help keep energy up and people inspired. Building reinforcement systems and a well-articulated timeline can also help sustain momentum.

Focus on change management to guarantee a successful business transformation. Powering the right kind of change in the right kind of ways can position your business to thrive in the short-term and long-term future. 

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency.

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