Organisations often know the big changes they need to make to become fit for the future and set themselves up for constant change in the face of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
Yet this transformation can often feel overwhelming, paralysing or unachievable.
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But it doesn’t need to be this way.
Yes, it can feel and should feel challenging at times. Moving an organisation from where they are today to a desired future state can be complex and difficult but there are steps you can take to make this a successful, and dare we say an enjoyable, endeavour
So how might you make transformation as frictionless as possible whilst delivering sustainable change?
We asked our team of expert transformation coaches for their experience, learnings and insights from leading transformation projects with our clients on the frontline. Here’s some of their top tips ….
Tip 1: Take a systems view, but start small.
Transforming organisations is, in its very nature, systems change. Everything is connected.
You’re altering the goals of an organisation, experimenting with new patterns of operating and forming new relationships and connections to shape a better, more desirable outcome – all at the same time! Most importantly, you’re changing the patterns people are used to.
So we need to think about the system as a whole AND at a detailed level, zooming in and out, throughout the process to understand the organisational at both macro & micro level.
We work with our clients to look at the mental models, underlying structures, patterns and trends that make up the DNA of an organisation. We delve deep to understand the origin of the problems and barriers that exist today but also zoom out to understand how they are connected to inform where we need to intervene for most impact.
“Don’t fall into the trap of taking a more traditional reductionist approach by breaking problems down into silos and trying to solve these independently without zooming back out to understand how they are inter connected. If you do, you risk only solving the symptoms of an underlying problem, another one just pops up elsewhere and you’re much less likely to make the sustainable change or impact you want.”
This, however, doesn’t mean trying to bite off more than you can chew. You don’t need to start with systems wide change. Once you have a deep understanding of the organisation, start small, experiment and iterate with small pockets so you can test your hypothesis before deciding what to scale.
Tip 2: Transformation is all about your people – empathise & build with them
Transformational change starts with and is nurtured by your people.
“For &us Transformation isn’t just about the organisation becoming more agile, innovative and future-ready – it’s also about ensuring the people in your organisation thrive.”
So, what’s the best way to do this?
Involve the people in your organisation on the transformation journey. Understand their needs, desires or problems that exist today by gathering rich insights from across the organisation. Empathy is a powerful tool for Leaders to learn and by deeply understanding employees’ perspectives, experimenting and building solutions with them you’re often building relationships with those that will ultimately become the pioneers and catalysts that drive, embed and champion change.
We love the analogy from the Berkana institute on pioneering a new paradigm. Their “2 Loop” Theory of Change references an old system as dying and the emergent system as “living” with the need for a hospice period. This is such an innately human and relatable way to think about Transformation and helps us to empathise with those transitioning to the new.
Imagine what it’s like to be an employee in the transition. We need to ensure we’re empathetic towards this transition and understand many will fear and, completely naturally, oppose change. It’s important to understand the needs of and support the people inside the organisation to make this transition as frictionless as possible. Luckily, we can design for that.
Tip 3: Avoid analysis paralysis, create a bias for action & experimentation.
It’s easy to stay at the theoretical level when seeking to Transform an organisation. We often see clients discuss the desired outcomes, future vision or paradigm shifts at length… but the real learnings come from taking actions.
People are complex beings and although you can try to predict how a new model, process or behaviour may show up across your organisation it’s far better to actually experiment to learn and test a hypothesis.
We help our partners build a culture of experimentation so they can learn quickly and fail fast by building and testing hypotheses. These learnings are critical to help organisations create successful solutions and strategies whilst de-risking their transformation journey along the way.
“Transformation happens with experience, not thought. Planning is important but it’s an enabler, not the end game. If planning and analysis is your team’s comfort zone it’s probably a good idea to commit to supporting each other to shift into action more often. “
Tip 4: Beware of the “Time Measurement” Trap
Measurement and metrics are crucial part of Innovation and Transformation but we need to make sure we’re measuring the right things over the right time period.
One common pitfall we see with our clients is trying to measure the impact of Transformation projects too early.
Of course, we need to ensure we’re delivering on actionable project goals and KPI’s in the short term. However transforming mindsets, behaviours, relationships and operating patterns takes time. Which often goes against our desire for instant gratification.
“Be patient, transformation takes time. Make sure you’re using various LEAD & LAG metrics over an appropriate time period – that’s how you can really measure the impact of transformation”
Tip 5: Expect the unexpected, be agile.
It’s rare that Transformation goes completely as planned.
There are numerous internal and external factors that impact our organisations, meaning we’re increasingly in flux. We need to stay flexible by building a culture of agile experimentation alongside understanding when to persevere, park or pivot as appropriate based on the emergence of our new systems and how people actually respond to this change.
Working in an agile way helps us to build quick learning loops, making changes as necessary along the way. Change is a Journey not a destination.
“The transformation process is a marathon and not a sprint, hence why at &us we believe working with agility helps you experiment safely as you build momentum and muscle towards your big goals.”
So here’s a recap of our Top Tips to achieve an impactful Transformation.
- Take a systems view, but start small.
- Focus on what’s most important, your people.
- Avoid analysis paralysis, create a bias for Action & Experimentation.
- Beware of the “Time Measurement” Trap
- Expect the unexpected, Be agile.
- Work with &us to experience transformation through innovation. Obviously.
When going through organisational transformation, it is important to bear in mind that change can be complex with many working parts. The complexity is easier to manage when you have the right team supporting the process. At &us we believe every part is important and should be fully considered when building the structure to house and embed the transformation results that will emerge.
As always the &us team are on hand to answer any questions you may have and would love to talk about taking the first step with you on your transformation journey.