The juxtaposition of “success” and “sustenance” can appear paradoxical to organizations that have struggled to produce consistent results with their improvement projects. Perplexingly, what worked once can very often not be repeated! Therefore, organizations continuously initiate new transformative initiatives and programs in a bid to improve their processes, plug wastages, and obtain better business outcomes. For this, they engage with management consultants, experts, and thought leaders and seek their guidance. However, in spite of these efforts, again and again, companies find that while they are able to succeed in achieving stellar results in the short term, sustaining this growth trajectory is always a challenge. Somewhere along the way, the rigor decreases, and slowly the process deteriorates to the sad state of affairs it was once in. But why does this happen?
In the initial days of business transformation, there is an enthusiasm with which the change management processes are adopted. Often the CEO/MD, takes the driver’s seat to roll it out. During this time, the project often strikes gold in terms of early results. However, in due course, the CEO/MD is called on to other burning issues. Moreover, as the scope of this business transformation increases, it becomes evident that to effectively monitor all the new processes being put in place and to ensure that there are no major slips, this responsibility has to be delegated. This is to ensure that (the incumbent) can take care of the regular running of the new systems and to raise red flags whenever there are discrepancies. However, more often than not the person the mantle is passed on to take this change initiative ahead is not an ideal fit.
This is because, when organizations commit to these transformations, quite often, they have a tendency to look at the transformation exercise and the core processes which they regularly perform as two different sets of activities, while in reality, both are the same. After all, business transformation, as the word suggests, is nothing but a metamorphosis of the existing systems and processes to a higher level of performance. Regrettably, many organizations view these business transformation tasks as supplementary tasks, relegating their pursuit to a lower priority. Thus, the members who are identified to monitor and champion these business transformation processes are those individuals whom the organization considers they can safely set aside without impacting their ongoing businesses. Consequently, the person may be lacking in authority /knowledge, tools or skills needed to be at the helm of the change management drive. Many times, the person is senior in the system but may already be heading a function or department and, therefore, struggle to find the bandwidth to champion the cause of a company-wide change management. Therefore, in these cases, it is observed that these individuals are unable to navigate the organization towards a ‘sustained’ transformation.
Even when strong change management leaders who have the required motivation to go the extra length drive the transformation, the process eventually may become person dependent. Being person dependent will slow decisions and reduce the speed of scale-up. Moreover, many times, it is observed that turbulence creeps in when organizations have churn and inflow of new people, especially at the higher echelons. Generally, the incumbents have a ‘baggage’ of their own experience, which they strongly believe can be extended to the current organization, even though the boundary conditions in the current firm may be different. Consequently, they may undo a lot of good that the earlier efforts may have achieved.
So, how can we ensure that these business transformation efforts don’t go in vain and continue to be a driving force within the organization?
Primarily, the realization has to dawn upon the organization that business transformation is not an additional exercise but is at the very core of its operations. Any effort invested in setting up a robust process will go a long way in actually freeing up the capacity of the organization in the future. Therefore, business transformation exercises are an investment towards the future.
Secondly, It is important for change management to be process dependent to ensure efficiency with which the change tactics can be scaled. Processes are important from an organizational stability point of view as well. Only if robust processes are in place can the established changes remain intact even as organizational structures and personnel evolve, ensuring that the organization continues to adapt effectively. For making the change process dependent rather than person dependent, it becomes necessary to bring in KRAs that are aligned with the purpose of transformation.
Moreover, while setting up the measures and finding the matrix, these measures or KRAs cannot be at an outcome level. This is because many tactics can lead to the same outcome. However, all tactics are not equal. Some may even be harmful to other variables of interest. So, it is essential to thoroughly ensure that none of the measures, even remotely, brings about behaviour that would jeopardize the very purpose of the transformation exercise – “people behave the way they are measured.” Process supporting measures can be put in place if KRAs are defined at a tactical level. A typical example would be to focus on a number of meaningful selling interactions for a salesman rather than giving sales targets.
Above and beyond these two factors, it’s important to put a process of audit in place to ensure that the changed/new process is not compromised. This step is crucial in guarding the new process from dilution that may creep in due to changes in the organization or the general “fatigue” of monitoring the parameters of change. Moreover, the audit observations are necessary to apprise the top management continually of the sustained business outcomes of the transformation for two key reasons:
- Top management needs to remain continuously convinced about the effectiveness of the transformation.
- Furthermore, communicating audit findings sends a strong message at the working level that adherence to new process is being seriously viewed by the Top Management.
In conclusion, an organization must advance through three stages of maturity to ensure sustained and enduring change adoption.