You’ve Got the Basics

Having done your homework and engaged the right people and processes, you’ve got your transformation running on rails. So now what?

The simple answer is to make sure you keep those basics working well and stop the scope of activity creeping away from you. Taking your eye off the ball can be hugely damaging just when you were thinking everything was sorted. However you should also beware of moving beyond the basics until the original delivery is mostly or wholly complete. Instead, keep on measuring what is happening and make sure the outcome is delivered on time and to the level forecast.

Beyond the Delivery

Business transformation isn’t just a process – it’s a cultural change. This means that you have to continue to work on the new/improved culture way beyond the point at which the formal change process has ended.

You might consider this as a second phase of transformation – keeping the culture moving forward. On the face of it you might think that it doesn’t have the same attributes of Analysis – Design – Implement but it does require some serious thought. So treat this as a new problem and apply the same rigour as you did before. After all, your people now have a better understanding of what transforming can actually do and how it is going to benefit. Taking that a stage further and working on some of the cultural aspects can be extremely powerful.

Bringing External Stakeholders Along

It’s often the case that setting in train a business transformation doesn’t include various external stakeholders. It would be unusual to consult heavily with customers before setting off down the road. On the other hand you may have done some sampling of their views to help inform what you planned to execute.

However the vast majority of customers or other groups of external stakeholders will have no insight whatsoever. Yet you need to bring them along and stick with you as the organisation changes over time. So here are a few quick thoughts on the different groups and the ways in which you might bring them along.

Customers – they are going to experience differing levels of service or supply. Maybe things won’t be totally smooth for a while so you need to let them know why. Lift the curtain on what you are trying to achieve and the benefits that should bring to them in due course. Don’t overpromise but, on the other hand, don’t set the target too low either. It’s a well-known fact that organisations that aim low to avoid disappointment actually don’t deliver great transformations that are anywhere near as good as they might have been.

Your customers will stick with you if they can see a believable future that offers much better things than the present. They will wander away if that future looks only slightly better than before. The reason is simple – it’s not worth the hassle in the interim. That’s the price they are going to pay and unless they think it’s worth paying they will go elsewhere.

Suppliers – are crucial to what you do. Obvious if you are consuming raw materials or components but even service supply like software or sub-contracting should be viewed in the same way. Supply chains are vastly different depending on what it is you provide.

Your suppliers may be able to test things for you before you fully embed the processes. Is what you are doing going to alter the ways they have to interact with your systems? How is your procurement going to change and can you help them to transition with you so that both sides operate more smoothly?

Here’s an example. Suppose you want to buy in a contract service, how do you currently specify that? In many organisations the key deciding factor is price. However, should you think instead of focusing on the quality of what you are getting? How is that going to impact positively on the transformation and ultimately on the products or services you provide to your customers?

Even in a not-for-profit these things should still be part of the overall consideration. Customers may not be buying from you but they are receiving the service or help. Similarly the suppliers may be your volunteers or donors. All are worthy of consideration before you lock down the transformation completely.

Finally there are the Shareholders/Owners – who may be largely outside the direct sphere of the organisation. What will you want them to do? What expectations do they have already and how are those going to be changed?

Unless you talk to them – via whatever channel is appropriate – they are not going to feel part of the whole and yet it is their organisation that is being changed under their noses. What permissions did you need to seek to go ahead? In a listed company that’s a delegated responsibility of the directors. How does that stack up in a private company or maybe a charity? How have you got to interact with owners or trustees who are not involved in the day-to-day management?

Sometimes this is the most difficult relationship to keep going well. Shareholders often have little insight into how a business actually operates. They are looking for a long-term return on their capital and usually think they have nothing else to do, other than vote at an AGM. However a transformation might also include significant changes to cash-flow, capital requirements and expectations. You could also be changing the focus of the organisation, maybe into a different geography or market. Will this also require shareholders or owners to behave differently?

Alongside these stakeholders there may be others – particularly on the financial side. Banks like to have their say in what their client organisations do if they are borrowing significant amounts. Whether the plans should have to meet with their approval is a moot point. I would argue that a good transformation should not require sanction from a banker. On the whole they tend to be mostly focused on protecting their own interests and don’t go out of their way to accommodate creativity. So maybe part of your consideration should be on how you are going to navigate around this aspect, if there are costs to be financed.

A Permanent State of Transforming

Another consideration is the impact of going through a transformation. It ought to change things from being a staid organisation into one that is much more adept at transformation. After all, things are not just going to stand still from this point forward.

Many organisations find that the culture changes to one of constantly transforming. Instead of moving from state A to state B in a big leap, it becomes an ongoing change to C,D,E and so on. It is also likely that these won’t be quite such big steps to take. Instead it’s rather like learning to ride a bike. Once you have mastered that it becomes much easier to do a bit of trick riding like BMX or to road race or go off-track.

How to Find Out What’s Missing?

As you consider what all this might mean, you are inevitably going to have to figure out what is missing from your situation. How are you going to do that? There’s no chart on the wall which shows what should be there. So try giving one of our coaching team a call and set up a conversation to help you along the way. You have nothing to lose and potentially a massive amount to gain from third-party independent insight. So get in touch – we’re only an email away.

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Rob Wherrett can be contacted at

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