Putting the people back into transformation
Why transformation is no longer a process but a mindset
Digital transformation programmes used to be about efficiency and technology. The main focus was to make things leaner, use technology more efficiently and strip out what was not deemed as necessary. They used to be meticulously planned undertakings, that gave a false sense of security that we can predict the future and plan accordingly. At the heart of it were 18 or 24 month plans which provided ‘clear visibility’ and promises as to what the specific outcomes, generally measured in savings, would be.
Although this sounds very compelling if you worked in the finance division, it failed to recognise a simple fact: 18 or 24 months is a long time. These type of programmes often neglected to recognise the fact that things can change pretty quickly, especially when it comes to technology. And, to make matters even more complicated, dealing with this kind of change became a stressful and painful component of transformation. It is not easy turning a tanker around at full speed.
They also forgot one fundamental component that transformation should be about. It is not just about making things more efficient and faster, it is also about making things better. The whole reason why a transformation was normally invoked was that something was fundamentally not working in an organisation and drastic counter measures were required that could not be handled through a business as usual environment. The question then arises, why was it that these transformation programmes only unlocked 50% of the potential of change? True, technology and, specifically, better use of technology plays a vital role, as does the streamlining of processes and better organisational structures and models. But it is also true that transformation programmes should have a positive impact on customers (or citizens if you are public service inclined)?
The only way that this can achieved is to adopt a different, human-centred approach to transformation. Designing a version 2.0 of an organisation should have the users of that organisation at its heart. This should not be some utopian, ‘making the world a better place’ type exercise, but a very rational approach that considers how the performance of a business can be improved by being more focussed on the specific needs of its customers and stakeholders.
By truly understanding the behaviours of customers can we begin to understand what, and how, we can improve on the inside. And this should not be limited to technology and processes, but rather start with the question: what kind of organisation do we need to be – what culture, what value sets and behaviours do we need to instil in our people, to better service those that want to engage with us? The answer to this question will, more likely than not, not be apparent when the big red transformation button is pressed. So, to be truly successful in this kind of undertaking the first realisation should be that we will not know where we end up when we start. As much as this sounds uncomfortable at best, but more likely well and truly scary, it will provide the freedom to explore and potentially fail at first and that will ultimately yield the best outcomes, even if they are unexpected.