Having now driven projects at 28 companies, worked as an employee for 8 more and studied hundreds of others, I’ve been able to see the hallmarks of success in driving transformation, change and innovation in a corporate environment. Whether the company wants to modernize their technology platform, adopt new ways of working (e.g., agile, lean) or re-engineer key business processes, success in terms of adoption, speed to implement and positive business outcomes have the same attributes. Below are the characteristics that the most successful companies exhibit that successfully drive meaningful, efficient organizational transformations.
Embrace Progress, Not Perfection
When in doubt, do. Action should always be favored versus inaction. Inherent in this strategy is the desire to tolerate failures. In fact, successful transformation organizations start replacing the word failure with the word learning.
Disagree and Commit
Identify key stakeholders at the beginning of the process, careful to not add new stakeholders after the process has begun. Time-box decision-making, gathering hard data and soliciting opinions during the decisioning timeframe. Once ended, decide based on majority of stakeholders and all, whether in agreement or not, commit—no consensus required. This way you know that if the decision failed it was not due to lack of support, and it can truly be a learning opportunity.
Attract and Retain Talent
Hire talented people and create roles that best leverage their skills and knowledge. Do not just hire to a pre-defined role, hire people that will embrace learning and grow. Always hire employees that will improve your organization, whether in obvious need at the time or not. Great talent is always in short supply and talented people will always create a return on the company’s investment. Infuse new talent with existing, creating opportunities for blending legacy knowledge with fresh perspectives. Build on skillsets by investing in people development and provide educational opportunities—both coursework and hands-on.
Organize Around End-to-End
Build full lifecycle teams. Consider the impacted processes end-to-end versus silos. Consider the full lifecycle of an initiative from ideation through production support. Otherwise, gaps will appear in the end result. If the transformation is technology-enabled, always blend business and IT in equal leadership and representation.
Foster Internal and External Collaboration
Over-communicate with all stakeholders. Most companies do not communicate nearly enough. Leverage verbal, written and kinesthetic (doing) communication mechanisms as different people ‘hear’ in different ways. Create open forums for feedback. Treat all third parties as partners versus vendors. Engage with your partners similar to your employees. Provide open and transparent access and empower them as equal representatives in your success.