Why transformation flies or dies

A successful business transformation – how to lead people through change projects

How when change projects are led well, successful business transformation will follow 

If we are honest, very few of us like change – even when we are free to choose it. When you are part of a large organisation, change is rarely a choice and can stir up feelings of resentment and fear if the reasons behind it are not clearly communicated.

Ketan Patel has spent twenty-five years leading technology at board level within the consumer and private equity verticals, from luxury retailers through to global FTSE PLCs such as Sainsburys and Marks & Spencer. Here he explains what works and what doesn’t when leading workplace transformations.

This blog is a quick-read summary from our TIG Culture magazine article, ‘Why transformation flies or dies,’ which you are welcome to download here.

The Change Challenge – for successful business transformation

Workplace transformations focus on technology or new systems and procedures – even the most experienced leaders can forget that change starts with people. They are the ones who must accept and enact the changes. It is inevitable that change won’t happen as fast as planned; it may meet resistance and cause uncertainty. Successful business transformation hinges on a leader’s ability to clearly communicate the vision.

“There are always challenges around staff adopting change at the pace that we need them to. A common theme I’ve seen is people react in three ways: they either opt to stay as they are and resent change, withdraw but follow begrudgingly, or grow through transformation.” Ketan Patel

Core personnel who don’t understand the vision will ultimately create problems as a project progresses. The bigger the organisation the more complex the change will be to communicate.

Pitch the Story – for workplace transformation

Ketan believes that great CEOs must be good storytellers. They need to confidently pitch the narrative behind a workplace transformation. It often isn’t enough to list the positives; it is better to explain the negatives too and the impact these could have. People need to feel they can trust the process and that they are pivotal to a successful outcome. When teams understand the story behind a change, they begin to actively seek solutions to problems as they arise.

“Simon Sinek’s TED Talk Start with Why is something that resonated with me since I first watched it, back in 2014. Sinek’s ‘golden circle’ has become a golden rule in branding and communications and has reached over sixty-million views on YouTube alone. Yet I rarely find it is known about by transformation leaders.” Ketan Patel

Team Effort – for successful business transformation

Transformation often involves technology but don’t let it be seen as the IT project. Those who are not directly involved or have no interest in tech will immediately switch off and see it as something that either won’t affect their role directly or simply as another thing that they don’t have time for.

“Goals for each business unit must be clear. What those goals are, and the milestones to meet them are then fairly easy to agree. From here, project roles are identified, and the right tools resourced, and the necessary skillsets allocated so the transformation’s focus is understood and accepted by all involved.” Ketan Patel

If transformation is pitched as a team effort, divisions can be avoided and there is a much better chance that the project will be a success. A project can quickly turn toxic under the influence of the personal agendas of others. A ‘them and us’ environment can be almost impossible to remedy.

Bumps in the Road

Overseeing any transformation project will have its tricky moments. The difference between success and failure comes down to accepting this, planning instead for the inevitable pitfalls and clearly communicating the vision for change, which is the best route to a successful outcome.

“Innovation, investment, and transformation unite over one thing: listen to people, watch what they do, and watch what they don’t do. Use both your intuition and the reality of data to move into the space where you see growth as an opportunity that either aligns with, or moves with, culture.” Ketan Patel

Want to learn how to lead a team through successful business transformation projects and avoid the pitfalls? Click through to read the full interview here