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  • Alexander K. Ammer

Corporate Transformation 2.0



WINNING TRANFORMATIONS


AKAlytics Top 5: Digital Transformation.


1) LIGHT UP PRIORITIES – Build bright lighthouses

2) CREATE MOTIVATING BENEFITS – Work on happy milestones

3) ENHANCE OPTIMISM – Everybody wants to be a winner

4) EMBRACE CROSS-FUNCTIONAL – Build human bridges

5) HUG TECHNOLOGY – Do it digitally


CxOs, top executives and corporate leaders feel new heat. Yesterday’s recipes for success are being challenged. Markets are ever changing, competition is increasing, costs are rising, sales are declining and people dynamics add to immense performance pressures.

Corporate development, cost-cutting strategies, investment decisions and M&A integration require cool heads, great analysis and smart advice. AKAlytics invites executives to a virtual coffee-chat. Grab a refreshment and let yourself inspired by know-how nuggets.


Recently, Harvard Business Review stated “that only 12% of major change programs produce lasting results” (HBR, “Transformations that work” May-June 2024). How is this possible? Business transformation has been practiced at major corporations for decades and top consulting companies such as Mc Kinsey etc. regularly publish viewpoints on how to manage transformations successfully. How could 75% of transformations settle for "mediocre" results (while 13% reported to have failed to deliver)?

Business transformations are at the heart of my professional life. I was fortunate to be involved in several major and international transformations which exceeded targets and achieved sustainable change. First I guided as a lead consultant. Recently, I designed, planned and executed several-year transformations from line leadership roles. Hera are some thoughts, which go beyond already published advice.


 

 

1. LIGHT UP PRIORITIES

Transformation targets are tough. Once any corporation starts a transformation, it is clear that operations shall change – significantly and profoundly. Not only in few cases a great deal of uncertainty grew within the organization once the transformation was announced. The leaders who are set to bring about future corporate success need to keep calm and concentrate on strategic planning.

Focus is one of the most important success factors. Focus will help to deliver tangible targets. Focus is essential to leverage people and resources in the most efficient way. Focus is the key to winning.

Strategic planning in the beginning should be comprehensive and address expectations. Many transformations which crossed my path seemed at first overwhelming and somewhat impossible to achieve. Often too many changes are wished for. Too many stakeholders try to influence project set-up and milestone planning. The bigger the transformational scope, the More units and teams will be affected. Great numbers of team members will face uncertainties. Many skeptics will emerge as transformation critics and create operational hurdles.

The major task of strategic planning is to prioritize action areas. Focus needs to differentiate between very few “most important tasks” and many other “nice to have topic” (which might not even be tackled.) It is key to not get lost in a myriad of expectations. The most important task before the start of a transformation is to decide what not to do. Decide on selected priorities.

Successful transformations are more successful if not delivered in big bangs. Success will be more reliably reached in careful step-by-step planning. Invest relevant planning effort to identify milestones which can serve as lighthouse examples.

So called lighthouses provide guidance and serve as positive inspiration for others. The positive lighthouse win will ignite followers and create support for additional change. Choosing the best suited business unit, operations area, sales category or product line for your lighthouse is crucial. It may be necessary to split focus on two or three topics, units or areas. However, focus means that clear priorities are set and realized. Those priorities do not imply that other topics are being ignored. But priorities allow a smart leverage of resources, efforts and energy. If resources are in short supply (as in most transformations), put emphasis and energy on clearly defined priorities. Focus will create wins.

Focus areas should achieved faster than other change areas. Make sure to put motivated team members on the job who believe in change. Personal conviction will be helpful to also motivate others to join. Your selected focus areas need to be treated with upmost attention. However, communication might provide a wider perspective. Be sure not to ignore or overlook units or teams which might not enjoy priority status. It is wise to embrace change in communication on a broader scale. Operational focus needs to be much more finetuned.

Ensure that priority milestones are reached as quickly as possible. Positive achievements are essential for subsequent planning and communication. Intermediate success is the best fuel for winning transformations. Try to transform from one lighthouse success to the next. Build your transformational lighthouse alley.

 

2. IDENTIFY MOTIVATING BENEFITS

Key performance indicators will eventually decide on your transformation success. Even if a complete turn-around of entire operations is expected, the very top management will make a judgement call at some point of time. Every transformation’s setting and targets will be different. Same will hold true for the KPI improvements which decide on transformation success or failure.

Strategic planning on turn-around measures, improvement actions and operational changes should be targeted on clearly selected and well defined KPIs. Not rarely it might be necessary to improve controlling or reporting capabilities. Focus on those KPIs which will make the difference on the very top management level. If controlling challenges exist, identify those early on. Transformation effort needs to be targeted on these key performance indicators which matters. Concentrate resources and efforts on measurable and recognized numbers.

Results matter and in many cases numbers are the items that make all the difference. It is essential to prioritize actions which will eventually shape the core numbers. Business transformation is all about business performance improvements. Button line counts.

Once those numerical transformation indicators are identified, it is possible to target transformation planning on impacting those numbers. Prioritize actions and milestones which will move the numbers into the desired direction.

Controlling numbers and measurable transformation targets do impress CxOs, supervisory boards, analysts and stock markets, but less employees and teams. However a transformation requires the support of many team members. Therefore, numerical indicators should be translated into benefits that positively influence team motivation and corporate spirit an all managerial and corporate levels.

Strategic transformation planning needs to integrate actions which are designed to win support from diverse stakeholders and teams. Transformation success will be realized, if team members take actions towards specific change. Clearly designed benefits should enhance desired behavior. Core benefits are these benefits which will eventually help to reach transformation numbers. Priorities, numbers and benefits should to be part of one seamless planning effort.

Benefits need to be real – for all employees and team members. If transformation targets can be described as “top level number shuffling” – the whole program is in trouble. Transformation cannot succeed in an ivory tower. Turn your transformation into a “program for all”. Design distinct benefits that matter to divers levels of team members. The more employees feel positive impact, the more active support for the transformation will emerge.


3. ENHANCE OPTIMISM

Everybody wants to be a winner. Winning spirit is positively contagious. When I led several transformation streams and helped to build a leading consultancy in Central Europe, we created sustainable winning spirit.

Support from many team members is needed to reach transformation success. So called extra miles in efforts and dedication should be tapped. Select highly motivated and enthusiastic supporters to work on your first transformation efforts and milestones. We reached excellent transformation results with success stories that positively contributed to team energy. Team successes enable positive attitude, happiness and pride for your accomplishments.

Happy employees and team members serve as multipliers. Ensure that the team successes are directly related with your transformation efforts. Once positive milestones and successes exist, get ready to promote these accomplishments. Make your transformation team members famous for their contributions.

In one case example we leveraged expertise from an external innovation-hub to venture into new solution areas. We created a collaboration for a client project and integrated new experts, processes and technologies. With completion of the test case, the team was awarded an internal award. Key internal transformation team members, clients and external shared major accomplishments. The team members consequently promoted further transformation targets and helped set-up follow-up innovations. A social media push plus communication measures made the case a topic with great audience. New team members joined and wanted to be part of similar initiatives. One positive impact created lots of euphoric momentum – internally and externally.

Success stories should be an integrated part of your transformation plan. Positive job or project experiences enhance personal happiness and work satisfaction. If team members share their positive accomplishments, it will create followers. Transformations require energy, euphoria and optimism. Create, enhance, share and replicate optimism.

Small success will make great success possible. This is one reason, why success actually sticks to those who are successful. Once you made it – people will follow. Followers make it easier to replicate success. Also transformation success can be sticky and sweet. Make best use of the fact that many want to be winners.


4. EMBRACE CROSS-FUNCTIONAL

Transformations are huge efforts. They take time. Preparation, planning and realization will be hit by unpleasant surprises and unplanned roadblocks. It is wise to prepare for the unexpected. Resilience will be key. In today’s complex operations it feels almost impossible to be prepared for whatever might come up in the near future.

The best strategy to take mid-range transformations to success is to foster strong alliances – even outside the home turf. Transformations are somewhat like diplomacy. Alliances which unite stakeholders from diverse backgrounds are your best bet into a sunny future. If you decide to go on your own (or only with your team), exclude experts from other units, areas or operational lines you will have a tough path ahead. Better build bridges, invite others to join your efforts and create a common ground for shared targets.

It might be tempting to go for short cuts instead of trying to create buy-in from other business, unit or team leaders. However, time spent in forming alliances will pay-off – especially in complex and challenging situations. Once your efforts hit headwind or rough waters, it will be very helpful to rely on additional supporters.

Invite business leaders, technology experts and thought leaders to join your transformational program. Do not expect others to do your work or expect active project assistance. Nevertheless keeping other key players informed and “within the loop” will pay-off. Other units might be cautious or skeptical towards your targets, but try to gather as much positive energy as possible.

Business challenges are best addressed with diverse experts. Try to reach out to cross-functional supporters. Fresh ideas, different viewpoints and somewhat different perspectives help to connect missing links. Successful transformations will benefit from outside perspectives and even opposing viewpoints. Enhance diversity – also internally and reach across unit or team “borders”. Tie cross-functional expertise, diverse topical skill-sets together. Transformation is an excellent opportunity to create new corporate identities.

Reach out to all who might be affected by your transformation. Transformations will win if enthusiasm and active support is provided from new-hires, mid-management to leaders within the organization as well as from outside experts and thought leaders. Common and shard goals are able to create positive momentum which will make all the difference.


5. HUG TECHNOLOGY

Business transformation is about changing the way how growth and profits will be secured. It is about adapting to changing business or client environments and finding profitable answers to economic and social shifts. A great deal will depend on realization speed and the capability to monitor or forecast transformation results. New technologies will further shape future performances.

Trying to improve or to invent new ways of operating models are tightly connected to technology. Technology drives efficiency and improves accuracy. The future success and relevance of most transformations will depend on the capability to embrace technologies.

Leveraging new technological trends and solutions depends on data science experts and thought leaders who will be hard to find in the market. However, leveraging technological possibilities is without alternative. Transformations have a lot in common with managing uncertainty and being ready to take risks. Technology needs to be part of it.

In the future, artificial intelligence and integrated data science should to be part of your transformation. It is the combination of human judgement, personal empathy and machine-based data analysis which will shape future decisions.

Tomorrow’s digital transformations will not only help to leapfrog corporate technologies, but enable state-of-the-art business operations towards “green”, “sustainable” and “net zero emissions”. Without the ability to embrace technological disruption and turn-around, tomorrow’s transformations will fail. A better tomorrow for businesses centers around technology. Key is to put technological change at the center of transformations. Let’s get digital. For real.

The need for comprehensive change management and communication action will higher than ever before. Skeptics and non-digital natives need to be motivated, persuaded and effectively trained. Tomorrow’s digital transformations require new corporate understanding. Since divisions within societies are rising, it is key that corporations leverage technologies and transformation programs to unite employees behind shared and common visions. Transformations can make a difference. Get it right.


Let’s get started. Let’s work on a better corporate tomorrow.


Happy to continue digital chat: ammer@akalytics.com.

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