Transformation Pathway 2: Rapid Operational Reinvention

by Maeve McGuinness

Earlier in this series on accelerating marketing and sales transformation, we explored the key obstacles to transforming in lockstep with your customer and looked at an overview of the 4 common pathways for accelerating transformation. In today’s post, I’d like to discuss Transformation Pathway 2: Rapid Operational Reinvention, which may at first sound like an oxymoron. Is it even possible to reinvent an organisation’s operations rapidly? Is it possible to fundamentally change the way we work and continue our business-as-usual activities in a short space of time?

At Blackdot, we believe that when the business imperative for change is high, and the opportunity to accelerate operational maturity is harnessed through the powerful combination of people, process and technology – it is in fact possible to deliver rapid operational reinvention in big organisations. When operational maturity and capacity to deliver change are low, successful enterprise transformation programs are often driven by a disruptive external catalyst. This could be a competitor capturing market share, changing customer behaviour or industry innovation. The challenge for businesses on this pathway typically lies in how to efficiently and effectively deliver the right operating infrastructure to both enable and leverage momentum early in the process.

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As many of us working in, or with, large complex organisations with challenging commercial operating environments and constantly evolving strategic priorities have come to realise; traditional, large-scale multi-year programs to transform operating models and organisational design often take a very long time to deliver impact, and sometimes don’t succeed at all. These programs are too often designed solely around minor process changes, major people restructures or a new technology implementation. Instead, successful companies are designing and delivering strategically coherent and logically sequenced packages of change including people, process and technology components. 

So how can organisations strengthen the relationship between business imperative for rapid transformation and the required operational maturity to deliver change efficiently and efficiently for their customers and people?

Move from a Compelling Vision to a Detailed Blueprint

A compelling and well-articulated vision that motivates and inspires is a true differentiator for organisations that aim to delight customers, attract and retain talent, be more competitive, and thrive in uncertain times. But a compelling vision, of what the future state will look and feel like for an organisation, on its own is not enough. ‘Blueprinting’ the path to success is a concept made popular by private equity companies in their mandate to rapidly transform businesses to position them for valuable growth. It also accurately describes a core component common to successful operational transformations.

Best practice shows that developing a clear blueprint or plan for how specifically targeted value will be achieved, and the organisational shifts that are required to enable it across people, process and technology, is a critical success factor. Organisations need to go beyond strategy and structure to define their entire operating model, the blueprint for how resources are organised and operated to deliver strategy. A detailed blueprint should clearly define the activities and initiatives needed, their sequence, dependencies, resources and accountabilities. Plans often evolve and pivot in their direction, but the blueprint is the master plan which governs the transformation.

Focus on Operating Model Capability Enabled by Technology

With this high-level blueprint defined, more detailed organisational design can follow. All elements of the operating model - including structure, accountabilities, governance, essential behaviours as well as the way people, processes and technology are integrated and packaged to deliver key capabilities - must be explicitly designed to support the vision and strategy. Large transformation programs are often based on or run in parallel with complex technology changes or a new platform implementation.

The transformed operating model should be enabled by technology, but not be dependent on a ‘silver bullet’ solution, as technology alone cannot support an operational transformation. An operating model change is best delivered through identification and coherent grouping of people, process AND technology capabilities required in the future state, as well as to deliver the transformation.

Transition from ‘Big Bang’ to Continuous Value

Operational transformations are often approached with a big bang, complex operational re-design. Functions and business units are typically moved over to a new organisational structure with new roles and transformed processes in one go, over the course of a multi-year program. Better practice highlights delivering change via small pockets of agile test and learn, delivered through discrete projects or teams.

To deliver continuous value across multiple business units and several product or service lines, organisations must rethink foundational processes, structures and interrelationships. To become a mature adopter of operational change, organisations need to - deploy agile at scale, prove early and continuous value and realise tangible, consistent benefits. Doing so will ultimately accelerate the rate of enduring transformation. The successful shift to delivering continuous value is enabled by careful consideration of how and when to phase operating model transformation packages.

Evolve from Top Down Transformation to Packages of New DNA

To thrive and deliver sustainable organisational capability for reinvention, in an age of constant and rapid change, organisations must develop and evolve packages of new ‘DNA’. For detailed blueprinting of people, process and technology packages, designed to deliver early and continuous value to be successful, it is imperative that there is both leader-led and frontline buy-in from day one. To gain and sustain this buy-in, it is critical to create an ownership mindset at all levels of an organisation.

A significant enabler of effective organisational transformation is cultivating a mindset and culture focussed on creating capacity and capability for change and reinvention. This includes attracting, developing and retaining people, at all levels, who are adaptable, flexible and comfortable with ambiguity. If the frontline, management and leadership can all embody an organisation’s cultural DNA, with an operational excellence mindset, they will ultimately instil confidence in customers, colleagues and the industry around transformation efforts, and facilitate the ability to thrive in increasingly uncertain times.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will cover Transformation Pathway 3: Organisational Reset, where operational maturity is generally high but the imperative has dropped for some reason.