Change is hard, but a good playbook, relevant facts and clear communication can help you meet performance goals and grow your business. Read the article.

A Playbook for Organizational Transformation

Originally published May 28, 2019 by the Forbes Business Development Council at Forbes.com.

I just returned from a three-week “road show” with two presentations in each of our eight regions. I’m not sure why I thought this would be better than our traditional annual sales meeting. But, upon reflection, it was the perfect vehicle to reach our sales and delivery teams and get their read on the organizational transformation that our company has undertaken over the last year or two.

We’re not alone. Many business leaders I’ve talked to over the last couple of years say that they are either in the middle of a transformation or they’ve already completed transformation initiatives.

Clearly, transformation is the new normal. Yet, for the many successes, there are failures. So why change at all? To quote business leaders from an oldie-but-goodie McKinsey & Company report: “To meet our performance goals — or to stay ahead of the competition — we need to reinvent ourselves. Virtually everything about the way we do business must change.”

How To Transform Your Organization For Success

To stay competitive, my company needed to transform from a traditional reseller to a service-oriented business that values its employees and ensures mutual success. To ensure that we successfully completed our business transformation journey, we followed this road map that you can use in your own transformation process:

  1. Define the process to get there.  Similar to top-down direction-setting, the leadership team should establish a vision and define the strategy to reach your goals.
  • Communicate early and often. It’s not enough to spend three hours describing your vision at the company meeting and then never talk about it again. Develop a short five-minute pitch and repeat it at company meetings, in newsletters and employee communications, and in meetings with key staff to help drive home the point.
  • Get feedback. In addition to communicating the vision, ask employees how things are going. They’re often on the front lines with customers and may see issues well before the executive team does. Get their feedback, tweak the process and move on.
  1. Align activities and responsibilities. Once you have a roadmap, realign your focus and your people around your key strengths. We made critical investments where we had gaps to advance our vision. Then we needed to get out of the way so that our employees could deliver true value to the organization.
  • Define your capabilities. To meet your transformation goals and drive true enterprise value, define the capabilities needed to achieve your vision. By defining the capabilities you need for a competitive advantage, you can then create roles and fill them with the right people.
  • Lift people up.One of the things that we tried to do when we defined our capabilities and roles was to use the process as an opportunity to lift people up and out. Not only can you invest in highly capable leaders to move the ball forward, but you can also redefine responsibilities and create new roles that motivated your team to achieve in new ways.
  1. Define ‘rules’ to live by. Adopt values for how you do business and help your customers succeed. For example, we pride ourselves on doing the right thing and keeping our promises, delivering innovative outcomes, being the best at what we do, nurturing long-term partnerships and empowering our people to be successful.
  • Build in success. Your organization’s success depends on employee and customer success. Give employees the tools they need to take your vision to customers. For example, we invested in an industry association’s research and tools to help employees be successful with customers. At the same time, we invested in our customer success management team so that we could continue to help our customers achieve their business outcomes.

There are challenges, of course. But a solid strategy — along with facts, clear communication and persistence — can help you overcome whatever roadblocks you encounter.

Implementing The Transformation Playbook

There’s nothing easy about change. Almost everyone fears the unknown, especially those affected most by transformation initiatives.

Imagine facing employees and saying “we’re making some changes” before abruptly walking out of the room. Chances are, your shell-shocked team will spend the rest of the day (or week or months) wondering what’s next, where they’re going or even if they’ll have a job. It’s a non-starter.

That’s why a thoughtful transformation strategy is mission critical. It keeps everyone focused on the mission and moving in the same direction. It will also go a long way toward instilling confidence and getting buy-in for your plans. Think of it as your playbook for success.

Clear communication is also key. Bring employees on the transformation journey with you. Anticipate their questions and concerns and answer them honestly using facts to guide you. In many cases, change can mean new opportunities, narrower focus, better teamwork, and greater rewards for everyone. Communicate those benefits.

Finally, a healthy dose of persistence should be a part of your plan. Unexpected roadblocks always seem to appear at the most unexpected times.  Make an end run around them and keep going.

So get your team in a huddle, call the play and let everyone do their jobs. If you’re intercepted (another change), use facts to call another play. Put in the work.

A Final Word: Digital Transformation

You’ll notice that I haven’t yet said a word about “digital transformation” even though it’s my company’s primary business. Why? Because your digital transformation strategy should not exist in a vacuum. Digital transformation should align with and support organizational transformation and vice versa.

In fact, I like to call it “business transformation.” After all, companies that cannot reimagine their business in response to market demands probably can’t undergo a successful digital transformation. You’d have to first move the Titanic to fix the hole in the hull.

At the end of the day, change is hard and not always welcome. But with a good playbook, relevant facts and clear communication, you’ll be better equipped to meet performance goals and grow your business. That’s a formula for success.

Mike Houghton is President of Logicalis US where he is charged with developing and executing the organization’s consultative sales strategy and driving growth through new customer acquisitions and the movement of current clients to additional services and soluti