The term ‘business transformation’ is a term with a range of definitions. According to Wikipedia, “Business transformation is about making fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to help cope with a shift in market environment”. At emotional intelligence at work we broaden the range of our attention to all organisations and focus on those aspects which are explicitly people-oriented (which is most of them, in truth).
Our involvement in organisational transformation typically addresses these areas:
These are not, of course, capable of being addressed in isolation: the culture is a complex mix and interaction of all four.
On the face of it, it would seem to be a simple requirement to define the culture an organisation needs to adopt. However, there is a risk—a temptation even—that we start being prescriptive about what a successful culture might or should look like. In truth, we do not, and cannot, know what it will be for any given client and we encourage the client to have an open mind, too.
Our approach is one of facilitation. Through a series of dialogues and interactions, engaging everyone in the organisation at a variety of levels and intensities, it the right answer can emerge. This need not, and should not, be a lengthy or costly process. After all, the final answer has to be simple, flexible and comprehensible, otherwise it will wither. On the other hand, it is too fundamental a project to be treated trivially.
We divide most organisational transformation project into four stages:
In this stage we gain an understanding of where the organisation is now, culturally, and what its aspirations and intentions are for the future. This will range from a review of its existing documentation in this area to a briefing session intended to help us gain a clearer and more detailed understanding of the organisation as a whole.
It could include a short research programme by us on best practice in other organisations. There are arguments both for doing this (why not learn from others’ successes?) and for not doing it (other organisations are not the client, their staff are not the client’s staff).
We have never been enthusiasts for change projects which start with extensive reviews of where the client is now, when we know that that is precisely where they don’t want to be and, shortly, won’t be! However, in this case, it is essential that everyone is clear about the organisation’s culture. It’s more than likely that, if each member of the organisation were individually asked to describe its culture, you would not get a set of identical responses! It’s important for us to understand what is the case as opposed to what some people think is the case. (Of course, if there is a wide range of views on what the culture is, that is, itself, an indicator of the culture.)
For simplicity, we break the culture into four relevant areas: its approach, its purpose and outcomes, its strengths, and its processes.
Approach: principles and beliefs
Because beliefs and feelings drive behaviour, whether individually or corporately, it is useful to identify a small number (three to five probably) of beliefs which are generally felt to encapsulate “how we do things round here”, “what this organisation is about”, “why we do it/why we do it like this”, “what gives us a kick” and so on.
The term ‘beliefs’ covers everything from
Feelings are harder to nail, but are nor less important because they are. This is valuable in order to inform an understanding of employees’ motivations and drives. If we can, we like to involve one or more clients in this exercise.
Purpose and outcomes
We prefer these terms to ‘mission statement’ and ‘vision’ as they are more everyday words with which most people more easily identify. No doubt the organisation already has a mission statement and vision, so the use of ‘purpose’ and ‘outcomes’ will allow people to think afresh without undermining what has already been agreed.
This is certainly an area where the opportunity for difference of opinion arises! We use appreciative enquiry, based on positive psychology, to identify the organisation’s and key individuals’ strengths. This approach affirms everything that is right about the organisation—after all, that is what the current culture is made up of. (There is time later to address any issues individuals have.)
What are the characteristics of the organisation, and its people, which enable it to successfully carry out its purpose, achieving its desired outcomes?
Analysis and documentation of processes
Organisations have two sides: the process side and the people side. To support this stage, ensuring that changes identified are consistent with the desired culture and providing robust evidence for future actions, we undertake an appropriate level of analysis leading to the definition of a clear organisational model. This model is evidence based and well documented, thus enabling stakeholders throughout the organisation to understand their role in strengthening and changing its culture.
However good, useful and appropriate the current culture is, it can always be improved. In particular, it is likely that stage 2 will show the absence of a number of key components of an optimum culture for the organisation. The most important is, arguably, an informed process for perpetuating that culture as the organisation grows and develops. The others are usually specific to each individual client organisation.
So, this stage would establish what the organisation of the future will feel like to work in. What is its attitude, and that of its members of staff? What are its key strengths? How does it ensure that an optimum culture is maintained?
The main focus in this stage, therefore, will be on these key components, plus—crucially—obtaining the buy in of everyone in the organisation that this enhanced culture will, indeed, be the way forward.
We do not see this stage as being lengthy. Any problems will show up in the next stage.
We believe that a lot of what makes successful teams successful can be reduced to three essential criteria:
We believe that fostering and maintaining excellence within a team are leadership tasks, and our approach therefore is to work—particularly with the key people in the organisation—to enable them to develop a high quality team by improving their leadership skills and qualities.
Once we and the client have a clear understanding of where the organisation want to be, and how it wants to be (from stage 3), we run a programme of coaching, mentoring and training for appropriate people.
The outcome of the intervention will be the strengthening of organisation’s culture and leadership. A performance regime based upon stakeholders’ understanding, feelings and actions needs to be developed to measure the changes brought about by this transformation and expansion.
By understanding the strengths of the organisation’s culture and translating these into well understood metrics, it will be able to champion its culture, driving the necessary changes and increasing revenue. The outcome of the work will be a model which will add strength to the organisation and ensure sustainability through its activities.