How do you drive a change strategy forward?

No implementation means no innovation – here’s how to get it right

Good intentions and ideas are nice to have, but if a business is unable to turn aspirations into new ways of working, then ultimately positive change is unlikely to happen.

The market is moving fast and innovation will take time. Executives and business leaders need to be realistic about the outcomes. Recent research from Experian, conducted by Forrester (June 2017), shows how 73% of business leaders believe that traditional business models will disappear in the next 5 years due to the digital revolution – and are therefore preparing to change to respond.

Too many companies struggle to bridge the gap between strategy and results. They might not realise that execution is the most important activity. Various studies show that 70% of change initiatives have failed to deliver on the proposed objectives[1]. But, this isn’t always a bad thing and, whilst test and learn is crucial, learn and improve is an even better place to be.

In an evolving market this method of trial and error could be what is needed. For some, this won’t be about innovating with new built design concepts, but a simple move towards a more agile, flexible – perhaps API driven architecture for example. It may be about readdressing assets, such as data, and using it in a different way.

Organisations need to have a realistic idea of what will be required to enable change. Having a change vision with clear milestones (and contingency plans), will allow good foundations to be built. Importantly, what may enable change may not be in house either. It may be necessary to partner with someone who can. For example a Fintech, or a third party.

But how does an organisation change its business model? How does it innovate, but, at the same time, go through a process of design and deliver? Of test and learn?

It boils down to culture. And to get this right, those who want to build a culture which supports delivery, must focus on changing beliefs, change mind-sets and influence specific behaviours that enable this to become a part of the corporate strategy. It is behaviour that ultimately delivers results. These ‘new ways of working’ must be embedded in the reward systems and in the expected behaviours of the workforce, which everyone practices. It needs to be a part of a corporate strategy and a part of the brand and ethos of every single employee – at every level.

It may take multiple failures, and days of refinement – but when it works, it delights. Innovation isn’t common, it is rare. And, for some, it isn’t about creating something new, or visionary. It is simply about doing something differently and sticking to the objectives.

Businesses also need to focus on a small number of priorities, at any one time, to get the best from the resources available. Regular communication on progress will also help break down any barriers to achieving the desired goals.

It’s also vital to reward people who produce results and coach the whole team to understand the core elements and behaviours required for delivery. In some scenarios, this may also require education. In others, it may be about instilling a culture that is centred on change. By advocating and championing this, it will inevitably bring a change programme that is managed inside out.

The results will show through the brand, powered by the people that drive it forward.

When put into perspective, behaviours are just beliefs turned into actions. They deliver results. To change culture, organisations must change beliefs. One place to start could be to understand how committed you are to support the intended execution strategy. This might sound basic but it ensures the right people are behind it and driving it forwards. Skill is also important.

Many innovations, change programmes, or general business strategy changes are based on a response to something new. Or a need for something new. As such, do you have the right teams, the right skills and the right set-up to get the best from the proposed objectives? This last year has seen a rise in skilled jobs, such as actuary and digital technicians, which will inevitably continue to grow as businesses unravel the actions needed to meet a changing market.

Delivering strategic milestones will require re-evaluation of available resources on a regular basis, as well as building a pipeline of available talent to support endeavours. This will put added pressure on HR and recruitment teams. Making sure the talent is suitable and fits the culture will be critical.

We are already seeing a change across many organisations where they advocate and invest in change. With innovation centres being created and new product and engagement methods evolving daily as a result. The questions that’s left is what change is needed? Where can efforts be prioritised in order to drive a difference in the business – and in the customer experience.

Flexible and adaptable strategies and processes will create an important infrastructure for businesses to continue to develop and advance. It will give an ability to be agile and responsive. More importantly, it will transform the foundations to be able to deliver something new, innovative and needed.

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Sources:

[1] 23Forbes.com. (2016). Forbes Welcome. [online] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2015/11/10/transform-or-die-idcs-top-technology-predictions-for-2016/#46ed6dd37cec

Research from Experian, conducted by Forrester (June 2017)