The 7 principles of successful Business Transformation

Our team are fortunate to work on Business Transformations every day. Here are 7 key principles that they think are crucial for success...
By Partner, Voco

Disruption used to be an exception event that ‘hit’ some companies or industries unexpectedly.

But that’s not really true anymore.

We live in a time when the business world moves at lightning speed.

Major events like a global pandemic can shake the foundations of our workplaces and force us to adopt new ways of working and interacting that previously seemed unthinkable.

New technologies like AI can seemingly mature overnight, and force us to consider how people might become obsolete (or at least augmented) in industries where that was once considered impossible.

Disruption has become the norm, and that means change has become a necessary constant in almost all businesses across most industries.

Simply doing what you’ve always done (even if you do it really well), isn’t enough to stay ahead anymore.  There is a perpetual need to change and adapt to stay in business and continue to thrive.

Being able to drive business improvement and respond to disruption now requires transformation capability as a core organisational competency. And delivering successful business transformation is the key to ensuring an organisation continues to deliver better outcomes for its customers and people.

Our team are fortunate to work on complex business transformations every day. They’re match fit and experienced across a number of sectors, so we asked them what the common principles are in successful transformations that they’ve seen or worked on.

This is what they said…

1. Don’t start without a clear transformation vision (and a plan to get there)

Your transformation vision is a bit like the destination you type into Google Maps when you’re about to start a long journey.

Google Maps is an incredible tool.

It shows you exactly how to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.

It breaks the journey into waypoints and milestones, and provides clear instructions when you reach a fork in the road.

It shows you how long the journey is likely to take, and if there are any alternative paths that might make the journey more interesting and enjoyable.

If you encounter unexpected obstacles on the way, it’ll search for the most efficient ways to get around these disruptive roadblocks.

But Google Maps wouldn’t be able to do any of these things if you didn’t tell it where you wanted to go at the start.

Your vision is your destination. Make it exciting, make it inspiring. Make it unequivocal.
Vaughn Woods

Partner, Voco

Admittedly, there isn’t an app (yet!) that makes business transformation as easy as using Google Maps, but the principle of needing a clear understanding of where you’re going, and what success looks like, is exactly the same.

Your vision is your destination. Make it exciting, make it inspiring, make it unequivocal.

Communicate it clearly to the people on the journey, and watch how it helps them make good decisions that keep them on track when they encounter the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks along the way.

2. Push the rock downhill

Top level sponsorship and support is crucial in any transformational change.

Think of it like this. It’s really hard to push a big rock up a hill. But if that same rock is pushed from the top of the hill, it doesn’t take long for it to pick up speed, direction, and momentum.

Executive Leadership is the fastest way to achieve organisational commitment, and to make sure the programme team always get access to the necessary resources for the task at hand.

3. Focus on the Customer

Customers are the lifeblood of any organisation, but it can be so easy to lose sight of that when your team are in the depths of a transformation programme.

Always keep the customer at the centre of your transformation.

Understand who they are and what they need from you. Understand their pain points and what you can do to resolve the things that make their interactions with you difficult.

If your transformation work isn’t going to improve the customer experience and make it easier for them to buy or use your products and services, why do it?

If you keep your transformation laser focused on the customer and deliver successfully, it will always result in better outcomes for the organisation.

4. Keep it simple

If we continue the Google Maps analogy, the more complicated the route, the more likely it is that you’ll take a wrong turn.

Always look for the simplest way to get from A to B, and break the journey down into short segments to make it more manageable.

Sometimes the final destination is a long way away and delivering incrementally makes the team feel like they’re making progress towards the end goal.  It gives them something to celebrate, and motivates them to tackle the next leg of the journey.

And remember, when you come across a long stretch of easy road, sit back and enjoy the ride!

5. Trust and empower the team

Define the vision, communicate it clearly, make sure you’ve got the right skills and capacity for the task at hand, then empower the team to develop the transformation plan and start delivering.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

The key to making all of this work is trust. Trust is the foundation that all great transformation teams are built on. When the team trust each other, and the leadership trusts the team – that’s when the magic happens.

Trust means people can be honest. They can share their ideas, table their concerns, and constructively challenge each other without fear or constraint.

Foster a culture of honesty and openness in your transformation team and empower them to make good decisions, and they’ll deliver great outcomes for the business.

6. Share, share, and share some more.

We’ve seen so many transformations fail because they’re kept secret from the wider organisation.

We agree that there’s a time and a place for secrecy, but when your transformation affects the whole business, it needs to involve the whole business (at the right time, of course).  

The most successful transformations we’ve seen are when everyone in the organisation understands what is changing and buys into the why. So good storytelling is crucial.

Bring the business along for the ride and you’ll get organisation-wide ownership of the change. This will increase the chances of success and help it to become embedded in the way things are done. 

7. Be agile and creative

As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face!”

All transformations are tough, and even during successful ones there will be times when the team encounter unforeseen issues and difficult problems.

Change is uncomfortable, and people can feel vulnerable and under pressure, particularly when things don’t go to plan.

That’s why it’s important to remain agile and prepared to change course along the journey. 

Keep sight of the vision. Listen, learn and find creative ways to get around the inevitable roadblocks.

Demonstrate that you’re prepared to embrace ambiguity and celebrate change. It’ll keep your people onboard and energised, and give them the confidence to pivot when they need to.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.
Mike Tyson

Boxing Legend

Genuine business transformation is not typically achieved with one initiative or project, it is a combination of well-considered and planned initiatives to deliver on a long-term vision that achieves an overall outcome. 

It’s a competency that can be learned (and one that our team love to teach).

Follow the 7 principles above and it’ll increase your chances of success. And once your business has delivered one transformation project successfully, you’ll be match fit and ready for the next one. 

If you need support with your Business Transformation, get in touch with our team today.