Large-Scale Organisational Transformations - Ten Challenges and Learnings.
In the fast-paced world of today, companies that don’t innovate and change to better align with their customers’ needs and habits will be left behind. It’s no wonder that organisations - big and small, whether they’re an old legacy company with a long history or a new start-up - are racing to implement some kind of organisational transformation. This can be a change to the company’s culture, structure, operating model or, more ambitiously, all three. Companies know that they have to invest time and money into these large-scale transformations. If they don’t, they risk becoming irrelevant and disconnected from their customers.
But change, as always, doesn’t always come easy. It requires huge amounts of management time, investment, resources and a long and sustainable commitment to doing things in a better, more efficient and smarter way. Quick fixes will simply not do the trick.
At my last company, I was fortunate to be part of a global team that was tasked to change not only the operating model of the company, but also the culture and the ways of working of the company. As you can imagine, the challenges, along with the resistance to the changes, were immense.
Here are some of my impressions and thoughts on the challenges and learnings that can be gleaned from our efforts to change a company with a history of over 165 years:
- Before you announce a change of this magnitude to the organisation, it is vital to be as clear as possible on your vision, strategy, goals and scope for the change.
- Develop and implement a clearly defined communications and stakeholder management plan, which sufficiently considers the potential short, medium and long-term impact of the changes.
- Communicate profusely and often during the entire transformation process – too much communication is better than too little. And remember to celebrate your early wins!
- Never under-estimate the amount and intensity of resistance and scepticism for the changes from all levels of the organisation. The stakeholder management plan needs to be robust, agile and carefully managed from the outset to ensure that any resistance to the changes does not ‘corrupt’ your change efforts.
- Engage in a consultation process which allows for meaningful dialogue with leaders, middle managers and employees at all levels of the organisation.
- State clearly and unambiguously that this is about long-term and sustainable change – it’s not a quick fix or a cost saving exercise. The overriding objective is to achieve long-term growth and productivity and not just to cut costs in the short-term.
- If you appoint external management consultants to assist in your transformation effort, be very clear on their roles/responsibilities vs. those of the company itself, particularly the change team. Clearly articulate the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)/metrics which you want the consultants to commit to. Where there are so many moving parts, role clarity between the external consultants and the internal change team is critical.
- Good governance, through the appointment of a Steering Committee, is essential to the success of any large-scale transformation efforts. But, it’s vital that you clearly define the role of the Steering Committee as an enabler and sponsor, and not as a blocker to the change efforts. If the Steering Committee takes on the latter role, you’ll face an uphill battle to successfully implement the changes. Without an active supporter, it will be almost-impossible to achieve the required changes.
- In the early stages of the transformation effort, there’s a lot of ‘pushing’ of changes to the organisation – but, for the effort to work in the long run, you’ll need to create the conditions for and encourage the organisation begin to ‘pull’ for the changes.
- Finally, don’t be afraid of adjusting your strategy and plan as you go along. Be as nimble and agile as possible. Without this agility, the change effort and the change team risk becoming irrelevant because they fail to listen closely to the voice of the customer – what is it that the organisation, and by the extension, the customer – needs, to come along and actively embrace your journey of change.
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