The different dimensions of transformation, CIO News, ET CIO

By Divya Madaan and Devicharan Garigipati

In today’s fast-paced and increasingly global economy, a radical organizational transformation is required to maintain a successful and relevant business. Transformations are triggered by both external needs (changing customer and technology needs, need for faster delivery) and internal needs (deliver solutions efficiently, improve productivity and quality). A pragmatic view of which of these triggers are important to ensure the long-term success of the transformation is extremely important. Transformations are disruptive and impact organizational culture, structures and processes. A thoughtful holistic approach is essential to navigating this magnitude of change. Changes are hard to achieve and even harder to sustain. A mix of leadership, strategy, implementation and coaching to progressively evolve the organization. We have shared our experiences in this article and in a detailed white paper on the different dimensions of transformation, strategies and actions that have helped us navigate this complexity.

Understand the problem
It is essential to understand “which problem(s)” to solve and what transformation is really necessary. Organizations need to assess whether transformation is needed as a tactical adjustment to processes/teams or as a targeted initiative to improve various elements of the organization as a whole. The purpose of the transformation would determine the strategy and guiding principles. A four-step process detailed in the “HBR article – Solve the right problem for yourself” is a useful tool for defining and articulating the problem. An “issue champion”, who has a deep understanding of the domain, sufficient authority and ability to influence should facilitate. An external consultant can be effective and impartial, either with the problem or with a solution.

Transformation impacts many aspects (financial, customers, processes, and capabilities) of the organization and are not stand-alone initiatives. Understanding the interrelation of these elements, alignment with the purpose of transformation is essential and requires a deep understanding of the organization from various perspectives. Strategy maps are a great tool for detailing strategy, they provide a visual representation of objectives and align them to what is required in each aspect. A good example may be the Agile strategy map by Agile 42, a tool built using a strategy map focused on Agile transformation.

Resistance to change, organizational maturity, trust levels and power dynamics are also elements that influence transformation. The hard elements (strategy, organizational structure and systems) and the soft elements (shared values, skills, style and people) must be managed. The McKinsey 7S model provides seven critical and interdependent organizational elements. Organizations can take two general approaches to implementing transformation:
Incremental (based on the book ‘Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries) – Build an MVP (Minimal Viable Product), gather validated learning to decide on the next step. This approach helps to transform based on continuous feedback, is organic and context-based.

“As a Whole” – Create change champions across the organization, rally senior management support for change, and drive change from the top down. This approach is radical and disruptive.
Understanding how to measure the success of a transformation is as essential as defining a strategy. The Balanced Scorecard is a useful tool for gathering multi-dimensional feedback that helps assess transformation and course-correct.

Implementation should be a dynamic process, starting with high-level steps to achieve the desired outcome, continually adjusting based on progress (hypothesis to verify the right path/transformation success) and learnings. It must also be able to respond when to pivot (change direction) or persevere (move forward)[reference Lean Startup]Having a transformation coach to balance process rigor and focus on continuous evolution will be necessary, and this coach must be flexible as required for continuous learning and feedback, but also rigid with direction and strategy.

Starting point
The most important decision regarding transformation is choosing the project/product/group as the starting point. Leadership support, team maturity, opportunities with significant challenge could set the starting point. Coaches should select the starting point that has good balance and provides feedback on the transformation hypothesis.

Rally teams
It is important to understand the rationale and purpose of the change proposed by all parties involved. Obtaining the support of management, employees and stakeholders is essential to the success of the transformation. Stakeholder mapping based on influence and impact will help build a careful and planned approach to managing situations.

transitional change
7times7 is an effective way to reinforce change and the new way of working. Credibility for transformation comes when the message is carried from the top down and leadership leads by example. Rewarding desired behaviors and discouraging undesirable behaviors is needed, along with formal HR and communication mechanisms. Talent development will be important and organizations should plan for training and capacity development.

Support change
If organizations ignore or don’t change the underlying processes/challenges, it can cause teams to revert to old habits, e.g. a manager is pushing the team to adapt to DevOps, but the technical limitations are not resolved. Software engineering teams are transformed into Agile, but product management teams are waterfall. This type of disconnect leads to superficial adoption of change. Aligning all of the McKinsey 7 principles would require having the consistency to support change. Any unmanaged process would become inefficient over time. A strong mindset of continuous learning, adaptability and growth is essential throughout the transformation journey. Maturity reviews, retrospectives, round tables, community of practices are some tools that can be used.

Organizational commitment to transformation can only be achieved when there is a continuous and committed investment (both in time and budget) to support the change and not just to implement it.

The authors are Divya Madaan, Director of Software Engineering at Adidas, and ‘Devi’charan Garigipati who works at GE as Director of Software Engineering leading enterprise platform development for GE Gas Power.

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