6 Mistakes Organizations Make When Trying to Implement Transformation
and How to Avoid Them
for both local and global companies, as well as SMBs and multinational organizations.
Recently, I've begun to notice that there is one thing they all have in common, no matter the size,
geolocation or industry they operate in: they're all pursuing transformation makeovers and organizing
“Innovation Festivals”. And they're all getting it wrong.
So, instead of writing about the best ways, must-haves on how to implement transformation correctly, I
chose to highlight six common mistakes that companies make when implementing transformation and
innovation methods, and suggestions on how to avoid them.
ORGANIZATIONS MAKE WHEN TRYING
TO IMPLEMENT TRANSFORMATION
Talking the talk
// Keren Levy
Dear CEOs & Senior Management - transformation won’t
happen by simply repeating buzzwords such as 'agility',
'transparency', 'design-thinking' and 'open innovation'
over and over again - this is not some rain chant to the
gods. Transformation, when done right, will be the most
challenging task in your career; you will not only need
to change the way you think and act, but also the way
your company thinks and acts. You will not reap its fruits
by simply talking the talk. You need to start moving,
learning, sweating and believing. Win your employees’
trust, make them believe that you are a true leader, and
that although you may not know the best (or proper) way
to reach your goals, you are confident and motivated to
make REAL change at your company.
Walk the walk
Pull up your sleeves and lead by example. Become a
hands-on manager. Start from the small things; talk
to your employees and try to understand their daily
challenges; try and change the way you have meetings
and team updates. Can you shorten the decision-
making process? Which red tape can be eliminated,and
which is untouchable? What (and maybe who) are the
obstacles preventing projects and tasks from moving
forward? Go out into the field, talk to your customers,
Acting Like a start-up
It’s never ‘ transformation-o’clock’
Size does matter
Switch to project mode
Guys, you are NOT startups. The foundation of a startup
is made of a couple of individuals that chose to pursue
a great idea and make it a reality with few resources,
surrounded by skeptics, in a competitive environment,
trying to live another day. This not your foundation, at
least not in the last couple of decades.
Don’t think that happy hours, cool posters on the walls
and giving your office an open-space makeover , will
make you a startup.
Try to act like a well-established organization that
looks into the future, maybe foreseeing a change in its
market share. A company that is looking to change, to
be more relevant to its consumers, address their needs
and have a competitive advantage that will help it retain
a long term competitive edge and sustain as much
as it can. Remember, you are an aircraft carrier, not a
rowboat, and you need to maneuver accordingly.
Somehow, it seems that people don’t have time to
implement new ways of working, stimulate their 'out-of-
the-box' thinking or prepare transformation workshops.
Daily tasks and ‘firefighting’ are more urgent. Let's be
honest; they are easier to tackle because you already
know the drill, and although you might not like to admit
it, it is your “auto-pilot”, and that’s where you feel safe.
New ways of working and thinking are, well, new, and
require a new learning cycle, and we all know where
those types of tasks end up – to the same place all
your other 'I'll do it later' tasks go. Right next to mailbox
sorting and starting a diet.
Be proud of all the great things you can do because
you are a well-established company (vast knowledge,
resources and reputation); which legacy activities can
you improve? How can you contribute to the category?
What kind of positive mark or influence can you
make? Be open and collaborate with your competitors,
promote regulatory and social agendas, remove
category barriers and invest in infrastructures that can
advance the category. Remember: long-term strategies
are made for long-term companies.
Startups are quick and agile because they work in
'project mode'. They have a 'beginning-middle-end'
phase progression , and that helps them sprint through
their day with quick decision making, ad-hoc problem
solving and great motivation to reach the end of the
project. Enterprises, however, work in 'functional
mode': they have processes for every action, rigorous
documentation and endless meetings. Most of
their work consists of meetings, presentations and
conference calls, leaving less time to make progress
on existing tasks.
The top management should start by defining some
tasks as projects, appointing a project manager that
will follow a project roadmap with a deadline to stick
to. The project manager should address those kinds
of tasks (projects) first thing in the morning, with all of
the team’s energy devoted to non-automatic tasks that
require more focus and structure as they go through
the learning curve.
Carrying anti-innovation naysayers
Thinking outside the box,
inside the box
You might be surprised, but some people are not all
that interested in this 'innovation nonsense'. They
believe that the old way is the best way, and that sooner
than later, 'transformation' will be replaced by the next
organizational buzzword or trend. Maybe they are right,
but if your company's vision and objective is pursuing
transformation, you should only have committed
employees who genuinely believe in the idea and are
willing to make a real change on board. Everyone else
should not continue to work for the company, as they
might become internal blockers that will interfere with
the process and hold you back.
When approaching Design Thinking or other innovation
strategy tools, there is a tendency to keep the general
wireframe pretty similar to that of the existing business
– same product/service, same marketing proposition
and usually the same customer. The 'out-of-the-box'
elements that usually(wrongly) arise from those
methods are more focused on a new 'look & feel', new
slogans, buzzy events or, my favorite: limited editions.
This is the type of creative thinking that should be
happening anyway, and it is certainly not revolutionary.
Naysayers not welcome
Get the box out of your system
Make sure that all employees are connected to the
company's new vision, and clarify that whoever isn’t is
welcome to leave, with an exit package as appreciation
for his/her work and honorable decision to withdraw
from the company. It won't be pleasant, but it will unite
the remaining employees and motivate them to achieve
those goals together.
Define what that 'box' is, and then make a conscious
decision not to include any of said 'box elements' into
your new ideas. What you need to do is actually go
outside of your comfort zone: the farther you go, the
better it will develop your ‘outside-the-box thinking’
muscles. So go crazy! Market your product to aliens!
Add a weird feature or invent an insane service
proposition. An exercise that I like to do to kick off
a design-thinking workshop is dividing little paper
notes into two groups: different target audiences, and
different products and services. Each group draws one
note from each group, and has to create a marketing
plan for the product/service to that target audience.
The sometimes weird resulting combinations teach
participants that anything can be sold to anyone, you
just need to find the right insight about their needs and
define a proper value proposition.
Remember that all of the above can be implemented in teams of all sizes;
you don’t have to start big. Try out this approach with just one function or
one project team to begin with. Create hype around that function or project
team, and encourage the people involved to share their experience from
the pilot. Encourage them to share their challenges and mistakes, too, and
always look toward that ‘North Star’ to guide you through this process.
Rome was not built in a day, and your company won’t be either. With
patience and persistence, you will win in the end.
Read more about Corporate Innovation on my blog: Innotalks.io
Pretending to be 'picture perfect '
Endorse failures - failing
In corporate life, it seems like all employees are
perfect. They don’t make mistakes. They never fail. No
one talks about it, no one admits it, and that makes
our organizational life picture perfect. The corporate
culture usually discriminates against failures and tags
people who make mistakes as losers on the verge of
being kicked out of the company. Even if they formally
encourage employees to fail and learn from those
failures, what usually happens is that they get fired
and the replacement 'learns' from their mistakes. This
creates gossip, anger, negative competitiveness and
mainly fake news in meeting rooms, presentations and
Newsflash: we are all humans. We all make mistakes,
lots of them, and with the right approach, we can use
them to make us better, wiser and more efficient. In
corporate life, you should encourage people to speak
about their mistakes and what they have learned from
them. Remove the plastic facade when presenting a
business plan, talk about past mistakes and how you
can avoid them. When someone is sharing a mistake,
celebrate it, and think how you can make lemonade
from those lemons. Encourage higher management to
speak openly about their misjudgments and mistakes.
Do, fail, learn, and do it better next time.
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