In a world, where the only constant is change, many organizations still create their strategies according to roadmaps and strategy charts. But does this still hold up? We believe, that when it comes to business transformations, there has to be room for constant adjustments along the way. It is necessary to throw the nit-picky approach overboard and embrace uncertainty. But how can you do that?
We are all familiar with the classic approach to strategy-work and transformations: create a strategy-document through an involving process, set up goals for different focus areas, establish a strategy period, articulate a list of projects: get started!
This method allows management to continually check if the strategy is being followed, and if the previously outlined goals are being achieved. The criteria for success are to complete a number of development projects within all focus areas. Then, you have delivered what was agreed upon. The business benefits, however, are only relevant long-term, so they (luckily) cannot be followed up on yet.
Let go of the urge to check a box for deliveries
Maybe, the traditional approach is thriving, because it offers security during a tumultuous time. Or maybe because managers are often rewarded according to their ability to ‘check a box’ for agreed upon deliveries – even when the benefits are not there. Or maybe the explanation lies with many managers’ well-meaning desire to express themselves clearly and chart a course.
But the fact of the matter is, that this rarely works as intended. Because real life with all of its changed premises goes by fast, while you are busy executing on the formulated deliveries. The result is that the transformation remains absent.
Make peace with loosely defined plans and make the right team
It is completely natural – and necessary to an extent – to develop a good business case and a clear plan, before you spend a lot of money on development activities. Especially because these activities often lead the organization to work overtime and impacts operation (more than you might have expected!).
But the desire to control and plan needs to be reined in and we need to pay regard to all the things that are changeable. An action plan for the strategy should not stretch too far into the future. Strategic business transformations typically take many years to complete but cannot be planned out that far into the future. You should go with a maximum of 6 months to a year. The rest has to be a loose sketch, which is brought up for re-evaluation often. It also has to be possible to re-evaluate, downscale and reword, if the transformation is to be realistic.
Does this sound too loose?
We think it works. Especially if you are uncompromising in your approach to organization and decision-making competency – not just in the beginning, but throughout the entire transformation process. It is the right people with the right freedom along with present and attentive managers, who create real changes, that lead to the desired benefits. Business transformations only become successful through constant dialogue and attention given to the development rather than blindly following a renowned framework and a detailed plan.