Seven Pitfalls of Human Transformation in Organizations 2/2

This article approaches potential pitfalls of human transformations within organizations and the deliverables MetaDesign provides to address these. The first introductive part of this article is available here.

Pitfall No. 1: Have the Wrong Purpose

“Never forget why you want to change”

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek is right to address the “why” in the transformation equation. In doing so, he is unlocking untapped potential across each of our businesses. In our case, the car industry started its business by developing and producing vehicles. This essentially reflected a product-dominant logic. The industry’s future growth areas, however, are already emerging in areas that manage and service new mobility standards. This reflects a paradigm shift towards a more service-dominant attitude. It’s actually a radical shift for everybody involved in these transformational processes. If people don’t know why to change, they never will. Within big digital transformations in large organizations, management attention is mostly focused on technology, system implementation, and handling big data rather than caring about customers, their needs, passions, and pain points. The answer to “why?” is never technology. A company’s success depends on customers who are willing to pay for products or services. That means: “customers first; technology second.”

MetaDesign deliverables driving human transformation: Transformation Strategy, Brand Leadership Platform, Purpose, Vision

Pitfall No. 2: Lack a Shared Set of Beliefs

“Identification for change doesn’t come from bits and bytes”

Don’t expect your workforce to embrace the purpose behind your digital transformation by presenting them with a cool campaign tagline. Excite them. Unite them. Get them emotionally committed. Get them to desire change. Get your people to believe. Just because everyone is talking about change doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone understands the necessity to change, particularly at the personal level. That requires altering deeply rooted micro-habits and daily routines. Most people resist change. They fear change mainly because they don’t have the competence or confidence to drive change. The truth behind financial turnarounds of companies is always that the turnaround came along with turning around the emotions of people. If a company doesn’t create its own “religion,” it’s hard to imagine people going in the same direction. A good brand always communicates truths that everybody wants to believe in. It is these shared beliefs that fuel change.

MetaDesign deliverables driving human transformation: beliefs and work ethics

Pitfall No. 3: Don’t Have a Leadership Role Model

“All transformation starts top-down – success comes from the bottom-up.”

It would be an unforced error to allocate all action to happen in lower level management. Instead, upper management should own the change. Without clear change leadership, cynicism and mistrust will run amok. People follow leaders who walk the walk, not those who just talk the talk. Why? Because they know communication requires action, not just words. Business sponsors motivate others by what they do – and how they do it. These are the leaders who know how to influence people’s actions, and colleagues will perceive and acknowledge these key influencers to be credible, trustworthy, and effective leaders. They act more like “center players” in basketball with a high level of intuition towards the team. They know how to create a sense of flow. They also keep team play dynamics high. Change leaders incorporate key messages into hour-by-hour communication, and they use every possible communication channel. They break down silos and build bridges across all departments to ensure consistent levels of key stakeholder engagement. Because top management buy-in, leadership, and accountability are critical in achieving successful, lasting change and transformation.

MetaDesign deliverables driving human transformation: Leadership Principles & Ethics, Leadership Skills Program

Pitfall No. 4: Have Ineffective Communication

“Don’t push for change. Create pull”

What is the best kind of organizational structure for creating compelling storytelling and accelerating change? This is one of the most interesting questions that leaders ask themselves during the change process. Indeed, most change programs fail to tap the full energy potential of the broad workforce. As a result, these efforts lack the pull necessary for lasting change.

Leaders need to back up their transformation efforts with communication to maintain high levels of momentum at all stakeholder levels. Transformation is always a matter of turning around people’s emotions. The more people can see and feel that the general direction is right – that their involvement is having an impact – the more this emerging spirit will also have a visible influence on projects. A good transformation is “like water flowing downhill.” This prosaic metaphor reflects a new way of initiating programs. It creates its own flow based on an ancient, Asian strategic wisdom. Pull communication strategies support this flow concept.

MetaDesign deliverables driving human transformation: Internal Branding & Communication Platforms and Programs, Internal Campaigning

Pitfall No. 5: Recruit the Wrong People

“To change the game, find people who are hungry to change the game.”

Get the right people on board. Enable them to think and act anew. Without the right people acting in the right roles, digital transformation will never happen.

Are managers able to support their staff in making the transition? This conversation needs to happen at executive and board level. Someone needs to head up your digital transformation with the mandate for change and the influencing skills to make it happen. Don’t outsource the transformation entirely to the digital team when the digital should be a significant part of any organizational strategy. The diversity of team members will enhance the ability to create innovation. Thorough assessments in people’s digital and communication ambitions and skills are crucial for success.

If collaboration is key for success, then “ego shooters” are at the wrong place.

If creativity is key for innovation, then your organization’s top “controllers” are at the wrong place.

If the “center player” approach is crucial to gain speed, then “worriers” full of doubt are at the wrong place. The new digital world asks for skilled new team players from different departments of the business to understand the dynamics of change, the diversity of topics, and customer-centric progress.

MetaDesign deliverables driving human transformation: Employer Branding Programs

Pitfall No. 6: Train Your People Insufficiently

“A fool with a tool is still a fool”

As the saying goes, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Focus on this as much as on developing a great digital strategy and create practical steps for change and identify milestones. To work closely with influential staff and encourage them to champion digital — that is the general task. But without a comprehensive training in enhancing creative, communication, or leading skills, all good intentions will fail. Knowledge-and-skills programs are not a one-off action. They must be a continuous approach to sustain change and further progress. The new ways of team play, incorporating customer-journey approaches and design thinking methodology — including new forms of ideation, prototyping, and testing — will create a new work spirit. Without this front load of enhancing skills, better market results are not likely to happen. Digital transformation will change our way of thinking, acting collaboratively, and how we approach customer needs. By investing in your people early with the right training in the best schools, you can realize a greater return on your most important asset of all: your people.

MetaDesign deliverables driving human transformation: Knowledge & Skills Trainings, Collaboration Skills, Design Thinking, Appreciative Communication

Pitfall No. 7: Foster Outdated Environments

“It isn’t about a change of symbols. It’s about creating symbols of change.”

Imagine that an organization has undergone a profound digital transformation. A year has passed, and we are revisiting the company to ask several critical questions: What has changed? How are people behaving differently? How are they working together? What is their attitude like? Is there visible change? The mistake companies often make, however, is in viewing digital transformation as a pure technology play and not as an investment in cultural change, too. More often than not, companies even outsource their creative cultures into new hubs outside their business’s inner core – where it remains invisible to the rest of the workforce. Yet it is precisely this change visibility that is so crucial in getting everyone within an organization to make the necessary shift. Don’t expect people to work collaboratively if they need to work in cubicles with 100 other colleagues in an open-plan office. New working environments (e.g., physical and virtual creative “collab-spaces,” brand news rooms, and new digital infrastructures) should be available to everyone involved in the digital transformation. Businesses need to understand that digital transformation is a technical and cultural investment in the future of their company – a tangible asset with real value. It, too, will reap measurable ROI.

MetaDesign deliverables driving human transformation: Collab Spaces, News Rooms, Creative Working Environments, Brand Management Systems, Brand Help Desks

_Sven John is Executive Director Global Business.

He is one of Germany’s most experienced brand leaders and was shareholder and managing director of BBDO. Sven is an innovation thinker and transformation expert and a well-versed strategist with deep understanding on people, thus implementation. He worked with the powerhouse of Germany’s international brands, i.e. Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Allianz, Telekom.