Transformation: It's Harder than Innovation

You're not Facebook. You're not Google. You are part of an institution that's been around a lot longer than the internet. Your business is healthy. You've got customers, employees and suppliers who know you and trust you.

But something's happening out there. New employees roll their eyes at your form-laden onboarding process; customers complain about your rigid delivery constraints; vendors use contracting tools that outpace your procurement systems; new competitors are springing up with "disruptive" approaches to the market, ever more capable of providing what their customers want, at the time and place they want it. You are coming to realize that technology adoption is no longer an option.

Companies less able to adapt have already disappeared, many unaware that the world had passed them by. You are different, and that's why you've been around so long.

"90% of companies are likely to be disrupted, yet less than half are preparing for it."

That longevity is certainly something to be proud of, but when it comes to adapting to technological change, it can be an unwieldy burden.  A recent report by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte found that nearly 90% of managers surveyed report that their industry is likely to be disrupted by digital technologies, yet less than half report that their company is doing enough to prepare for this disruption. For many, the disparity was at least partly due to concerns about how to innovate digitally while maintaining core competencies.

In contrast to startups, which have the advantage of having built their companies around the latest technology, you're tasked with a delicate retrofit. Like performing exploratory surgery on yourself while running a marathon, you must continue to operate your business while you are transforming it, without killing the patient.

So how do you perform this balancing act?

A hard look in the mirror.
Start by mercilessly scrutinizing what you're doing today, appreciating the high likelihood that many of your processes are only in place as a result of the limitations of technology at the time they were put there. Why were they set up, and when? What are they designed to accomplish?

This process by itself can be transformative. Not only in how it can expose internal inefficiencies and potential improvements, but in what it can reveal about the culture of the organization and how the very real fears about change and disruption can hold back positive transformation if they are not addressed and handled correctly.

Outside resources. 
There's a common notion that "bringing in a consultant" is disruptive to the organization and is unsettling to employees. But there simply is no realistic way to transform the business using the same staff and resources that are keeping the business running. That is not to say that current staff are not going to contribute substantially to the transformation; it is just impossible to expect exploration and execution to occur contemporaneously and concurrently without a lot of outside help. 

Consultants are resources. You are the leader.

Welcome change.
By far the number one obstacle facing transformation leaders is fear. 
In another MIT Sloan report, researchers found that organizations often don’t consider that the management practices and methods they are about to introduce come with underlying values and assumptions about how things should get done. Failing to recognize and address this can lead to friction with the culture of the organization into which any new method is introduced.

Ken Moyle is president and chief legal officer of K6 Partners LLC.


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