Someone has rightly said that in order to get success it has to be planned otherwise we unconsciously plan for the failure. How True!!
As the one who piloted major transformation in two large public sector Banks in India having multiple constraints, I dare share some learning for successfully piloting transformation.
Having a compelling Vision:
You cannot begin any transformation without having a clear vision about the future and the context. The way this vision is developed and shared across the organization is very important. If CEO and his team is able to develop alignment between the vision and the aspirations of the people, half the transformation is already done. More than the vision the process of developing it is very important. CEO has to engage the Board of Directors first and take them on Board and ensure full support
Transformation is a Team sport:
Richard Beckhard, one of the founders of OD field once said “One person seeking to change an organization will get killed; it does not matter what position the person is in”. Regardless your position in organization it is extremely difficult to do it alone. The team at the top, the team at the other levels regional / divisional picking up the best people with raw enthusiasm and hunger to deliver is the most important piece of transformation. The CEO needs to break the barriers in picking up his top team which shares her vision and is willing to walk on fire.
Energy, Commitment and Passion:
I strongly believe that passion is above competence .When you are managing a big transformation, your whole positivity and passion holds key to success. Passion is that you are in love with something for 24 hours. If the CEO is passionate, it will trickle down at various hierarchical levels. CEOs cannot simply start transformation and expect the response from others. She has to completely immerse into the transformation process. Her energy and commitment should be such that it is inspirational for others. Nothing can be more disastrous than leaving the enthusiasm midway when problems are encountered.
Creating Project mode for implementation:
Transformation projects successful, only when CEOs pay exclusive attention practically on day to day basis. They need to create a project team under- a real smart top executive driving the project with freedom to operate. Also, the CEO has to ensure that only the best team from the consultants is put on the job. The CEOs have also to ensure that existing culture, and bureaucracy does not hinder the effort. They need to transplant a new culture of support, collaboration and ownership. During our transformation exercise, we held daily Morning meetings with our top executives which served several purposes- reviewing time lines and solving problems on real time basis, learning from live situation, from successes, failures, mistakes committed,. We collectively engaged with the issues, putting things in perspective, achieved execution excellence and new creative ways of problem solving. Challenging time lines have to be achieved in implementing projects. Speed is to be considered a new competitive advantage and a culture to do things faster than ever has to be created. In first 100 days, we rebranded the bank, kick-started technology project, opened over 500, 8am-8pm branches, established 500 new ATMs and many more things... The extraordinary focus on speed helped us to achieve all our projects and also double the business in 3 years. Besides, it created a new culture of hands-on collaborative problem solving.
Tenacity to engage with sceptics:
As you begin change, you begin to feel scepticism around because change heralds discomfort for many. The CEO should be able to engage or even confront with the real issues and should be able to provide different perspectives of the change process and ultimate benefits to organization and its people. Managing resistors, sceptics and naysayers is possibly as important as engaging with the enthusiastic people.
Courage to stand through the problems:
When you transform, a number of unannounced problems appear. The CEO has to demonstrate immense courage to sail through these problems successfully. When I was transforming my previous organization, I faced intense resistance from vested interests for change of logo. They used political connections to instigate the people in power that the colour of the logo (saffron) resembled the colour of then party in opposition. I was asked to withdraw the logo but after many explaining I could convince the government about the logic of my decision. It was a difficult time but we took a principled stand and we survived.
Ability to communicate, persuade and engage:
The CEO has to continuously communicate to people about the rationale of decisions and initiatives and persuade them to see the meaning into these initiatives and how they will change the fortunes of the company. Encouraging bottom up communication from employees, from customers and from other stake holders is very crucial to efforts. I t gives us insights about what is working and what is not working. Midway through our technology transformation, I was getting feedback from some customers as to how in the initial days of implementation of new technology, what kind of problems they faced. This helped us to quickly resolve those problems. If we isolate ourselves from communication of problems from front line employees and customers, the transformation effort is bound to get short circuited.
Capacity to decide on a fast speed track:
During transformation it should be visible to people across the organization that the CEO and his team are hands on and are solving problems in a speedy manner. remember that when we were setting up ATMs, we got few complaints that the amount is double debited on swiping the card by customers. Before we even went to technical investigation of the problem, we first returned the amount to the customers who were double charged. This helped us build credibility to deal with the problems expeditiously and restore customer confidence
The maximum stake in transformation is that of CEO. She has to be accessible to project owners for help solving their problem, to chair various top level meetings for monitoring projects, to consultants to review progress, or intervene when they encounter any problem in the implementation or face any road block at any level. She has to redesign her job to create time for transformation project which should occupy her top priority. Our transformation project was multi-dimensional which required simultaneous interventions on many fronts. My time allocation during major transformation which involved Technology implementation, Rebranding, customer centric initiatives, Employee engagement, leadership development was somewhat like this:
1st year 60% time for transformation project- visioning, setting agenda, setting priorities, hiring consultants, preparing teams, employee engagement, implementing 100 days agenda
2nd year 50% time for implementation of various projects on technology, HR and leadership and international strategy
3rd year 35% time for seamless integration of transformation with business
Recognize and celebrate:
As we move on our journey, we must celebrate “Quick Wins”. Recognise the efforts of people organise team events and do everything that people enjoy the pangs of change.
You can read more in my Book – Dare to Lead (Sage1911), available at Amazon.com