Avoid a Jekyll and Hyde situation in business transformation

Craig Sharp

So you’re starting out on the road to business transformation. You’ve identified some key goals for your business and figured out which changes need to be made in order to bring your plans to fruition.

You’ve put together a process excellence team and at first, things seem fine, the changes are well received, welcomed even, and they work. But (slowly at first), cracks begin to show, things are being missed, staff are confused and divided between those embracing the change and those resisting it. Suddenly customers are complaining about draconian new measures. But the changes keep coming, new forms are appearing, processes are slowing down as simple functions are suddenly the responsibility of not one, but three or four departments. Staff are leaving (or fear being fired). What started as an intelligent, mild-mannered drive for efficiency has become a bloated monster.

It sounds familiar doesn’t it? It’s the same tale we’ve heard time and time again – either directly or anecdotally. What started out as good intentioned, has spectacularly failed, probably complicating things further and maybe even costing the business a pretty penny.

This is the Jekyll and Hyde of business transformation, and it’s a situation best avoided. So how do you prevent your well intentioned, transformational project from taking on a monstrous life of its own?

#1 – Be clear in your objective; be flexible in your approach

If a boss or colleague tells you they want to shorten waiting times on customer orders, what do they really mean? What is their number one priority here?

Is it to increase efficiency? A shorter waiting time presumably means that you can process a larger volume of orders in the same time period. Maybe they want to improve customer relationships? A shorter waiting time is certainly a good way to go about doing that. Either way, shortening the waiting time is the means, it isn’t the end.

For example, and automated telephone handling system might seem like a good idea, but how many menus does your customer need to go through before they speak to a person? How long are they waiting in the calling queue?

Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve – be clear on your end goal. The transformative process is simply the means for you to reach that end, so if the proposed transformation proves too complicated, or creates extra hurdles, it might not be the best option.

Be flexible and consider all options, what worked yesterday will not always work tomorrow – but so long as you reach your end goal, that’s okay.

#2 – Tap into your best resource for transformation, your staff

Question: Who in your company is going to know the most about how our aforementioned customer order processing plays out in the real world? The staff carrying out this process of course.

Your staff are going to want this process to be as quick and efficient as possible too, because it’ll make their roles easier to manage, so why wouldn’t you ask for their input? Feedback from all levels can be invaluable to a business, provided your staff are comfortable being honest with you, you’ll find out exactly how processes both new and old are playing out in reality. They will also provide insights into any tools and technologies they encounter in their day to day work. Also, by engaging your staff in the planning stages, it’ll make point #3 a hell of a lot easier.

#3 – Avoid a divide: ensure your staff are on-board

The only secret to change, is discipline. Without sticking to the changes you’ve put in place, things will quickly unravel.

The worst case scenario here is that you end up with half of your staff following the new way of doing things, while the other half revert back to various incarnations of the old way. This can result not just in a drop of productivity, but also in serious mistakes as the process gap between Camp 1 and Camp 2 widens. It’s nothing short of a ‘split personality’ for your company and can alienate customers and employees alike.

How do you avoid this split personality? This Jekyll and Hyde of process? Constant communication, as we’ve said before, is key here. You need representatives from each team and department championing your change, and meeting regularly to report on progress and any issues… before they expand to monstrous proportions!

Do you have any additional suggestions? How can you ensure you don’t create a monster in your quest for business transformation?