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Successful business transformation includes the following “Ps” : Purpose, People (who are impacted by and who will be involved with the implementation the change), Priority (an identified list of changes and their priority), Process and Proof

Meaningful business change is easier said than done for many reasons:

At the process-level, organizations are adapting to a new way of working. A lot of processes already exist, and members of your team may believe in one “right” way to do things and are resistant to change.

Many organizations fail to appoint a clear owner to oversee business transformation and create the necessary alignment across people and teams.

Also implementing new software is hard. When it comes to product management systems, for example, product managers are dealing with a whole new category of tools that many are still unfamiliar with. Champions of change have to educate their team on why they deserve a solution of their own. And convince them that it’s worth learning. Only then can a successful business transformation be achieved.

Some models and frameworks exist to help organizations overcome the challenge of change, such as KOTTER’s change model, the McKinsey 7S Framework, and many more. Regardless of which you follow, practitioners like me have found that they can all be distilled to five common elements (Ps):

Purpose – A sense of purpose motivates people and increases the chances of successful business transformation

A sense of purpose motivates people and supports an environment of greater autonomy. The more people who understand why a business transformation is happening and can relate that back to a core sense of purpose, the less you’ll need to provide tactical guidance, babysitting, and even training. So, as a change leader, it’s your job to connect people to the why behind the change. What’s the vision of the change? Where do you want to be? What does success look like? Why is this change needed? The answers to these questions should inspire and motivate. They help people to understand that the future will be worth the pain of change.

When I work with my customers, helps them effectively communicate their why. Here are some examples of why statements:

  • We’re doing this because our teams have feedback all over the place.
  • There is no easy way to share our product vision, strategy, and objectives, and our cross-functional teams are frustrated with us.
  • No one understands what we are building next and why.

Be proactive

No matter our level in the organization, we have a part to play in business transformation. We should strive to understand the drivers of change and the desired results. In addition, we should look for opportunities, we should look for ways to contribute to the results. And consider volunteering for some of the new activities that inevitably arise in times of change.


People – Change management involves leading people who must change themselves

It goes beyond managing the process of change, to make the efforts successful. After all, change inevitably involves people — people both implement and are affected by changes.

Co-creation is the process of including your employees and customers in elements of ideation and design of a solution. It’s a critical departure from traditional approaches to change that engage stakeholders only after the new solution is designed and built. Many people working together to solve a problem are much smarter than one.

There are a few key stakeholders to consider when it comes to change management:

  • Those directly involved in the change
  • Those whose input may be valuable in ensuring a successful change effort
  • Those who need to be informed of the change and its purpose so they can prepare for its effective implementation
  • As well resistors and influencers

Co-creation isn’t a democracy, and it’s not about everyone agreeing. Many will disagree, with business transformation comes resistance. Instead, it’s about leveraging the collective intelligence and insight of your entire organization to create the best solution. Resistance can be met with empathy and understanding.


Be present throughout the business transformation

During change, we should be aware of our behaviors and feelings. We must understand how we approach business transformation and pay attention to our personal transition through cycles of change. We should also be mindful that our team members and peers may be experiencing the change differently than us. We should aim to be empathetic and help our colleagues move through the change cycles. Rewarding desired behaviors and celebrating successes should be an integral part of every leader’s change management process.


Priority – Change management is not a one-and-done affair

You often have to make decisions around which tasks to tackle first, similar to product management. Think about a product backlog —you need to prioritize and come out with a list of to-dos that everyone is aligned on. There is no way to address every single item on it. You can’t eat the entire salami, you’ve got to slice it.

I have a simple three-step process for prioritization that I suggest for my customers:

List all options. Map out everything that you think will need to be accomplished to achieve the business transformation.

Prioritize. Consider what each task demands from your teams, like the time needed to work on each change. Or how each change may affect productivity. Make special note of any options that will bring high impact or disruption. At enjoytransformation, I use cost/value charts for visualizing what needs to be accomplished during the change process.

Create a plan for business transformation. Map your prioritized options on a Kanban-style board or wall. Figure out things you’ll start working on right away, things you’ll consider doing in the future, things you aren’t sure about, and things you won’t work on now. Make a point of revising this regularly and get rid of stale ideas if needed.


Process – Change management is more than a one-off task in the transformation process

Traditional change management is often viewed as a one-time, “big bang” style task. However, our complex environments demand agility. The right path forward can rarely be wholly planned at the outset as complex change almost always encounters unknowns that require adaptation on the fly. Organizations must move away from fully-baked plans for change management and instead adopt a sense-and-adapt approach that includes room to explore. This means getting comfortable with experimentation, iteration and, most importantly, failure, which is the lifeblood of learning.

You don’t have to make all your changes at once. Instead of driving to an ideal future state, make continuous change the new normal, and use experiments to reduce uncertainty.


My experience shows how important preparation is

As stated earlier, change is inevitable. Thus, we should prepare for it now. As professionals, it is our responsibility to learn skills, acquire attributes, and take actions that contribute to successful change. We must get real about the skills we currently possess and what areas we want and need to develop further. As managers of people, we should evaluate how we lead through change. And as change leaders, we must make sure that we have a change management plan in place that will help others along through cycles of change.

An approach to think about this: ‘We hypothesize by <implementing this change> we will <solve this problem> which will have <these benefits> as measured by <this measurement>.’


Proof – For business transformation to be effective, stakeholders must support it

For change management to be effective, you need to have buy-in from stakeholders. To achieve this, transparency is key — you need to open up about failures, wins, and give people space to exchange. Many organizations forget to demonstrate proof and encourage the communication needed to earn buy-in. Teams adopt change but no one talks about it.

Proof is what moves people from being detractors to supporters, then to advocates of change. When people feel a sense of ownership over the transformation and engage in the process, they won’t need to be trained or convinced to participate in their future – because they built it themselves. They own it and are motivated to make it a reality.


Set a positive example during business transformation

Even if our initial reactions are ones of panic and fear; we should work to calm our thoughts and look for the positive aspects of the changes we’re facing. What new opportunities will arise? How will this make our job better? People generally prefer working with more positive individuals, and this is especially the case during periods of change. As leaders, it’s crucial that we diligently and repeatedly share the reasoning for changes we enact, as well as our vision for the future. Our staff should be able to look to us to model desired actions and behaviors.

Rituals for successful business transformation

Here are some rituals that can help everyone see what’s happening and make them part of your plans:

Lean coffee: A structured meeting with no predefinded agenda. Participants gather, build their agenda, and begin talking. Ideas from discussions like these can become potential experiments.

Weekly check-ins/retrospectives: Provide a space to capture new change ideas as potential experiments, identify roadblocks, and evaluate progress and success metrics

Transparently share your plans. Get your plans up on the wall (or more likely, a Slack channel – Celebrate wins and milestones together, recognize and reward, and encourage knowledge sharing and storytelling. All of this contributes to a successful business transformation.


Instead of managing people through change… empower them to realize the change

In the modern business world of rapid change and everything going digital, creating an open-minded and adaptable organizational culture has never been more important. Fortunately, the crowded landscape of change management frameworks can be distilled to a set of common principles and considerations — purpose, people, priority, process, and proof. Change leaders that take all five Ps into account are well on their way to bringing about continuously successful change that propels their organizations forward.

People are the foundation of any organization, followed by purpose, passion and pride.

Remember, change is a constant phenomenon and often necessary to achieve desired results. For optimal success, we should all be attuned to how we and those around us handle change. I am learning and discovering with each new transformation journey I am privileged to embark on.

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