Evolution - in other words, the constant and gradual state of change - is a fundamental skill for success – and for longevity in business. However, there are times when a gradual pace of change is not adequate to meet the fundamental shifts in the environment in which businesses operate.
In such circumstances, transformational change is required. An example is COVID-19 and the acceleration of digital and virtual work; the changing nature of employer-employee relationships, and the disruption to client-supplier interactions. In these times, the key is to understand which changes are permanent and which are short-term.
Continued success requires companies with future-focused aspirations to have a pragmatic awareness of their operating environment, and of the challenge of remaining sustainable. When we look at successful transformations, we often see common themes that are pivotal to driving them.
Organisations that are compelled by purpose, vision, customer-centricity, and heightened awareness are demonstrably clear winners. Transformational leadership with a focus on driving cultural change, has emerged as a critical facet of successful transitions. Of course, even with this awareness, not every transformation succeeds, and we must learn from others.
Max up on purpose
Whilst driving profitability and maximising shareholder value remain key focus points for commercial organisations, if time has taught us anything, it would be that purpose is both the one true driver and the desired outcome. Purpose-driven organisations continue to achieve higher growth than their peers, all whilst achieving increased levels of satisfaction across external and internal stakeholders.
After all, purpose is power, a North Star navigating us in the right direction.
Purpose, however, needs to be complimented by vision, one that sets for a clear picture of what is yet to come. As organisations chart a path to fulfilling their purpose, they are often distracted from their ultimate goals by the short-term happenings - in markets or the economic environment. This is a reminder that, whilst our environment should never be overlooked, the ‘bigger picture’ remains the true engine that propels us forward and inspires us, continuously reminding us of who we are, have always been, and the impact we aspire to make.
The road to transformation, however, is rarely straight, and whilst organisations may have a clear vision, they may not anticipate all the twists and turns they will face along the way. In a world with increasing uncertainty, we must remain cognisant, and be ready to act with the agility necessary to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape.
The Amazon way
Be it evolving consumer behaviour, the regulatory environment, or the shifting economic climate, we must remind ourselves that whilst it is never too late to shift gears and change course, our ability to accept change is overtaken by our ability to respond to it, while maintaining focus on the desired state.
As organisations transform, it is crucial customers remain at the heart of the journey. As per Amazon: ‘Leaders start with the customer and work backwards’ – strategies should not be developed for businesses, but for the customers they serve and the communities they operate within.
Customer focus is more than ‘customer-centricity,’ it is about building awareness and a genuine understanding of their needs and expectations, and how they continue to shape and reshape what we do and what we stand for.
Finally, as organisations begin to bask in the glory of their successes, it is important to remain humble. Humility is integral in leadership and critical as we lead change.
Acknowledging each person’s uniqueness and understanding that we can all contribute sets us apart. As leaders, our role is to spark curiosity and foster innovation whilst also nurturing the environment it takes place within, creating an empowering ‘ideas-positive’ culture. After all, everything we do as leaders is through our people...