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The Real Agents of Transformation

The Real Agents of Transformation

In a previous issue, I had written about Digital Transformation and the roles that various entities play in the transformation journey of an enterprise. I had addressed how emerging technology companies, advisory firms and venture capital collaborate to bring about change in the ecosystem, thereby prompting a change in enterprises. In today’s article, I am going to demonstrate how people have been the single most important agent of change; and why every organizational transformation is incomplete without people transformation.

A lot has been spoken about the impact that Digital Transformation brings to organizations, especially in the long term. The onset of COVID-19 demanded change at a rate much faster than what the technology-driven world had ever planned for. Transformation was forced on organizations irrespective of whether they were ready for it or not - the only other alternative being to shut shop. As we inch closer to completing a whole year influenced by COVID-19 and the associated transformation that was thrust on businesses, it is now time to look back and analyze where the real challenges lay and how they were often overcome. Let us analyze this from two different perspectives.

The Organizational Perspective

The rampant spread of COVID-19 ensured that physical office locations were no longer accessible for many people. Enterprises hustled to find the most efficient tools for collaboration that would keep their workforce productive despite remaining isolated. During the initial days, a lot of the available tools were not designed to support the innumerable scenarios that organizations witnessed regularly. Teams that were distributed across the globe with no standardized technology infrastructure started creating workarounds to deal with specific challenges that technology had not yet solved for them (Many of these work-arounds were eventually adopted as features by several technology platforms).

Till technology caught up, it was the attitude of the individuals within organizations that made sure business remained ‘almost’ as usual. The innovative and creative attitude that the individuals and teams show towards problem-solving is one of the most important aspects of every transformation exercise. Organizations that have a higher ratio of such innovative and creative teams, are often better suited to adapt to the transformed version of themselves and tend to thrive post transformation. One of the best examples of this still remains the transformation that the Royal Dutch Shell Group undertook in the early 2000s. The leadership at Shell is till date known for its unflinching determination to get every single employee in the company involved in the transformation process that turned the company around.[1]

The Individual Perspective

As COVID-19 changed the rules of the game across boards, both individuals and teams had to reinvent themselves. Most organizations had to force reskilling of certain teams, create new kinds of teams and transition out people who did not fit into the new plan. Those who survived the onslaught of change saw themselves doing things that were completely new to them. The COVID world had made sure that every feather was ruffled. However, the onus lay on the individuals themselves. Those who were willing to accept change and adapt to the new ways found even more success. The blow that the external stimulus that caused by bringing in changes across the ecosystem, were often mitigated by the individuals themselves adapting to the new ways. More unique rules had replaced older rules of business, but with the stakeholders remaining the same Older rules of business had been replaced by newer rules, but with the stakeholders remaining the same.[2]

What these two perspectives highlight is the importance individuals have on the outcome of any transformational exercise. The external influencers of change indeed play a crucial role in causing the change itself. A very good team of consultants, subject matter experts and implementation partners can make a huge difference to the transformation journey. However, organizations often applaud the external agents of change and fail to recognize their individual workers as the real heroes of their transformational journey. This pandemic has brought the focus back on the people within organizations, and why they are the most important agent of change.

References

  1. https://www.blackwellpublishing.com/content/GrantContemporaryStrategyAnalysis/6th_Edition/case_teaching_notes/CSA6CaseNotes_08.pdf
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2020/05/01/10-examples-of-how-covid-19-forced-business-transformation/?sh=e41dc2a1be35

About the Author

Akshay Sasikumar is the Managing Partner at www.82advisory.com, a firm that specializes in Capital Strategy and investment banking services for technology companies.