When an organisation embarks on a journey of transformation, it usually means, at some point, being ready to roll out the phrase 'Rise like a Phoenix from the ashes'. Just as the legendary bird regenerates and emerges stronger after being consumed by flames, a successful transformation can lead to renewed growth, resilience, and adaptability in the face of challenges.
The fiery Phoenix may be a myth, but often, there is good reason to associate change with this motivational metaphor because, in short, people find it hard to recognise and embrace change. We accept the inevitability of change, yet often struggle when faced with it. In its very nature, change is demanding, so to interlace it with a symbol of hope and better things to come makes sense.
Therefore, it is no surprise that transformation, be it Business, Digital, Finance, or any other type of transformation, will not just happen overnight. While the idea of rapid and immediate change may be tempting, a transformation programme is typically a slow process that requires patience and perseverance. The Big Bang fix-all approach is appealing in theory, but it often fails to deliver what everyone hoped.
Little by Little
I prefer to start small while things are easier and begin as early as possible. Above all, the most important thing is to start. Once you've taken those initial steps, you begin to take bigger, bolder strides. Build upon those initial successes and develop the momentum you need for the organisation to transform and become accustomed to change. The step change will become natural and clear.
Some key advantages of starting small are that gradual, meaningful phases create capacity for change, and pint-sized wins also allow a celebration of success. Success breeds success, so finding opportunities to celebrate a win gets the snowball of momentum rolling while still allowing the final goal to be achieved. If there are failures, the organisation can learn quickly and make the necessary adjustments along the way.
This approach allows stakeholders to see progress and the tangible benefits earlier, which can improve overall buy-in and support for the transformation. Change can become self-sustaining if you bring enough people along on the journey.
Change is Challenging
The thought of large-scale transformations can be overwhelming, ultimately leading to resistance. From my experience, embracing an incremental change approach reduces the moans and groans from objectors because the pile of activities seems more surmountable. Nonetheless, both strategies should be treated as an ongoing venture, not a one-time event, so whether it is a radical or small change approach that is executed, the mindset still requires sustained effort and long-term commitment.
Incremental change can play a crucial role in driving innovation in today's fast-paced and constantly evolving business environment. People can experiment with new ideas, processes and technologies in a controlled and measured way without disrupting the entire system. This agile approach can still create a sense of urgency (not alarm) that work needs to be done, even though it is not typically heralded as such a pivotal or monumental event as large transformation initiatives are.
Grease the Machine
So, start with the simple things, get the basics right and foster a culture of continuous improvement. This stimulus will naturally encourage the need for ongoing, top-to-bottom, and end-to-end transformations. Building the momentum is more likely to drive lasting change than a miracle silver bullet project.
Yes, it is important to note that progressive, gradual change is not always the right approach, and sometimes wholesale overhaul changes may be necessary. There is no black-and-white answer, and perhaps a hybrid method is the best fit, but greasing the machine with incremental change makes for a more efficient model than what existed before the change. Understanding the organisation's specific needs and focusing on the process of change rather than solely the end goal will help achieve sustainable, scalable success.