Transformation to me means “change”, over recent time transformation has become a term that has been regularly coupled with the words “digital” or “data”.

“Digital and data transformation” often are seen as the future of companies being more efficient, effective and hopefully more profitable.

However, the focus almost immediately moves to what apps can we create or what services can we develop on the internet to achieve these gains.

Often what is missing the actual reliance of any change on bringing the people that will be affected along on the journey to the new place. Building and developing the right relationships with these people are key to the successful implementation of any change.

Simply moving to change workflows and/or ways of working without understanding the impact of these changes on the people involved will lead to difficulty. The best and most successful method I have used to tackle this is to ensure that there is lots of collaboration between those instigating change and those that are going to be impacted.

This can be as simple as ensuring that there are open and honest communication and engagement channels between the parties such as working groups, newsletters and email addresses that can be contacted with concerns and thoughts. But better than this is actually involving those likely to be impacted in the design of the future state. It is likely that they will actually have most, if not all, of the answers.

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This type of collaboration is predicated on organisational openness, a confidence from the leaders to engage with staff at a level which shows some vulnerability. Not having all the answers and seeking views and input from those who might know more is highly likely to engender significant respect from the organisation.

Everyone is likely to have an opinion and listening to those opinions and acting on the right ones will build trust that even though a tricky time will be faced, or a tricky set of circumstances may be upon us, the leaders are with us and listening.

Listening is a key part of engagement, one that is often forgotten about. People conflate engagement with communications. Personally, I see “communications” as the art of effective “broadcast” that is getting the right messages to the right places to hit the right people at the right time.

“Engagement” on the other hand is about great conversations getting the right people into the right frame of mind and the right environment to share with you their thoughts and worries so you can understand them.

In order to deliver successful “change” or should I say “transformation” starting with the people, to me at least, has always been the key.

The TECHNOLOGY part should always come later, once you actually know what you need, when those impacted are in the loop, when requirements are understood, when resistance will be at its lowest.

In my experience there is so much to do before you get anywhere near the technology bit, and this is often where organisations fall down. Rather than investing in the people and this process they leap to the end point of buying a shiny new bit of technology.

I am currently working on a number of initiatives where this approach to transformation is turned into a supportive process for those who understand that there organisation needs to change but do not really understand how “digital transformation” could or should work for them.

I call this pre-consultancy, helping find out what you need to know before a fortune is spent on a solution to a problem (or an opportunity) that hasn’t been fully understood.

This article was written by Mike Rose, a freelance consultant who specialises in bringing about and delivering change.

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