How to Approach Business Transformation

Business Transformation is the process of transforming: (1) how things are made, (2) how things are bought, (3) how things are sold and (4) how services are provided. Each organization has its own sense of what it wants to accomplish in its existence and thus gives different weights to what needs to be transformed. Having said that, generally speaking, business transformation is about making changes that can improve the organization as a whole.

The pursuit of Business Transformation is not easy and according to some experts only 30% of the organizations actually succeed in doing it. While there can be many reasons for this low success rate, one big factor that continues to show up is the inability of organizations to adapt quickly to changing needs. Thus, before organizations start on their Business Transformation journeys, wouldn’t it be prudent to know what challenges are ahead. Here is a non-exhaustive list (of questions) to get the conversation started around challenges of Business Transformation within your organization:

  1. (Un)intentional Misdirection
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is (un)intentionally misdirecting efforts?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when (un)intentional misdirections happen?
    • Where are the (un)intentional misdirections from executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees (un)intentional misdirections resulted in positive or negative results?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for (un)intentional misdirections that are tied (in)directly to Business Transformation efforts?
  2. Authority to Updated Processes
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels has the authority to constantly create, review, update and delete processes?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when processes are updated?
    • Where are the old and new processes from executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees updated processes resulted in positive or negative results?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for updated processes that are tied (in)directly to Business Transformation efforts?
  3. Biases
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is given training to identify biases in themselves and others?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when their biases play a key role in decision making?
    • Where are the biases from executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees display biases and towards whom?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for they biases?
  4. Build versus Buy Timelines
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making building versus buying decisions as they relate to Business Transformation efforts?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when their build versus buy decisions affect Business Transformation efforts?
    • Where buy versus build deacons from executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees build versus buying decisions can be positive or negative?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for making decisions around building or buying something?
  5. C-suite Mis(alignment)
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure there is not (mis)alignment between C-suites?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when they identify (mis)alignment?
    • Where are the (mis)alignment between executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should raise (mis)alignment concerns?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for (mis)alignment within and across their functional units?
  6. Consumer versus Enterprise Product/Service
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for deciding which consumer and enterprise products/services should be created and used within the organization?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when their consumer and enterprise products/services fail or succeed?
    • Where are the consumer and enterprise product/service development and use by executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should pursue consumer and enterprise product/service development opportunities?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for lack of hindsight and foresight for consumer and enterprise product/service development?
  7. Contribution Barriers
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is allowed to contribute towards Business Transformation?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when they identify barriers to their contributions?
    • Where are the barriers to contribution from executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should identify contribution barriers?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for barriers to contribution that they created or destroyed?
  8. Customer Expectations versus Reality
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for checking what the customer wants is aligned with what is being provided?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when what they give to the customer is different than what the customer wanted?
    • Where are the consumer expectations with executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should raise their voices when consumer needs are not being met by what the consumer wants?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for what consumer wanted versus what consumer got?
  9. Customers as Second Class Citizens
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for verifying how customers are treated?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees face when they identify customer mistreatment?
    • Where are the customer mistreatment by executive, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about customer mistreatment?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for customer mistreatment?
  10. Deliberate Obstruction
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels deliberately creating obstacles to Business Transformation?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and verify obstruction?
    • Where are the deliberate obstruction by executives, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about deliberate obstruction and to whom?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for deliberate obstruction?
  11. Execution Leadership
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is showing leadership skills needed for Business Transformation?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they show leadership?
    • Where are the exhibition of leadership qualities by executives, middle management and front-line employees being captured, stored and retrieved for lessons learned?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about lack of leadership and to whom?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for lack of leadership?
  12. In-Group vs. New Comers
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is showing a unfair biases towards new comers?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and verify in-group vs. new comer biases?
    • Where are the lessons learned from biases displayed by executives, middle management and front-line employees kept?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about display of biases?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for having biases?
  13. Inflexibility towards Alternatives
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is not flexible to consider alternatives?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they spot inflexibility towards alternatives?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when inflexibility is shown by executives, middle management and front-line employees?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about inflexibility and to whom?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for not considering short-term and long-term alternatives?
  14. IT Processes vs. Non-IT Processes
    • Who knows/decides between IT Processes vs. Non-IT Processes?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify IT and Non-IT processes that are inefficient/unnecessary?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when processes are reviewed by executives, middle management and front-line employees?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about bad and good processes?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for creation/destruction of new/old IT and non-IT Processes?
  15. Job Filling vs. Career Trajectory
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for creating career trajectory levels from intern to CEO?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify super performers from their own and other teams?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when career trajectory of individuals in tracked over a long period of time?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report friction between career trajectory and just simple job filling?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for not creating real world career trajectories?
  16. Lack of Standardization
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for identifying need/removal of standards?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they provide feedback on what needs to be standardized?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when lack of standardization results in loss to the organization?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about need/removal of standards?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for lack of standards?
  17. Lack of Trust of Information Technology (IT)
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for creating bridges to/from IT to non-IT?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they spot collaboration opportunities with IT?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when collaboration fails because of executives, middle management and front-line employees?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about the need to collaborate with IT?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for not collaborating with IT?
  18. Lack of Understanding of Customer Strategy
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for creating a cohesive customer acquisition and retention strategy?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify gaps in customer strategy?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when customer strategy fails because of executives, middle management and front-line employees?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report about the need for feedback to improve/rethink customer strategy?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for lack of understanding customer strategy?
  19. Leadership for Cultural Change
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for displaying examples of leadership that inspires others?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they show leadership qualities that can help bring positive cultural change to the organization?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when good and bad leadership led to (un)intended consequences?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report the need to reevaluate an organization’s culture?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for an organization’s culture?
  20. Leadership Talk versus Leadership Action
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for identifying the link between what leadership talks about and what leadership actually does?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they show discrepancy between leadership talk and action?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when good leaders lie?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report the need to identify the link between what leadership talks about and what leadership actually does?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for their actions?
  21. Mac versus Windows versus UNIX versus others Operating Systems
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels decides what operating systems to use?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they can identify the use of a certain operating systems might be beneficial in the long term?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when obsolete and non updated operating systems are used?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report the need to identify the link between operating systems and potential for growth?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for their selection of operating systems?
  22. Proprietary Software versus Open Source Software versus In-House
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for deciding what is the right mix of software to use?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they that current mix of softwares could be problematic?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when a bad mix of software results in revenue loss and reduced productivity?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should report the need to clarify how purchase/building of future software fits in what the organization currently has?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for their decision of software mixes?
  23. Market Demands
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for deciphering current and future market demands?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they (in)correctly decipher current and future market demands?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when a bad strategy to address market demands in (un)met?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if reexamination of market demands is needed?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible if their strategy to address market demands succeeds/fails?
  24. No Innovation Development Processes
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for creating an effective innovation development process?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they (in)directly affect the bottom line of the organization?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when innovation development processes succeed/fail?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if an innovation development process needs to be created/destroyed?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible when their innovation development processes succeed/fail?
  25. No Innovation Lessons Learned
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for capture lessons learned from innovation efforts?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they capture innovation lessons learned?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved so that they can be feedback for the next iteration of innovations?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if capturing innovation lessons learned is actually needed?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible if they don’t capture lessons learned through innovation and iteration?
  26. No Innovation Repository
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for maintaining and destroying innovation repositories?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when most of the innovations in the repository are successes/failures?
    • Where are the lessons learned are captured when there is not innovation repository?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if innovation repository should be created, updated or deleted?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible if they have no innovation repository?
  27. No Innovation Training
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for training on innovation at the organization?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they (in)correctly create innovation training?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when innovation training results is success/failures?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if innovation training is needed?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible if they don’t provide innovation training?
  28. No Pre or Post Innovation Return on Investment (ROI) Calculations
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for calculating pre and post innovation ROI?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they (in)correctly calculate pre and post innovation ROI?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when good/bad pre and post innovation ROI affects the organization’s bottom line?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should(n’t) conduct pre and post innovation ROI?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for pre and post innovation ROI succeed/fail?
  29. No Use of Lessons Learned
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure lessons learned are being used?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they (mis)use or ignore lessons learned?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when lessons learned are not referred?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should(n’t) use lessons learned?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible when lessons learned are(n’t) used?
  30. No well-defined Processes Return on Investment (ROI)
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure all processes have some ROI attached to them?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and improve process RIOs?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when process RIOs are improved?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should(n’t) create process RIOs?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible when poor/great process RIOs are (mis)used?
  31. Not Accepting Changes in Market, Internal Customers and External Customers
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure different impact changes are being tracked?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and improve tracking changes?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when tracking changes succeeds/fails?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should(n’t) worry about changes?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for changes?
  32. Not Understanding Requirements
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure requirements are correctly understood?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and improve requirement gathering?
    • Where are the lessons learned stored when tracking changes succeeds/fails?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if requirements need to be understood?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for misunderstanding of requirements?
  33. Online and Offline Customer Experience Handoffs
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure there is smooth transition between online to offline and offline to online experiences?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and improve online and offline experiences?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when online and offline experiences succeed/fail?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they online and offline experiences are not relevant?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible when there is friction between online and offline experiences?
  34. Outdated Hiring Practices
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure outdated hiring processes are not affecting the organization?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and improve outdated hiring processes?
    • Where are the lessons learned stored when experimenting with hiring processes?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should(n’t) worry about outdated hiring processes?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for outdated hiring processes?
  35. Outdated/Imaginary Processes
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure outdated/imaginary processes are(n’t) being followed?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and improve outdated/imaginary processes?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when outdated/imaginary processes are revamped?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should(n’t) worry about outdated/imaginary processes?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for outdated/imaginary processes?
  36. Perception of Process Stability
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure process stability perception doesn’t supersede reality?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when the perception of a process is wrong?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when process perception are addressed?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should(n’t) worry about perception of processes?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible when process perceptions are different than process realities?
  37. Processes Created Just to Have it
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure unnecessary processes are(n’t) created?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they eliminate unnecessary processes?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when unnecessary processes are identified?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if unnecessary need to be looked at?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for unnecessary processes?
  38. Product Familiarity
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure product familiarity does(n’t) come in the way of production?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they strike a balance between product familiarity and production?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when product familiarity becomes an obstacle?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if product familiarity should be looked at?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for product familiarity which results in lack of looking at latest products?
  39. Rapid Technological Changes
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure rapid technological changes do(n’t) make the organization obsolete?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify rapid technological changes that can enhance/destroy the organization?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when rapid technological changes affect the organization?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if rapid technological changes are an opportunity or threat?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for their lack of adapting to rapid technological changes?
  40. Reporting Structures
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure the most effective and flexible reporting structures are in place?
    • rapid technological changes do(n’t) make the organization obsolete?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify and improve reporting structures?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when reporting structures affect the organization’s bottom line?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if reporting structures matter?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for lack of foresight and hindsight to improving reporting structures?
  41. Shadow Information Technology (IT)
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure there is not shadow IT?
    • rapid technological changes do(n’t) make the organization obsolete?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify shadow IT?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when shadow IT can enhance/destroy organizational procedures?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if shadow IT is really an issue?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible when they create shadow IT?
  42. Siloed Processes
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure not process is in a bubble?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify processes that don’t show cohesion across the organization?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when siloed processes are identified and addressed?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if they should look into creating processes that are holistic and collaborative?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for creating siloed processes?
  43. Software Development versus Software Maintenance
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure software development matches software maintenance?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify discrepancies between software development and software maintenance?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when software development and software maintenance don’t match up?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if software development and software maintenance should tracked?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for not making the connection between software development and software maintenance?
  44. Top-Down versus Bottom-Up Undocumented Processes
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure there no undocumented processes?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify the undocumented processes were causing harm to the organization?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when undocumented processes are left as is or changed?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if undocumented processes need to be addressed?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible for creating undocumented processes?
  45. Virtual versus Brick and Mortar Office
    • Who at the executive, middle management and front-line employees levels is responsible for making sure the virtual and physical office personal feel the same passion for the organization and its mission?
    • What incentives and consequences do executives, middle management and front-line employees get when they identify discrepancies between virtual and physical offices?
    • Where are the lessons learned saved when discrepancies between virtual and physical offices affect the bottom line?
    • When executive, middle management and front-line employees should determine if discrepancies between virtual and physical offices could be an issue?
    • Why executive, middle management and front-line employees should(n’t) be held responsible if there are discrepancies between virtual and physical offices?

As we can see from the above list of questions, these are but a few of the many challenges to Business Transformation. Overall, Business Transformation is a tug of war between the status quo and the transformation efforts. The major factor that plays a huge role in this tug of war is time. Status quo has the benefit of time and thus more time spent in transformation, more likely that the organization would revert back to old ways of doing things.

Status Quo

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