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Data-driven change in organisations: the transformational process

Understanding market change based on data gathering and the ensuing data- and process analysis is one thing. Re-aligning your organisation to the changing environment is another.

Sometimes fundamental change is required for instance when deregulation continues to change sales and delivery modalities in the utilities business.  Or when the digitalisation in the pharmaceutical and medical devices business forces sales reps to play a different role.  In those cases it is not enough to just feed your organisation and your staff with data and insights and then hope that change will come about spontaneously.  That will not suffice:

Real transformation requires a managed process.

Delivering insights based on robust data gathering capacities and advanced analytics needs to be complemented by a process of making the change happen.  It is often required to change the existing mindset and culture within the organisation.  This is best done through an organised step by step plan and balanced communication.

Timing is a key element.  Upcoming, potentially disruptive, change is detected well in time if market analysis updates are carried out regularly.   This brings opportunities for managed change and avoids embarking on a change journey under immediate pressure of the latest financial results.  When that happens, change is taking place in survival modus, has negative connotations, is focussed internally and meets with much more resistance.  The way to avoid costly restructuring is timely analysis.

All too often the late start of a change journey leaves no other option than the “big time blockbuster change model” with a top-down strategic approach.  Whereas anticipated market change based on timely insights allows for a more phased, a more decentralised and a more sustainable change process.  An alternative to large scale reorganisation is …

the sustainable change through small-time disruptions

This change process model is built on an internal platform of understanding that change of the market is imminent and unavoidable.   The necessity for the organisation to come up with a response within a clear strategic framework is the first step.  The leadership should communicate a compelling vision of the future, but without nailing down in detail from the beginning what the new approach to the market will look like at the end of the process.  The steps in the process are planned and timed, but not the outcomes.  It is a time of organised chaos: ideas circulate, and teams and people are involved in the creation of the solution.  The message is then that there is a certain amount of freedom, that ideas and initiatives are welcome as long as they can be linked to the strategic goal. There is room for risks and failure.

It goes without saying that communication here is key.  The classical cycle of creating awareness, then encouraging the desire to be part of the solution and sharing knowledge will create acceptance and advocacy for the change within and outside the organisation.  Implementing such a change plan is achieved with careful communication planning, with ambassador programs, loyalty communities and co-creation tools.  Thus traditional fact-based analysis services (the hard side) feed processes to bring your organisation to new places (the soft skills).

So no big disruption, but many small disruptive initiatives and this is the way we go about it.  Below is an overview of the most important elements to be used, once the change process has been communicated and accepted.

 

The three strategic pillars of micro disruptive change

Attentive Leadership
Finding Firestarters
The Numbers Game
Leaders link small events and processes systematically to the overarching goal of the transformation
Bring existing disruptive initiatives from in and around the organisation to the centre stage
The results of each individual disruptive initiative are immediately quantified and shared

 

Team leaders should at all times keep the strategic necessities well in sight: do all of our daily activities still serve these overall goals or are there some that are remnants from an earlier age?  When we take a new initiative, how is it aligned to the new direction and how effective will it be in the new environment.  Training and tools for maintaining this mindset are no luxury.

As the entire organisation is keeping an eye open for disruptive elements inside or outside the organisation, the inventory of “firestarters” will grow quickly.  Responsibility must be taken to keep them burning.  Keeping them in the spotlights will encourage a culture of transformation to grow.

But never forget to quantify

Seeing measurable results allows distinguishing successful change from less successful examples.  It allows to improve and adjust. Play The Numbers Game!  People are more easily convinced if they see proof in tangible numbers.

Typically, such a transformational organisational change plan is not a quick fix and will take the time that is required delivering step by step improvements along the way.  But It is also not an open-ended exercise.  A clear roadmap with defined timing and costs will bring structure and result!

This article is written by our COO Claire Versluys.

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