10 Steps to Business Transformation

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Is lack of efficiency affecting your bottom line? 

Perhaps your product sales have been on a steady decline, or maybe the various divisions or functions in the company are not working in unison, causing efficiency to drop and directly impacting your bottom line. It could be that sales and marketing don't see eye-to-eye on your go-to-marketing strategy. Or that decisions don't get made in a timely and effective manner across the entire organization, causing the company to miss deadlines and even windows of opportunity. 

Whatever it is that your company needs to transform, these ten game-changing strategies for total business transformation, from my Front Runners book, can help you run laps around your competition.

  1. Draft Your Transformation Charter
  2. Gather Outside-In Data
  3. Gather Inside-Out Data
  4. Analyze Data
  5. Craft Your Future State
  6. Design Your Organizational Structure
  7. Access the Competency of Leaders and Employees
  8. Transform Product and Services
  9. Transform Functions
  10. Define Measures and Roadmaps


There are three phases of the business transformation process that you will be taking your organization through that the ten steps fall into. You begin assessing where you are currently "As-Is State" relative to where you want to be "To-Be State" before working on the transition. This is similar to a GPS in your car. The GPS in this case will find out where you are "As-Is State" and based on the destination address you type in "To-Be State", it provides you with directions "Transitioning & Executing State".

Step 1: Draft Your Transformation Charter

It is necessary to take the time to create a charter (to enact change) now in order to drive change tomorrow. Change takes hard work upstream (now) to pay off big downstream (later). The case for change must be powerful enough to initiate the often painful process of real, lasting change. Time or money isn't enough to warrant change; a commitment to change must be made. Senior leadership buy-in and engagement is crucial. Key leadership positions must be chosen very carefully. Roles and accountability must be defined. What is in/out of scope must be defined to be truly effective. Highlight and communicate the high-level "case for change" to the core team and key stakeholders at the point. (You will need to communicate to the entire organization with clarity during step four.)

Step 2: Gather Outside-In Data

 The entire lap is focused on gathering outside-in data. Data is collected from outside the organization to effect change from within. Observe customers' behavior through techniques such as ethnography. Gather opinions of influencers, customers, sales channels, sales teams, and customer support teams, thorough interviews, surveys, and social media. Decide upon an information-gathering approach. Gather as much information as possible about the customers prior to preparing questions---use customer satisfaction surveys and voice of customer (VOC) data, and talk to internal sales and support teams. Educate yourself, talking to the channel prior to talking directly to the customers. Prepare questions and conduct dry-runs. Schedule observation sessions and interviews. Decide on how you will capture and archive all of the information from the interviews. Inform stakeholders within the company of the planned interview process. Conduct the interviews. Send an appropriate follow-up note or gift to the interviewees (like a thank-you note). Transcribe interviews. Pull together "Report of Findings" based on the "observations" and "opinions" gathered. In other words, catalog the data your customers, vendors, partners, and other close external relationships offered. 

Step3: Gather Inside-Out Data

This step is about getting input from stakeholders (voice of stakeholder - VOS) and employees (voice of employees - VOE). Define stakeholders (Who are they? How many are there?). Make sure the list is not too long nor short. Catalog input specifically around organization structure, key processes, vision, strategy, success metrics, etc. Conduct interviews. Gather feedback through surveys--conduct them in the beginning, midpoint, and then a few months after completion of the first transformation cycle. 

Step4: Analyze Your Data

Catalog and analyze data gathered from observing job performers as well as data from VOC, VOS and VOE data. Catalog, analyze, categorize, and prioritize the feedback. Catalog any interesting ideas shared by customers, partners, stakeholders, and employees on the :future state" and feed them into step 5 for architecting the vision, mission, values, etc. Identify SWOT (strengths, a weaknesses, opportunities and threats) for each of the "feedback items". Engage high-level root cause analysis for each of the gaps and further prioritize, as appropriate. Draft a high-level strategy (SO, WT, etc.). Communicate the "burning platform" and move employees into a true sense of urgency state--in doing so, win the hearts and minds of the employees. Share a detailed roadmap and the next steps of the process with employees. Regularly update employees and thank them for their participation. 

Step 5: Craft Your Future State

Mission Statement: Says what you are doing today. Vision Statement: Highlights what you would like to achieve tomorrow (two to three years out). Value Statement: Defines the behaviors expected of the employees that will help the company achieve its vision. It's absolutely critical that these statements highlight what your "competitive differentiator" is. It will impact your overall strategy and your objectives. Bring together a cross-functional leadership team to execute the opportunities identified in step four. Combine all of your statements into a visual so all employees can understand and align with them as well as retain the information. "Road-test" these statements with objective parties to see if they can tell what you do/what business you're in based on the statements. Develop your strategic objectives using balanced scorecard methodology or a success map, or perhaps even both. 

Step 6: Design Your Organizational Structure

The purpose of this step is to craft the most optimal organizational structure that aligns with the vision and the strategy. Begin defining (but not finalizing) roles and accountability at all levels. Define high-level success metrics for each of the key roles and come up with succinct job descriptions. Identify overall pros and cons as well as risks of the structure being proposed. Highlight the change-management issues that may be faced. The right-side-up organizational structure within two to three years--same timeframe as your vision. In step four we pulled together a team to assist with SWOT analysis. See if the same team can be pulled together for this exercise. This design exercise, depending on how you lay it out, may take anywhere from two days to two weeks. size and complexity of the organization largely determines how long the process takes. It is critical that all key stakeholders/players in the organization are involved, especially the skeptic, politically motivated, and/or passive-aggressive types. It is important to make them feel like they are part of the solutions. The final design or "structure" of the organization should clearly define al hierarchies, roles, and objectives within the company. Definitions before the transformation may be similar but different, so good communication to all stakeholders, both internally and externally, is key. 

Step 7: Assess the Competency of Leaders and Employees

Now that we have an organizational structure, the next step is to assign the right people for the jobs. This is a critical step when it comes to assigning roles. You would not just hand over the "keys" to anyone, would you? You can have the best vision and strategy in place, but if you do not have the right people for the key positions, the organization is bound to fail. Do NOT take this step lightly, as this can either make or break the transformation you are hoping to achieve. Taking the organization through a competency assessment can be very politically charged. Be prepared to deal with this constructively. Before getting into the assessment aspect one of the first questions to ask yourself is, Why does the company want to do this assessment? Is it for selection, development, or both? There are many competency models out there. If your organization does not have a model that it already uses, I encourage you to assess and adopt an appropriate competency model that works best for your organization. 

Step 8: Transform Product and Services

The purpose of this step is to help define or refine your product line so that it better aligns with the new vision and strategy. To understand transformation on a fundamental level, it is critical that we remember this is not merely a "cosmetic move", but that change--true change--must happen where it matters most: in producing better products and/or services in a way that laps the competition and make us the front runners in our own industry. Do you need to innovate? The answer is always "yes". Innovation isn't just a state of mind: it's a state of being. Product/Services exist because there is a human need to fulfill (JTBD). The best place to start is your existing products. Use an "opportunity matrix" to decide future product/service direction. Make sure it aligns with the vision and overall strategy of the company. You must predict customer needs ad, in fact, invent what they want. Implement boundaries for effective creative thinking. Creative thinking does not necessarily have to come only from your R&D teams. The bigger the pain you are solving, the better the payoff. Make innovation part of the organization's DNA. 

Step 9: Transform Functions

Each of the functional groups will need to go through a mini-transformational journey of their own. This effect will be lead by the "new" leaders of each group. The vision, strategy, and objectives we worked on for the entire organization will now be put into action. Objectives should align between departments that closely work together as well as the overall organization. Identify key objective and operational linkage. This is done by first listing all of the key groups or departments within the organization (for example, marketing, sales, product management, support, manufacturing, etc.). Once defined, a group-level engagement model is put together. Identify and work on the end-to-end processes for the entire organization. This is critical for success. It is highly recommended that people in the core team with process re-engineering or operations management experience take on the task of crafting and mapping the key end-to-end processes for the entire organization, giving it a top-down view. It is critical to tie your communication to the recipient's key objectives. 

Step 10: Define Measures and Roadmaps

You can not achieve what you cannot measure. Every step touches on measurements, step ten strategically pulls it all together an helps everyone understand the linkages amongst various metrics and measurements. Broadly speaking, metrics can be divided into three distinct types: Strategic metrics, performance/process metrics and operational metrics. Publicity communicating your strategy map, metrics, target and goals, and common execution roadmap to everyone in the entire organization is very key, not only to its success but yours. Employee buy-in is critical the success of this step. Highlight the desired values and behaviors that are required to produce desired business results and reflect organizational values. This is a good time to think through the overall strategy on how to reward employees who are making progress on this front. Incorporate a personal development roadmap as part of this MB (appraisal).  


People are often intimidated when they hear big brands like Cisco, Comstor and Dimension Data, but having been on the inside and taken a good look around, I can tell you that any success such companies have had is not due to huge budgets, endless staff, or top-notch recruiting. I argue that ALL of the success these companies have had is because of their ability to respond to change rapidly, effectively, and daily, in manners that are both continual and habitual. 


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