Author Leo Tolstoy famously wrote, “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Similarly, all highly transformative organizations are alike; every non-transformative organization lags in its own way. This is true because all of these organizations have common attributes that make them leaders in their pack.
Over the last 20 years of my work experience, I have witnessed how the world of transformation has evolved from waterfall to agile, core to digital, systems to platforms. Highly decentralized to centralized and back. What has remained unchanged is how these attributes indicate the extent of success during the transformation. In this article, I outline 7 attributes that highly transformative organizations have in common:
1. Shared purpose at the top
Transformation is not about technology but the direct impact it has on the business and the operating model of the organization. A shared purpose helps unite the company towards a common goal and stay motivated. Much like the old mason story where 2 masons were asked, what they were doing and while one said “I am laying bricks” the other responded, “I am building the Taj Mahal”. Needless to say, this purpose must trickle down to every employee from the leaders of the organization. Satya Nadella and Piyush Gupta are clear examples of how transformation is led from the top.
2. Empowerment of leaders
The key to transformation is to enable leaders to make important decisions by omitting trivial issues, approvals, and multiple committee meetings that take up their time. This also empowers ground-level leaders with a sense of ownership of the initiative or the program.
3. Faster decision-making
Organizations are overflowing with people who are sure about the pitfalls of doing something or “why something may not work” but equally unsure about how they would go about the task. Most have learned the hard way that cutting bureaucracy and moving fast is a better idea than to sit around waiting for the green light. As one of the most accomplished banking transformation leaders once said, “our secret sauce was MVB-minimum viable bureaucracy”.
4. Linking business value to transformation objectives
All transformation roads must lead to business benefits. It is essential to getting an immediate buy-in from stakeholders. Drafting measurable benefits also leads to higher accountability, justifies business case, and helps in resolving conflicts. A change that helps generate more revenues always wins against a feature that is ‘good to have’.
5. Experimenting with new technology or business model
It is a truth universally agreed that most organizations do not want to be the first to experiment with a new technology or a business model. History has proven, time and again this could not be further away from the truth. Where would Adobe be had they not experimented with the SaaS model early on? Would Netflix stay in business if they had stuck to supplying DVDs? Would the Apple empire still stand tall if it had been the second to launch the iPhone? All of us know the answers to these questions.
6. Shared responsibility
Innovation or transformation is not the responsibility of the transformation office or C-suite executives. It has to be embedded within the organization’s DNA and reflected in the KPIs. One of the greatest examples in this comes from Infosys Consulting that led a grassroots innovation called “Be the Navigator” that led to more than 5000 projects leading to millions of savings and benefits to clients.
7. Rewarding Failures
A successful venture capitalist once told me, “I often look for entrepreneurs who have failed than who never begun”. A classic and much-loved example of this is Google maps. A product manager working on Google maps could not deliver on time and submitted a report titled ‘800 reasons why we failed’ to Larry. Larry immediately changed the title to ‘lessons learned’ and granted additional funding. I strongly believe that failure teaches us more than success and this is the key in all leading transformation leading organizations.
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Partner, Infosys Consulting
Anmol leads Infosys Consulting’s CIO advisory practice for the Asia-Pacific region. In his 6 years with us, he has established himself as a stand-out performer within financial services and specifically in asset and wealth management. His current focus is on driving business value for clients through automation and collaboration by harnessing the potential of AI, cloud and analytics. Anmol has made a tremendous contribution in shaping our offerings around cloud and our wealth management portfolio in Singapore and Philippines, handling key accounts such as UBS and now Temasek – one of the fastest-growing accounts for us in South East Asia with a potential transformation budget of $500 million. Amongst his recent achievements, Anmol successfully steered strategic projects in legacy modernization, digital transformation and PEGA transformation for SCB, Credit Vietnam and ADB Philippines with combined revenue of $14 million. Anmol has extensive experience in consulting and business transformation with domain expertise in defining new business operating models, process optimization, banking transformations and digital ecosystems. He previously worked with sister company Infosys Finacle, and prior to that, in roles with Capgemini and Accenture. Anmol is also a pro bono advisor to several start-ups in the region.