A Crash Course

For many, the prospect of rapid business transformation can be tempting. You’ve probably come across a book or course promising exactly that. Transform your business in a week! Transform it in a day! Transform it by lunchtime!

It is easy to see the appeal of this approach. If a business is struggling, it’s natural to want to turn things around as quickly as possible. But, as in life, effective and lasting change is rarely a fast process. Such things do not come overnight.

In my years working with businesses around the world, I have identified four key stages through which every business looking to change must go. I call them the 4 D’s, and no matter what the nature of your business- large or small, local or international- you will go through them on the road to successful transformation.

Step 1: Direction

The first stage of successful business transformation is to set and understand your direction.

Words like vision, mission, purpose, values and strategy are often used interchangeably at this stage by those trying to rush change. In truth, each embodies a very different and unique core concept you will have to get to grips with if progress is to be made.

I will not explain them all here, but setting direction means getting to understanding them all and getting them to work together. Think of directional groundwork as studying your map: learning where to go, and how to get there.

In my work helping to transform businesses, I have always found this a stumbling block. Effective direction is complex and hard to pin down, but it is the essential first step and one that cannot be ignored.

Step 2: Diligence

Effective diligence work requires a thorough examination of your business from every angle. Diligence requires you to review the structure, systems and skills you need for success; to examine everything needed to get the business from where it is to where it wants to be.

After that, the hard step is to look at your business and see where it falls short. Brutal honesty is necessary for diligence to have any chance of success.

The range of areas covered during effective diligence work is extremely wide. It may range from safety performance to business structure or from group behaviours or leadership skills. Exactly where you focus will be determined by your business direction.

At this stage, it is helpful to have an outside voice on hand, as noticing gaps is often difficult from within.

Step 3: Development

Development flows naturally from diligence, and is the next stage of the business transformation process. You have established the areas of your business which are misaligned with your overall direction, and now you must develop them to close the gap.

Development can also cover a wide range of areas, and the exact nature will vary from business to business, from situation to situation and from person to person. As in all things relating to business transformation, no area is trivial if it can help facilitate the transformation process.

A common- and severely damaging- misconception amongst senior managers is that development is something ‘for others’; as something to be carried out by direct reports and lower members of staff. In fact, the exact reverse is true. It is always far more effective for development to be spearheaded by the senior team and upper echelons of the business.

Business Development

Usually, effective business transformation incorporates not just skills training and performance audits, but transformation at an individual level. It is for this reason that we incorporate personal development into a lot of our programmes- it’s value simply can’t be overstated, but is an angle often missed in the rush for quick results.

Step 4: Delivery

Once a coherent development plan has been formed, the final stage is to deliver it. No two businesses are the same, and you should not trust a business transformation plan which is not directly tailored to your needs.

You could work on any of the following areas:

  • Targeted development to meet the next stage in the business plan, read “Leaders Who Hit the Numbers“.
  • Your leaders working together as a pack, read “Leaders Who Hunt as a Pack”.
  • Developing a follow through for your leaders continued learning in the workplace, read “Developing Leaders with Practical Mastery“.
  • Refining your leaders skills to fit the needs of the business, read “Closing the Leadership Gap”.
  • Expanding the teams ways of working to tackle to job in front of them, read “Meeting Expectations”.
  • Developing effective meeting process to save us to 25% of your time in the workplace, read “The 4P’s: Saving 25% of Meeting Time”.
  • Developing good team work for practical application without the offsite development, read “Senior Team Development for the Unwilling”.
  • Bridging the working gap between policy making and operational practice, read “Brilliant Senior Team Work”.
  • Developing the right structure that is specific for the business strategy and growing the right business culture, read “Structure Follows Strategy”.

Across more than 25 years working to help transform businesses, I have found that no two delivery plans will be the same. As with people, similarities may occur, but there is no ‘magic bullet’ which will work for all businesses all the time. You have to understand your business before you can transform it. For help in designing your business transformation strategy get in touch with John here.