What Business Transformation Really Means

Change does not always mean transformation, but transformation by itself changes everything fundamentally. At a time when a lot of people use terms “change” and “transformation” interchangeably, it helps to know the difference  between the two (and my sketch note on the same topic may be helpful).

I have seen people in process improvement use the word transformation quite often (in fact, I have been guilty of using the word “transformation” when I was only tweaking or improving the ways of working).

What do real business transformations look like? Scott Anthony’s post “What Do You Really Mean by Business Transformation” at Harvard Business Review may help you understand different kinds of transformation efforts. After I read the post, I was able to put different transformation initiatives going around me into the right frame.

I attempted to make sense of three kinds of transformation effort described in Scott’s post through a sketch note. Do read the original article at HBR.

Change and Transformation – How Are They Related?

I have seen executives using the word “transformation” when they are really referring to “change”. Transformations are more deep rooted than change and it is critical to understand the difference between the two. Here are a few insightful resources that I found useful.

Earlier this year, Ron Ashkenas said, “We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation” at Harvard Business Review. Here is a snippet from that post:

Transformation is another animal altogether. Unlike change management, it doesn’t focus on a few discrete, well-defined shifts, but rather on a portfolio of initiatives, which are interdependent or intersecting. More importantly, the overall goal of transformation is not just to execute a defined change — but to reinvent the organization and discover a new or revised business model based on a vision for the future.

At Quality and Innovation blog, Nicole Radziwill also explored this critical difference between change and transformation. She says,

Change is required for transformation, and all transformation involves change, but not all change is transformational.

In many ways, change is a subset of transformation but change alone cannot lead to transformation.

Closer home, Harlina Sodhi, Sr. Vice President at Reliance Industries recently wrote an excellent post with examples of change and transformation and demystifies the perceptions about change and transformation with respect to the constantly changing world of work that we live in. She says two things in her post that are noteworthy:

“Change is the consequence of Transformation”

“Transformation prescribes vision and Change subscribes to vision”

I created a sketch note based on best ideas from these three posts for an easy reference.

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Also Visit: Sketch Note: 6 Rules of Change by Esther Derby

6 Lessons in Leading a Cross-Functional Team

Being into quality and organizational improvement, I have always worked with cross-functional groups. By definition, a cross-functional team is the one where members from different functional areas work towards a common goal. A few years back, I got an assignment to lead a cross-functional team (xFT) and it was a great learning experience. Our goal was to implement information security management system spanning all departments, support groups and technical production team. It was an interesting ride because of challenges it posed, and challenges = lessons.

Recently, when one of my friends was also asked to manage a xFT in a different context, I ended up sharing the following key lessons (and challenges) on how to lead a xFT effectively:

In xFT, like in anything else, leader is an enabler: Every team member’s contribution to the team is vital because they carry the knowledge of their own context. The role of leader in a xFT is that of a coach – an enabler who eliminates roadblocks for team members to surge ahead in their priorities.

Leading xFT = Managing Diversity: Functionally, all team members are diverse and have their own reporting relationships, beliefs and values. They have to be led without the strings of formal reporting structures attached. This also means their time allocation may be diverse, so would be attitude and skill level. A leader’s challenge is to elicit their involvement without binding them into traditional management structure.

Trust is even more crucial for success: Since they don’t have a formal working relationship with the leader, building trust is the only way to move things forward. Leading is all about trust, more so in the case of leading a xFT. With trust, people self-organize, think favorably and take right decisions. As a leader, be inclusive, respect their opinions, showcase their contributions, recognize their work and be positive.

Clear goals are drivers of autonomy: In a xFT, decision making is bottoms-up. They decide the course of action and have autonomy to change the course depending on situation. So, the only way a leader drives these discrete decisions is by setting very clear goals and defining clear outcomes. This also means that leader has to work extra hard in setting up rituals for communication and status tracking.

Early “wins” are important: When a xFT starts working together, there will be a lot of ambiguity and doubt in their minds. They may not be confident about their ability to work together. They may be swayed away by their own departmental priorities. In such situations, if they see early wins, it reinforces their confidence. A team that achieves constantly, in increments, is the team that stays together productively. Early wins make the work and progress visible.

Constant communication is the glue: that binds the team together. Establishing rituals and communication forums (formal and informal to create face time is critical to keep team on track. These routines also helps a leader sense problems even before they actually happen, manage expectations constantly, provide feedback, learn about each other and manage conflicts. Communication is the most important tool in a leader’s toolkit for building trust.

Building a high-performing team in any situation is difficult and when team members are from different functional groups, a leaders role in creating a performing whole from discrete parts is both a challenge and an opportunity.

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