Business Transformations – or pervasive change initiatives seem to be a key topic of conversation wherever we go at the moment. In this post I want to explore why this could be and over the coming weeks I’d like to explore what business transformation really means and what it could mean for organisational leaders and their teams.

Companies across traditional industries are being reshaped by shifting customer demands and new ways of thinking about business models – previously not deemed feasible – fuelled by advances in technology all around us. No industry is exempt from these seismic shifts and no organisation is safe from the risks or excluded from the opportunities these shifts pose. Organisations that ignore or fail to adapt to these changes around them however, face significant risk of becoming obsolete as the world around them continues to evolve away from them at an ever escalating pace. There are plenty of examples across many industries of the impact of this all around us – think Kodak, Xerox, Motorola, Blockbuster, Yahoo, Blackberry, Polaroid, Borders, Pan Am, Hummer, Atari ….to name just a few. Equally there are many emerging examples of exciting and radical disruption of industries – by companies both large and small – who have won by embracing the digital economy and through exploitation of the opportunities it affords them – think AirBnb, Uber and the Dollar Shave Club. Interestingly – this struggle for relevance and survival is not a new concept– Schumpeter signalled as early as 1949 that organisational survival depended on the ability to adapt to changing environments!

Organisations everywhere are therefore compelled to become conscious of and to actively respond to continual and escalating changes in the environment in order to remain viable and to thrive in our new digital economy. In reality, this escalating pace of change has created a disjoint between how most organisations are currently set up to function and what is required of them to compete effectively into the future. This poses a significant challenge to organisational leaders to develop the mindsets, skills and organisational capabilities to address the increased demands that comes from

  • perpetually escalating environmental change (like customer centricity, speed-to-market, growth, improved efficiencies and regulatory responsiveness)
  • new opportunities and risks posed by the digital economy
  • maintaining their current business environment without significant disruption
  • doing all the above whilst attracting new talent and keeping employees engaged, developed and motivated

Concerningly – and yet maybe reflective of the size and significance of this leadership challenge – the European Commission states on its website that “only 2% of European enterprises are currently taking full advantage of new digital opportunities”.

So why is the Transformation conversation such a hot topic right now? The reality is that companies that fail to embrace transformation as a response to escalating change will inevitably become excluded from the markets they play in. The ability of organisations and their leaders to manage business transformations effectively has become a vital factor in ensuring their ongoing viability – a new core competence regardless of industry they’re in and the past organisational market performance. Company leaders everywhere are grappling with how to position themselves and their organisations to transform successfully in order to thrive in this ever-evolving world.

Recommended further reading –

  • Llewellyn, Rob (2019) The Transformation Files: 17 Insights to Inspire Managers and Leaders in the Transformation of a Digital Economy Business
  • Smet, A. D., Lurie, M., & George, A. S. (2018). Leading agile transformation: The new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-century organizations. McKinsey & Company, 27.
  • Uhl-Bien, M., & Arena, M. (2018). Leadership for organizational adaptability: A theoretical synthesis and integrative framework. The Leadership Quarterly, 29(1), pp 89-104.
  • Schumpeter, J. (1949). Economic theory and entrepreneurial history. Harvard University Press, pp 63-84.
  • Nging, T. K., & Yazdanifard, R. (2015). The General Review of How Different Leadership Styles Cause the Transformational Change Efforts to be Successful. International Journal of Management, Accounting & Economics, 2(9), pp1130-1140.
  • Uhl, A., & Gollenia, L. A. (2016). A Handbook of Business Transformation Management Methodology. Routledge.
  • Muzyka, D., De Koning, A., & Churchill, N. (1995). On transformation and adaptation: building the entrepreneurial corporation. European Management Journal, (4), pp 346-362.