Since the beginning of time, nature has demonstrated that the need to evolve is a mandatory element for survival. Evolution has also been a fundamental and constant feature of man’s development, and it therefore comes as no surprise that the activities man manages also need to relate to this phenomenon.
Irrespective of the size or type of operation, any organisation must be well prepared to undertake an internal process of evolution. This requires a degree of flexibility and agility that are key ingredients to sustainable success. Generally, larger (and more mature) organisations may find it more difficult to cater for such flexibility, when compared to smaller (and younger) organisations.
The need to evolve – and the pressure to do so in a swift manner - is generally brought about by ourselves, as consumers. Consumer trends are clear: we have constantly higher expectations; we want more of everything, and we want it faster, cheaper, and above all, better. Consider the advancement and changes that have taken place within photography over a span of a couple of decades – from the use of chemical film to high-definition, high-resolution digital output, practically in an instant.
The net result is that we, as consumers, have become pretty much like ‘guzzlers’: always hungry, wanting more of everything, to better specifications and higher quality, and immediately. Failing to keep up with such expectations means you risk driving your business into mediocrity, rapidly. What is worse, social media makes it so easy for people to say just ‘how bad you are’.
Business evolution is therefore a mandatory success factor. If our organisational evolution process cannot keep up with demand, then one may need to consider even more aggressive approaches. At times, radical transformation may become necessary for an organisation to re-align itself with business and consumer trends.
By its very nature, evolution is a gradual and controllable process. Very often, however, the transformation required arouses feelings of anxiety, and an aversion to change, even by top management. Fear and a certain resistance to change form part of the human psyche, and we have seen many organisations fail because they were not prepared – psychologically and/or organisationally - to undertake the process of transformation.
Organisational transformation is not only about organisational restructuring, or process reengineering. Indeed, that may well be the easiest, and most enjoyable part, of a project. But there are the more delicate and less tangible elements that one needs to factor in. We need to be highly sensitive to matters that are typically related to people, culture, skills-matching, and timing.
Bear in mind that any transformation initiative will at some point or other affect the way people do things, the way people need to think, reason and act. With people, comes culture – what works for one company, operating within a sector and within a specific business environment, for example - may not work for another. Every organisation has its own distinct ‘culture’, which needs to be factored in when managing the transformation process.
Managing people also means managing the skills by which they get their activities done. Getting through the evolution process generally requires reviewing the talent-mix and capability of your people. Whilst many may be prepared to learn and broaden their range of competences, others may be less receptive to change – and we also have seen such resistance being demonstrated by the most senior of executives in some organisations.
Evolution and transformation require detailed and bespoke strategic planning. Implementation and execution, however, remain the keys to success. This demands a strong will to get things done, as well as the allocation of the appropriate resources, sufficient funds, enough time, and the right tools and equipment, together with so many other interdependent elements.
Evolution is constant and needs to reflect reality. Therefore, any plans drawn up need to be maintained as living documents, capable of being revised in a controlled and agile manner, to accommodate situations arising along the way. There is no point in implementing a rigid plan that, say three years down the line, produces out-of-date deliverables.
At the end of the day, it will be up to the disciplined and effective implementation of project management techniques that will ensure that the specific goals and success criteria of the transformation process are met.