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Sustaining improvement beyond your transformation journey

Once your transformation journey has begun, as a business leader, how do you plan to sustain improvement and maintain change? How will you continually look ahead and make sure the improvements that were made along the way continue and the success is shared?

In the experience we’ve gained from our own transformations and those with which we’ve supported our customers, we’ve found that sustained improvement requires a level of behaviour and mindset change. This sentiment was echoed by McKinsey’s Global Transformation Survey which highlighted that¬†initiatives which focused around behaviour change were more successful. When the teams across an organisation are used to working in a certain way and a new approach is introduced, it’s easy for people to be critical. Resistance, lack of leadership capacity, and a wavering focus can be part of the challenge. Teams will naturally want to know how they’ll cope with the situations they find themselves in right now. But the new approach may alter or eradicate these situations entirely.

It can take a huge amount of trust in the leadership of an organisation to adopt new techniques and practices. As a senior leader, it’s part of your responsibility to spread the knowledge about the reasons behind the new way of working and the impact the new approach is having on performance. To support this, remember to give examples of how it can handle (as well as avoid) the negative situations it’s encountered in the past.

How to onboard teams on the transformation journey

Teams need to be reminded of the positive effect the change is having already. They also need to understand how it will apply to or be adopted by parts of the business that are still working in the old way. It’s important that everyone adapts and not just small pockets of an organisation, or the full gains of the transformation journey will never be realised.

Reflecting on River’s own transformation journey into an agile organisation, we found that as we progressed through the transformation, everything naturally became more transparent. As soon as improvements were made visible and we had data which was shareable, everyone could see the impact of the new approach. This was vital for sustaining change across our business.

After we were more confident in the reliability of our data, our teams could set their own realistic goals for what they wanted to strive towards. Teams would estimate what was sensible and, as the approach spread across the organisation, we got more transparency around data that helped us track how we were doing.

The transparency of data after a transformation journey has begun, allows businesses to share the direct impact on performance with the wider organisation. This in turn allows for continued success. Some parts of a business can be quick to see the impact of a new approach, while for others, it will take longer. This is where shareable success is crucial to sustaining continual improvement.

Principles of sustained success in a transformation journey

Successful transformations are the ones that view transformation as a continuous process that needs to be incrementally adopted, and where you’re never finished. Those that adopt the approach of applying a model with an end goal are less likely to get genuine buy in.

Once a transformation journey has started, we’ve found that there are six key principles that are worth keeping front of mind to ensure sustained improvement across your organisation:

  1. Remind teams to keep improving and keep tracking progress. Senior leaders can assist in this by continuing to share what the business is striving for. Teams will then feel like they are part of a successful, innovative organisation that’s relevant and adaptive.
  2. Have conversations with your customers and suppliers to introduce the new way of working. Help them get onboard with why you’ve transitioned by communicating what’s in it for them.
  3. Provide an underlying understanding of what continued performance improvement is by backing up the financial gains with accessible data.
  4. Make it a core principle of your business to take the time to stop, reflect and decide what you’re going to improve on next. Part of this is fostering an environment that supports healthy retrospectives. Leaders need to communicate that this process isn’t about finger pointing. Instead, remind teams of the benefit and responsibility of empowerment, reassuring them that it’s ok if things don’t always go right first time.
  5. Celebrate team success and surface initiatives that went well instead of always focussing on what didn’t go to plan. It’s as much about what did go right as identifying what needs improvement.
  6. Keep reviewing and assessing where you are, constantly striving for improvement and still celebrating the good stuff. Don’t take success for granted as there will be other parts of your business that can benefit from these learnings.

Sustainable change comes from the ability to see if the business is achieving success on an ongoing basis. Business leaders can support sustained change by communicating the growth and learning that occurs across an organisation. Genuine buy in and self improvement from the teams themselves is where the real value of transformation is found. Get this right and it can be truly electric.

If you haven’t already downloaded our latest white paper,¬†What’s the point of transformation without change?, grab it now to learn how to win at transformation and stay on the road to success.

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