Key takeaways

  • As the world changes, businesses must find a way to adapt or have the choice taken away from them.
  • Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall back on entrenched habits and feel-good sayings that reinforce the status-quo.
  • To drive change, instead of be driven by it, businesses must embrace risk, creation, truth and imperfection.

The world is changing and getting dynamically more complex. But are your ideals and way of working changing with it?

Too often, we bucket our challenges into cozy, but false antidotes to help ensure we behave a certain way. We say, “Business isn’t personal.” That may be true when the robots take over. Executives demand, “Do more with less.” Maybe, if you allow people to focus on less. Then there’s my least favorite business cliché, “Choose between fast, cheap or good.” I’m guessing some crafty consultant invented that magical philosophy at the turn of the century, and it has been haunting businesses ever since. Old-school rhetoric produces wrong answers and justifies bad behavior.

Few things in business are more inspiring than adopting a new way to work and shattering the clichés that have entrenched unproductive habits. But a company’s ability for successful business change is often hampered by layers of misalignment and a lack of real commitment to transform. About two thirds of all digital transformations fail, and it’s usually not the technology at fault, but the people.1 And that failure starts at the top.

If you want to be the driver of change, instead of driven by it, here are a few ideas to help make your journey a bit easier.

 

1. Risk, commit
and create

Every time I hear “fast, cheap or good”, I feel like the battle is already half lost because it makes a false assumption and kills creative thinking. Creativity is the key to business change and commitment is the lynchpin. You’ll also need the wherewithal to push through the uncomfortableness of transformation. In PwC’s Global Innovation Survey, when we asked CEOs to name the top three most important ingredients for successful innovation, 31% said having the capability for creativity. That’s why we need a new way of looking at change:

Fast, cheap, good

Do you have the stamina to create a movement? You’ll need to; commitment isn’t enough. Commitment collapses through change in leadership, re-prioritisation of tasks, gaps in budgeting, delays in approval or in-fighting. When any of these happen, momentum is lost. Out-of-the-box-thinking is baked into the DNA of the world’s greatest companies.

Every business needs its iconoclasts pushing transformational ideas to the non-believers and embracing a level of risk. At PwC, we see more and more leaders thinking this way, in our 2017 Risk in Review report of 1,581 corporate officers, 47% said they track their risk appetite — up from 36% in 2015.

2. Tell yourself
the truth

Are you asking base hit players to hit home runs? Are you trying to budget for something that has never been built before? Does your CTO control your business strategy from the cloud? Sometimes, what we think are our assets are actually our hurdles.

Recently, while working with a utility company to build out a new associate technology platform to drive better customer sentiment, the COO said that 50% of the budget would be spent on experience change management. He was fully aware that his talent was smart and loyal, yet didn’t have the skills or experience to make the mission successful.

To achieve a better customer experience, start with a greater associate experience. This COO’s Day One commitment was to not rely solely on technology to bring about business change, but to bring an extended team into the process and focus on the human challenge. The company did this by abandoning standard change management to an experience hub that was owned by the talent.

3. Embrace
imperfection

Doing it right, but doing it late, isn’t really right. It just means that your tolerance for risk is low or you forgot that time is your biggest obstacle.

Recently, we rolled out a new platform for a retail client that was looking to transform and create a new market. No amount of research was going to guarantee market success, as there was no precedent for what we were doing. The launch would be far from perfect, as it was a milestone that represented many changes to come. One of the most refreshing moments on our journey was when we met with the sponsor Chief Digital Officer and he said, “It is my job to ask for everything and push extremely hard. It is your job to push back on anything I’m asking that will make us miss our launch date.”

Are you at defcon 1 for business change, or are you a passenger on the train waiting for the wreck? If you’re trying to budget for something that’s never been built or done before, “good, fast or cheap,” may be hard to quantify. And let’s face it, the time for change is always yesterday. Don’t just talk about building a culture of innovation and growth, work hard to do it (you can start by going all-in on digital transformation).

If you accept that you will always pivot, and never finish your transformation, then the right time to start is now.

 

Digital Pulse David Clarke

Contributor

David Clarke

David Clarke is PwC’s global chief experience officer based in the US.

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