Walking the Talk on Business Transformation
I once attended a conference at which a speaker discussed “walking the talk.” They were referring to how you define yourself — does who you say you are and what you say you value line up with how you live? While this conference was geared toward individual and personal transformation, the principles are completely relevant for the ecosystem of a company.
The speaker emphasized that, no matter how you want to answer that question, there are three key behaviors you can observe closely for a month to reveal what is actually important to you. Those things are: what activities you spend the most time on each day, where you spend your money, and what you “consume” (eat/drink, listen to, look at, interact with).
As I translated this into many of the challenges my clients face, two important things occurred to me:
- Companies have three powerful types of currency: time, resources, and consumption.
- A company’s true values/beliefs, mission, and vision are derived from the evidence and experience of how we spend and receive those currencies each day
A CHANGE IN YOUR BUSINESS ≠ BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION
Let’s use a familiar analogy of driving your car to work each day. If your daily route to work takes you down a street where there are multiple potholes, eventually your steering alignment and potentially your tires are going to need attention. We would not say you “transformed” your car (or your commute) when you get new tires or have your steering re-aligned. That is a change, and a predictable outcome for how the car was being used; nothing more. Additionally, if you continue to drive the “changed” car on the same route and in the same way, you will be right back in the same situation again; spending the same money again. Sound familiar?
Transformation is choosing to create a new way of doing something, which is aligned with consistently generating the outcomes that matter the most to us.
TRANSFORMATION BEGINS WITH ASKING POWERFUL QUESTIONS
What is important to you? Always start with what matters the most and design transformation from there. The goal is to maximize your ability to drive the highest fulfillment (delivery of value) to what is most important to you. Formulaically, we could think of this as:
Results = (Efficiency of your effectiveness) x (value)
This formula can work at any level and on any topic because it starts and ends with aligning value to results and how you achieve those results. In my transformation work with clients, we have to also look at combined values from different stakeholders, including shareholders, customers, and employees. In other words, we leverage more than a single set of values in one part of an ecosystem:
- Shareholders may value a high rate of return on their investment
- Customers may value goods and services at a certain price point delivered through a meaningful experience
- Employees may value the ability to leverage their strengths every day in a way that contributes meaningfully to the company’s mission
With all of this in mind, how might we transform the commute example? There are four different areas contributing to the current result:
- The commute (route we choose)
- The car (vehicle we choose to get there)
- The way you drive (how we choose to drive)
- The workplace location (where we are going)
Beware of common traps as you begin thinking about this— focusing on what you could “change” in each of these, rather than discovering first what you actually value about them. Here’s an example of different the questions we come at when trying to change something rather than transform it into an alignment with our values:
Our “change” questions have us moving toward doing something different, rather than understanding the underlying reasons we have the results we do today. We also can lose sight of the interconnectivity of each different area (commute, car, drive, and location) and focus on only changing one without understanding the significance and desired experience of the others. When we begin with “transformation” questions, we start the deeper work of values prioritization alignment. For instance, we work with many of our clients on mapping “moments of truth” across customer experience journeys, processes, and employees as a means of designing solutions that will be informed by values. Ultimately, each of those journeys connects every day in an organization to produce results.
TRANSFORMATION IS A JOURNEY
Transformation is an alignment of values to the currencies of time, resources, and consumption. We engage the use of our currencies with our values and we disengage, or stop spending, our currencies with things that go against our values. This is why a focus on change only has a way of bringing us back to the same place of frustration eventually. Transformation is not a diet; it is a lifestyle change that is meant to produce new habits that keep you aligned with what matters most. It is also an imperative for staying relevant to your customers, market opportunities, and employee engagement.
When you find yourself in a situation where your results (quantitatively or qualitatively) aren’t what you expected, start thinking about what questions you are asking as you discern what to do next. Ask yourself if your internal currency spend for time, resources, and consumption matches up proportionally to what matters the most to your shareholders, customers, and employees. Then move on to what levers will have to change across the ecosystem to truly transform your results.