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Digital players are redefining the economic landscape and the way we work. The more they do so, the more complex it becomes for decision-makers, who exist in a state of constant transformation. Paradoxically, such leaders tend to find it more difficult to adopt an agile approach to change when goals are constantly evolving.

Strategic shifts, acquisitions, implementing matrix management — major transformations are often rooted in corporate decisions that identify a goal and a clearly defined path between the original situation and the target. But how can you drive transformation towards a moving target? A growing number of leaders face this question as they begin to transfer their attention from the more formal and visible parts of transformation processes (such as adapting structures and systems) to less Cartesian aspects. The latter includes aspects such as ensuring that vision and objectives coincide with management’s overall values and principles, overseeing changes in collective representations that underlie everyday behaviors, and so on – aspects vital to team commitment.

Constant adaptation: the new face of transformation

Digital technologies have introduced a new challenge when it comes to transformation: moving targets linked to changing stakeholder behaviors. The relentless emergence of new tools and actors is obliging companies to continually adjust their strategies and practices. Take the case of marketing managers, who have seen their tools replaced — and their budgets reallocated — more times within the last five years than the previous fifty! In B2C, as digital tools and networks have developed into the main vehicle for customer visibility and contact, so the distinction between marketing and digital management has blurred. This redefinition of jobs and roles, based on the digital usages of customers, partners, and competitors, is steadily extending to other functions: sales, purchasing, logistics, manufacturing, human resources, and more. Henceforth, everyone has to be equipped with the skills not only to effect change in their particular sphere but also to adapt their targets according to variations in their environment… all the while adhering to the company’s overall vision.

Three obstacles that impede a successful adaptive transformation

What are the main bottlenecks that hamper the need for adaptability in any change process?

1 – Lack of clarity or failure to share the vision, reflected in dispersed effort. Collective efficiency requires every individual to integrate his or her contribution into the functioning of the whole. The business model, practices and organization that make this possible do not grappled with in the day-to-day. The first step in challenging them means ensuring that everyone is aware of his or her limits and the need — or opportunity — to develop them. This step is in itself a major challenge for engaging stakeholders.

2 – The fear of change, particularly regarding organizational implications. Found at all layers of the hierarchy, this apprehension is manifested both on a personal level (Do I have the skills to find my role in this new strategy and the associated organization?) and collectively (What is the future of our department?). The risk is that repressing these fears will lead to blind spots and create resistance that makes the transformation inoperative.

CEO of Intuitu Novae since 2014, advises corporate executives and their teams on strategic and managerial transformation, Bruno Faucher previously held posts at Sony and McKinsey and has 25 years of operational and management consulting experience.

Excerpt from Business Digest N°279, September 2017

To go further

Read the full 3-part feature

Key concepts

Dual Transformation

Interview with Chen Ma, Strategy Manager at Baidu, China (2017)

Baidu: securing the present, preparing for the future

Contribution of Bruno Faucher

Successful agile transformation

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