Are Good Business Transformation People Worth Their Weight in Gold?

business transformation people are worth their weight in gold

A Large Number of Business Transformations

Over the past 18 years I have  facilitated, worked on, assisted in, and observed a large number of business transformation projects at a very close quarters.  As a result, I have seen a countless number of business transformation people in action – many good, some bad, and a few ugly ones. Luckily this last category (of a few ugly ones) was identified early enough in all cases – before they could do any real damage to the projects in question.

To contrast the good ones against this last category, and for reader’s curious minds, here are a few poignant examples of the ugly ones, that stick in the memory:

  1. There was this very arrogant ex-strategy consulting partner (top-tier big firm) who always believed he knew the answer to every question even before the question was framed. His solution in every problem seemed to be to close the factory and outsource the production. He could not stand taking the second place in any room (except his boss’ office)
  2. There was this academic minded researcher who wanted to prove every hypothesis beyond an iota of doubt. It did not matter to him that in the time taken to do so, the data set would be out-of-date every time.  He just could not stand uncertainty.
  3. There was this experienced executive who could only relate all future change to his past experience. If his past experience did not have an example of something he could relate the future to, he could not move into that future. He could not stand unknown.
  4. There was this conference junkie who was at every industry conference and could spout the latest industry speak at the drop of the hat. Only problem was that rarely was it relevant to the situation at hand. He was notorious for handing over half-finished projects to his successors, and moving to greater heights.  He could not stand staying till finish.

I could go on with list for a while more, but I will stop here despite it being cathartic.

When the quantum of change in business is so big - either in terms of breadth, or depth, or speed that normal change management strategies would be inadequate we call it a business transformation.

Good Business Transformation People Are Rare

I want to focus on the GOOD business transformation people, rather than the other side of the spectrum. It does take a great deal of talent to identify great business transformation people and put them in suitable positions. The rewards accrue both in terms of business success, and talent development.

In this article I will not differentiate too much between ‘business transformation personnel’ and ‘change management staff’ or even ‘business turnaround specialists’. I mention this only because the distinctions, though subtle, are important. These can only be discussed in another article.

Let us start with defining business transformation – just to be on the same song sheet at the beginning. When the quantum of change in business is so big – either in terms of breadth, or depth, or speed that normal change management strategies would be inadequate we call it a business transformation.

In many companies today we need purest business transformation people to take care of the massive change that is needed. Recently I was in a meeting where we were discussing the difference between a person who was operating in a ‘business as usual’ (BAU) and a person who was in a role of  ‘business transformation’ (BT).  It is worth noting that almost all BAU roles involve a degree of ‘change management’, yet business transformation is something else altogether.

In this meeting we were discussing the salaries for some new roles coming up, and many people were aghast at the high salaries on offer to business transformation personnel till I outlined the following analogy.

This Analogy Makes It Clearer

Think about a business transformation person as someone who has to log into the hearts and minds of hundreds of suppliers, thousands of employees, and hundreds and thousands of customers, and read the rhythm of these people to hear the discord, and see the unseen blots and know where the current business model is failing. Then they have imagineer a future state business model that will overcome these problems.

Finally, they have to create the massive transformation in the business so that the rhythm sounds much better, and the picture looks much clearer.

This is a harder job than that of a heart surgeon who is performing an open heart surgery on a heart that is live and beating. He is only operating on a single heart.

A good business transformation person is simultaneously  performing the same miracle on a multitude of hearts and minds.

That is the reason why this person deserves to be paid a lot more than a business as usual person.

In contrast, think of the Business as Usual manager as an operator or driver of a machine who can carry out occasional odd repair and maintenance tasks on the machine – but needs a specialist mechanic when a big scale maintenance is required.

Food for Thought – Further Reading

I was about to go into what does it take to be a good business transformation person, and why good business transformation people are so rare – but I will leave those two topics for later articles. Suffice it to say here that if the job is as difficult as it sounds, then it does take enormous amount of training and experience, and a special kind of person who is worth his weight in gold.

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Vivek Sood

I write about "The Supply Chain CEOs", "The 5-STAR Business Networks", and, how to "Unchain Your Corporation". In my work, I help create extraordinary corporate results using several 'unique' supply chain methodologies. Contact me for interesting, high impact projects, or, to get access to my IP for creating transformations using these methodologies.

  • John Chandos says:

    If business transformation is so difficult, then think about national transformation carried out by the likes of Lee in Singapore, and Mahathir in Malaysia. How difficult is that?

    • Vivek Sood says:

      Thanks for a great comment.

      Every business transformation is partly a technical exercise, and partly a political exercise. You raise a very valuable point by taking the discussion to Politics and national transformation – which in both these cases was really a massive business transformation. The benefits that accrued to the peoples of both these countries as a result are enormous. To some extent Mr Modi of India is now attempting a similar exercise in India.

  • Serenity says:

    As a consultant, I have a lot of experience with companies transforming their processes or their programs.

    And today, what’s happening is a lot of companies are looking for a business transformation to maybe go to the cloud or implement a digital strategy, or even implement agile processes. But whether you’re internal or external, there are a lot of challenges that come on when you’re doing a business transformation.

    And some of the challenges you’ll see is maybe a weak sponsor engagement, maybe somebody who’s not really there full-time on the engagement or can really make it a priority.

    • Khushal says:

      Its nice serenity, It seems that you are having a vast knowledge of business transformation, but in the part of supply chain you can not apply all those of your consultants experience

  • Peyton Agnes says:

    I think quality of transformation in business depends on the situation in the business & new opportunities. How do you categorize transformations into good or bad?

    • Vivek Sood says:

      A short comment with two excellent points:
      1. Circumstances do indeed make or break business transformations. The key skill is of moulding the circumstances.
      2. What are the criteria for categorisation of business transformation into good and bad? – It is your call, it is your business transformation. How do your define success in each case?

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