Transformation is a constant
The world is changing. Now. And now. Every second. New opportunities and challenges arise for companies. Employees are offered unforeseen opportunities for participation and creativity. The pure fulfilment of work instructions is a thing of the past in many companies. At the same time, they want to be better employers and survive in an environment in which competition can create new markets at any moment with a disruptive idea and unhinge existing ones. In addition, there are the consultants, authors and influencers, who are fantasising about agile or digital transformation on almost every occasion. Perhaps we are living in an age of transformation, but this raises many questions: Must companies reinvent themselves? Where is the customer in the transformation? And what actually comes after the transformation?
Transformation is change
We are born, learn the first steps and words, grow up, try ourselves out, discover values and principles, and develop our personality. We question ourselves, our parents and our environment. I suppose you already know where I’m going with this: We are changing. In the small and in the big. Our environment influences us and we influence it. Changes are normal for all of us. They are immanent. At school, later at university or at work, in relationships, attitudes and goals. We initiate them consciously and experience them unconsciously. We deal with them and communicate about them. We try to lose weight, outlaw light bulbs and straws, and travel on cruise ships. We change our diet, spurn our CD collections as we have spurned our record collections before. Of course there is a good reason for this: Today we can stream music for 10 euros a month. New techniques offer new possibilities. New possibilities are bringing about changes in consumption and attitudes. If you want to listen to a certain music, you don’t have to own it anymore. If you want to drive a car, you don’t have to buy it beforehand. Property becomes less important. Practically everything is in flux. Practically everything changes. Practically everything is transformed.
Transformation of companies
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) predicts that by 2025 about 40 percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies will have disappeared from the market. This statement is often interpreted as an indicator for failed companies that are unable to adapt and misjudge the signs of the times. But can such general judgements be true at all? In retrospect, we are all smarter. In hindsight, many aspects seem obvious, but in the present it is often not that easy to identify trends, needs or changing markets. Why do most companies have more evolutionary than disruptive ideas? Why don’t companies find new employees? Or why do companies rely on increasing user numbers and still almost never make a profit with them? Anyone who can correctly answer such and similar questions for their company today may have a good chance of still being on the market in 2025.
Like all of us, companies change as well. Companies are social entities made up of individuals. If an individual’s attitude changes, he or she influences his or her immediate organisational environment. Don’t you think so? Do you know colleagues who see almost everything negatively or who complain about everything and everyone? What does that do to you? Does that influence you? And what does that do to your colleagues? Instead of a sourpuss, imagine a sunshine that sees things positively, gives valuable feedback and is open to change. Isn’t that already a mental difference? Transformation is also a process of small steps. The problem with these micro transformations is the lack of visibility. Without communication, change has only a limited effect. Whoever is concerned with a comprehensive transformation in an organisation should therefore always keep an eye on the communication about it.
The transformation and the customer
Dealing with change is commonplace for organisations. In the 90s it was about working weeks, breakfast breaks and cigarette breaks. Organisational structures and procedures were adapted and companies were acquired in the course of diversification strategies. Around the turn of the millennium, employee share ownership through share packages as a salary component, the definition and use of business processes and process models, and gradually 24/7 accessibility and bring-your-own-device became fashionable. Today, organisations are concerned with corporate democracy, agile and digital transformation, new work, working out loud, the importance of trust, the development of a culture of error, the election of superiors, the joint determination of salaries, the quota of women in management positions or the agile organisation. The list is easy to continue. What do most transformations have in common? They deal with the interaction and working conditions within an organisation. They are directed inwards. Each of these aspects is important, but where is the customer? Shouldn’t the customer benefit from an organisational transformation? Shouldn’t the customer be at the centre of considerations and not always “just” the employees?
Digital transformation is probably the only change that has the customer in mind, at least in the figurative sense. The adaptation of business models can only work with a view to the needs of users, buyers and partners. Organisations need to see for themselves what these needs are. In theory, agile transformation also addresses customers, because the agile approach is intended to give them more useful features in less time – in exchange for corresponding feedback. In practice, however, this feedback is only obtained relatively rarely and organisations often concentrate only on the sprint and the velocity and no longer on the product to be created and therefore not on the customer. Missing the target should often be the judgement.
The next transformation will follow
What actually happens after a transformation? Imagine a company that has digitalised all its processes – what will the company do next? It’s likely to try to drive digitisation forward, automate and optimise processes, integrate new tools, etc. And what about agile transformation? What happens when a company has introduced Scrum with all its rituals, roles and artifacts? Probably it will try to optimize processes, use more useful tools, etc. And what does this mean for the topic of transformation? Depending on the point of view
- the process of transformation never ends. What follows agility or digitalisation? Since there can be no end – companies will work more agilely, they want to act more efficiently and effectively – the transformation itself is a continuous improvement process of an organisation.
- a transformation is preceded by a transformation. Even after a transformation, companies will continue to change, adapt and optimise themselves. It lies in the DNA of people and thus also of organisations to renew themselves. A specific transformation is therefore a process with predefined goals, measures, actions and results, which will then lead to the next transformation.
Either way: Transformation is a constant.
Head of Marketing, t2informatik GmbH
Michael Schenkel is a graduate business economist and is passionate about marketing. He has a certificate for excellent hiking characteristics, Odenwaldtour in classes 6a/6b and since 1984 the Seahorse. He likes to blog about requirements engineering, project management, stakeholders and marketing. And he will certainly be delighted if you meet him in the real world for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake or for a virtual get-together.