5 tips for lasting, human-centred business transformation

Organisational culture at the centre of business transformation

We have crash landed into a new era for business culture. Performing complex transformations has become a basic requirement in business today. 

And if you follow any ‘future of business’ trend watchers – Forbes, Accenture, Korn Ferry, etc – complex cultural transformation is our new normal.

Their top business trend insights are characterised by rapid decentralisation, deeper inclusivity, workforce reshaping, humane AI integration, delivering social purpose and authenticity. It is very clear that the most complex challenges facing business today are more deeply humanistic than ever before.

But at the same time we will still be expected to meet aggressive sales targets, budgetary constraints, competitive pressures, shareholder and executive demands. 

This creates a loaded backdrop for cultural tension.

And where we used to have multiple years to perform a large transformation, we now seem to have months or a year if we’re lucky. With several on the go at the same time.

Here are five top tips I’ve learned that will help with your own complex, human-centred transformations…

1. Honour the “old”

Whether its a product, team, way of working or an entire strategy you are letting go, it contains a sea of emotional capital and shared stories. Blood, sweat and tears. It’s played an important role so let it go respectfully, talk about it, acknowledge its contribution to the next phase. People want to feel part of forward progression rather than contributors to past failure.

2. Listen, constantly

Years of experience and accumulated knowledge also leads to personal blindspots. Make space for different perspectives to surface and then actively listen to them. Informal, formal, in person (ideal), surveys (if outcomes aired and actioned), social media – use whatever methods suit your culture to keep people engaged, and learn from them.

3. Stay flexible

Entrenched positions today plant seeds for failure tomorrow. Incorporate new ideas and knowledge gained from your active listening practices. View business plans as directional signposts rather than concrete destinations. Encourage regular feedback to enable constant course adjustments.

4. Connect with your emerging future of work

Potential future organisational features can be a source for business inspiration. Complex transformations like hybrid working, ESG integration, wellness programs, or sustainable operations offer fuel for workplace innovation. If these changes only feel like distractions to “core business”, they will be. Crowd source ideas and energy to make them opportunities to grow a vibrant future workplace and innovate new products.

5. Allow time

Business transformation is ultimately about human change. It ALWAYS take longer than hoped for, and only works when people feel part of it, not subjected to it. Is a transformation program delivered ‘on time’ that people had to be dragged through better than something slightly longer that achieved a revitalised culture?

We’d love you to join us on our mission to make business more authentically human!

We admire you for considering this important space, it can be very daunting. We will share pioneering knowledge and tools uniquely placed to help you see fresh perspectives, experience new thinking and address your most complex culture challenges.

Let’s do this together!

Murray Brown & Micael Johnstone

Wading Herons co-founders

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