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The importance of purpose in successful business transformation

by Leon Labovitch on 16 Jan 2017

successful_business_transformation

We all are motivated - by work, family, pastimes, sport. If we have a spring in our step in the morning, if we get off the train for work "like a startled gazelle", if we're motivated by what we do, then we're more likely to be successful.

Clarifying the motivating purpose of our work seems an obvious endeavour, but many companies fail to capture their identity and "essence". As a result, staff are confused about what their organisation stands for, resulting in a great loss of cohesion, energy and success.

This is the second in a series of articles looking at The Eight Pillars of Change, which are markers to help organisations through their change, growth and development; to help them achieve successful business transformation

Underpinning Pillar 1 (Agree a high-level plan) and Pillar 2 (A business model for the new world) is the need to state the purpose or strategic narrative of an organisation or business. This is to help distinguish the company from the competition, engage staff, and excel.

New Purpose model

I've developed a model that melds purpose, values and unique selling points (USP) to create a company's identity. This may be expressed visually (e.g. as a storyboard) and is supported by new behaviours to engage and deliver change.

Purpose should be our high-level aspiration. As an example, I helped an important research laboratory make clear that their purpose is to control and eradicate deadly diseases throughout the world. We put together prominent storyboards and case studies to demonstrate this and achieved clarity for visiting dignitaries and sponsors, as well as providing motivation for staff. Prior to this, the laboratory had regarded its work as rather esoteric scientific research.

Combine rational and creative thinking

Labovitch Consulting has been successful in the oilfield services industry, particularly creating purpose for an offshore engineering company in Asia. Technology was moving from shallow water diving operations to richer reserves in the deep offshore. We needed to "reinvent" the company and show clients (the oilfield majors - Shell, Total, BP and others) a new purpose and engineering capability in reaching these deeper reserves.

We brainstormed: "What are the challenges working in this subsea industry?" The environment is cold, dark and dirty, with strong currents and high water pressures – but employees relish this and developed new technology to recover deep offshore oil. By creating storyboards and case studies of success in this challenging environment, we were able to hold brand launches throughout the Far East, showing clear strategy, purpose and capability to the oil major clients, winning resultant new offshore business and growing the company.

We combined rational strategy with creative visuals for overall success and engagement.

business_transformationIn other industries, such as financial services, identity can seem rather generic, so it's essential to get the strategy and purpose right to put yourselves ahead of the competition.

Success in all these examples is due in no small measure to creating clear storyboards, a technique used extensively in the movie industry (see right) and adapted to relate to business purpose in other sectors.

Delivery

I stressed in my first blog post, on the Eight Pillars of Change, the 3Ds – delivery, delivery and delivery - mentioning that delivery is the toughest Pillar to successfully achieve. Although methodologies can be read in the literature, practical judgement and knowledge can generally only be sourced through an experienced interim to guide a client through delivery.

Once identity is created with visuals and supporting behaviours, engagement is reached through asking the question: "What does this mean for me?" This question invites answers from all stakeholders, so that new ways of working can be described and adopted.

Measuring success

Change can be measured through "climate/ engagement" surveys, performance and productivity measures (e.g. sales), merger success, share price or a general feeling of wellbeing in the organisation.

In the case of the offshore engineering company mentioned above, the CEO's annual report commented that: "We reinvented the company." This was a powerful unprompted realisation (and accolade) of the power of purpose successfully embedded across this organisation, leading to a doubling of share price at that time. 

I Have a Dream, NOT I have a Gannt chart

Martin Luther King was clear of purpose in his speech, "I Have a Dream", but too many business change programmes sadly turn into "I have a Gannt chart". The strategic narrative and high-level purpose are lost and the resultant project is dry and loses momentum.

The important combination of good strategic logic and creative flair creates lasting purpose, direction and strong employer brand.

If you can design and manage change and engage your people, then you've captured one of the most important aspects of an organisation or company – who you are, what you do, why you are special, excel and are proud of your organisation.

An original version of this post first appeared on LinkedIn

Leon Labovitch is the founder and CEO of Labovitch Consulting Limited

Creating adaptable businesses

 

Topics: business transformation, Change

Leon Labovitch

Written by Leon Labovitch