Transformation is not a new concept.

Organisational change has long been a focus for businesses of all sizes, but the black swan events of the last year have intensified the pace of global change. They have also unlocked new opportunities and value for those businesses with the conviction to change.

Embarking on a transformation is one of the most important decisions a CEO will ever make – and that has never rung truer. They need to create a unifying vision for the organisation, endorsing and role modelling the change they want to see. Transformations delivered successfully will often put a CEO’s career on a new trajectory – as will unsuccessful ones.

While the number of business transformations taking place in the last year has not significantly changed, it is evident that the strategies and processes to deliver them have – and organisational agility and speed is at the heart of this.

The pre-pandemic transformation landscape was characterised by big, cross-organisational projects, which could run for years. When the lockdown came into force, it showed what was possible when we had no other choice – achieving positive outcomes in record time.

The pandemic has ultimately forced the world to change and with this has come a shift in mindset, where people better appreciate the necessity of the interventions taking place. We are more willing to change behaviours, both in the ways we organise ourselves and conduct business.

Organisations have been able to remove barriers and streamline decisions and processes in ways they had never done before. Those that have rapidly deployed new technologies and ways of working have seen powerful results, in terms of revenues, cost efficiency and return on capital.

With nearly two thirds of transformation projects involving digitalisation, delivering quickly and at scale reduces the risk of projects and ‘new’ tools becoming redundant or out-of-date before their value can be realised. Companies focusing on minimal viable product functionality, continuous improvements, and adopting a micro set of working practices, with teams communicating little and often to make decisions, have been better placed to meet the shifting demands of consumer expectations. 

As life ground to a halt, one would be forgiven for thinking that anything that is not core to business operations would have been jettisoned, but this has not been the case. Over two thirds of our network did not cancel any of their transformation projects at all, with over a quarter starting new initiatives. CEOs who have seized the moment, committed to what is required and got the business ready are now reaping the rewards.

While future proofing against further disruption and investing in business continuity remains at the forefront for many of us, a successful and profitable future will not be built on resilience alone. The pandemic has accelerated macro trends on digitalisation, climate related initiatives and flexible working practices. We have entered a new era of profit, people, planet – and CEOs will need to remain focused on this as we move forward.

For those leaders seeking experienced viewpoints to guide them through, with a focus on the right people and teams to deliver, the opportunities inspired by recent events are infinite. There is significant scope to unlock value for organisations both commercially and for the greater good.

This article appeared in the Raconteur’s The Future CEO report, published in association with The Times. You can access your free copy here. 

Written by

Rob Walker

As CEO of BIE, Rob is responsible for the strategic direction and development of the business. This has included evolving BIE’s proposition from solely an interim provider, to include a search and, most recently, a business consulting offering, providing a holistic transformation solution for any organisation going through change.

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