Transformational Change, Best Practice & Social Networks

Part 3: The Case for Transformational Change

Companies are changing faster than ever before due to the greater influence of both technology and globalisation. Today, the scale of change is often large and transformational in nature, with major issues including acquisitions integration, divestitures, adoption of new processes, systems and ways of working. The outcome of a transformational change project is often fundamental to the future of the company.

In terms of the impact of technology,  a recent survey (MIT Sloan Management Review and Cap Gemini) provides some insight on digital transformation. This review defined digital transformation as the use of new digital technologies (social media, mobile, analytics or embedded devices) to enable major business improvements such as enhancing customer experience, streamlining operations or creating new business models. One key finding from the survey was the belief held that within the next two years, achieving digital transformation will become critical to their organizations ( 78% of respondents).

Large transformational change projects are complex to execute, and there are always surprises that require a change in path, and often, a resetting of goals. Anderson and Ackerman Anderson note that research shows that most transformation changes do not meet the desired return-on-investment. In reviewing available literature of major obstacles that companies face in transformation efforts, I believe Strategy& put it most succinctly, observing three such obstacles; change fatigue, the companies’ limited skill at driving transformation, and the deficiency that results from only senior manager involvement in selection, planning and implementation of transformation initiatives.

Human characteristics and behaviours it seems, are central to the major obstacles to transformation efforts; human capacity, fatigue, skill, understanding and buy-in.


Adopting Best Practice for Organisational Change

It’s useful to mention a couple of the Strategy& best practice levers that will be relevant to our next discussion on social networking. (We will not review the levers not directly relevant to social networking). The first lever is the early adoption of a cultural diagnostic, to which I would add that social networking provides a dynamic capability so that this can be applied as and when required.  Two others levers relate to employee engagement (which we discussed in more detail in Part 2) were covered; how to connect via “pride and commitment” and how to encourage informal peer networks.

Please refer to the excellent original articles by Anderson and Ackerman Anderson and Strategy& to discover significant additional insights from their works on best practice that cannot be detailed in this summary article. These authors’ best practices focus largely around the employee and related cultural issues suggesting that it would be highly valuable if we could shift this dynamic in the right direction.

It is not the intent of this article to get into the complex area of transformational change best practice, but rather to ask the question: 

Can social networking be a new tool for implementing transformational change?

Perhaps social networking offers a way to help people accept, innovate and drive change by placing them at the centre of transformational change with a new set of tools. In Part 4 we will examine the potential role of social networks in helping employees support each other, and more potently, the enticing idea that social networks may become central to executing transformational change.