CXO Leadership

Making the Decision to Transform

Making the Decision to Transform

The following is the first part of a three-part series on the topic of Transformation.

The key goal for the business’ transformation is to fight the natural instinct to transform a black hammer into a green hammer, when what you really need to develop is a high velocity nail gun.

At the heart of a decision to make an IT/business transformation is the desire to improve the customer experience. It’s a decision that requires full teamwork on all fronts. In most cases, this kind of transformation entails a dramatic change in technologies and the business processes a company deploys, in order to deliver a set of customer-desired business outcomes.

Three critical aspects of a business have to change in order to achieve effective transformation:

    1. the Business,
    2. the IT Department,
    3. and the People.

For our first part of the series, let’s focus on the transformation of the business. Here is a recurring scenario that I have personally experienced in five different organizations over my career. Being a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt since 1996, I’ve had a unique vantage point for these observations.

A project is launched by the operating team, and subsequently, a Kaizen or workout event, is framed, with cross-functional talent. This is to ensure focus on the vision of a new business process and to establish a high-level Lean process. We start the process development the correct way, as we give the subject matter experts some guiding principles to create their new business process.

The five principles are:

    1. Forget about tools and technology—think only process;
    2. Anchor your process to the desired customer-facing outcomes;
    3. Debunk current processes and rules to ensure you move beyond legacy;
    4. Put all ideas on the table—no idea is a bad idea; and
    5. Don’t encroach upon principles one, two, three, or four. If you do, then stand in the corner, take a time out, and then jump back in with a fresh mind.

The Kaizen team follows these guiding principles and lays out a very forward thinking process, which is very concise and simplified. We’re all excited and put our best efforts to bring it to life. After the Kaizen, the team disbands and each member goes back to their respective functional areas, spreading information about the exercise. Then, a smaller development team takes over to bring the project to life. Three months into the project, we are able to translate the Kaizen concept into a technology-enabled process.

Three critical aspects of a business   have to change in order to achieve effective transformation: the Business, the IT Department, and the People.

Now here is the irony. Despite our best intentions, as the development moves forward and more subject matter experts are engaged from various operating and business teams, solutions tend to slide into a dressed up version of the legacy process and technology.

This is a common story that resonates most with businesses trying to make the IT/business transformation a reality. The key goal for the business’ transformation is to fight the natural instinct to transform a black hammer into a green hammer, when what you really need to develop is a high velocity nail gun. If you stay true to anchoring the process redesigned to your desired outcomes and allow the technology to go where it needs to, in order to enable the right solution, you’ll be amazed at what you get.

However, getting people to move beyond what they’ve known for decades is a very real and a very major challenge. The most important thing you must do, along with your business partner is perform an honest self-assessment of the team. You have to evaluate whether your primary subject matter experts and technical experts can dream beyond the current state of the business. If the answer is no, then you must invest in very experienced, facilitative support to force them out of the comfort zone. Then, at specific intervals in your development cycle, follow up with a stern reinforcement mechanism, such as a specific process stage review tollgate routine; to make sure the developing solution isn’t falling back to its initial state.

Your job in driving real change is to make sure that your company’s investment in transformation is realized in the delivery of a new, technology-enabled process that meets or exceeds customers’ desired outcomes, every time.

So to that end, I’ve made our business transformation mantra simply, “NO GREEN HAMMERS!”  I suggest you do too!

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Melvin Kirk

Melvin Kirk, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Ryder System

Melvin Kirk is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Ryder System, Inc., a FORTUNE 500® commercial fleet management, dedicated transportation, and supply chain solutions company. He is a member of Ryder’s Executive Lead... More   View all posts
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