In this series we are looking at where financial institutions stumble on the path to building high-performing change organizations, limiting their ability to deliver meaningful strategic transformation.
Part 2: “The Broken Cycle”
A mature transformation organization is a finely tuned machine, all parts of which are designed to be in harmony with each other. Once operational, this machine leaps forward and leaves all its competitors in the dirt – a well-oiled change organization is a super car that will help you win the race.
Unfortunately, many financial institutions invest in their transformation capabilities as though they were maintaining an old car, modified in a machine shop by a novice mechanic, and good for just rumbling down the highway. Such a machine refuses to perform according to expectations, no matter how much tinkering is done under the hood.
As discussed in the first part of this series, there are three main pillars around which all successful change organizations are built. Working optimally, these pillars are synchronised and feed into each other. Strategy drives vision, vision guides execution, and execution feeds strategy. On and on the cycle continues, with the ultimate objective being to optimize operational efficiency and to learn continuously to improve processes.
The cycle informs decision making and promotes transparency and ownership at every level. This becomes the key to nurturing a culture of innovation and transformation. Based on our experience that seldom happens in the industry. Let us look at why.
- “Are we building the right things?” – While nuanced on its face, mandating a technology solution or large program from the top down to increase revenue, reduce cost, or eliminate risk incidents is a completely different endeavour than setting goals to increase revenue, reduce costs, or eliminate risk incidents by clearly measurable metrics and allowing those closest to the solution determine how to best meet those goals.
A classic example of organizations conflating business performance with business outcomes, this highlights how financial institutions – even at the most senior levels – tend to fixate on the ‘how’ and pay much less heed to the ‘why’. This typically sees limited resources and energy directed towards myopically focused solution design, diverting it away from developing strategies to ensure continued success.
- “Are we building things right?” – Once we’ve been able to identify the ‘why’, the ‘how’ needs to be defined by the change experts. Too often stakeholders take charge of how a solution works: from what a solution needs to look like and do, to how it needs to do it and when they need it by. They feel the need to control each of the moves their delivery teams make, an imperative primarily driven by a lack of trust and transparency. Even for those firms moving to new methodologies of technology delivery, significant scars still remain from the old waterfall days.
The impact of this interference on technology capabilities can be devastating, as solutions are straitjacketed and innovation stifled. Worse still, this hits hardest the morale of those involved, throttling their freedom to innovate, curtailing the wider organization’s ability to deliver cutting edge solutions and separate itself from the pack.
- “Are the things we are building, delivering the outcomes we expected?” – Most organizations lack the wherewithal to effectively track if their efforts are producing the outcomes they desire. Cue endless hours spent on scratching around to put data and trends together for reports. The waters get muddied even further by individuals interpreting data based on their personal knowledge (or lack of it) or those wanting to massage that data to soften potential hard blows. At best these reports tell you nothing, at worst they could point you in the wrong direction.
Organizations that focus on building up analytics and reporting capabilities to tell their story in near real time will finally arrive in the sweet spot of technology development, where they can keep their technology agenda in lock step with their strategic goals and objectives, which is what all successful transformation is ultimately based on.
If one of the pillars is not working optimally, it leads to a breakdown in the cycle. It becomes akin to travelling cross country either without a map or in a faulty vehicle or even with your eyes diverted from the road. The presence of one these problems would present a significant hurdle – a combination of more becomes disastrous. This makes it critical that you can swiftly identify what is wrong with the pillars in your organization. The sooner problems are understood, the quicker solutions to fix them can be implemented.
As Henry Ford said: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”. Keeping with that theme, in our upcoming blogs in this series we will look at each of the three pillars in greater detail and consider how we can turn mistakes into valuable lessons.