How To Quickly Bring About Rapid Company-Wide Transformation In A Startup

Learning how to implement quick, effective change in your startup can make the difference between thriving or going out of business.

John Schnobrich on Unsplash

The market is constantly changing, and those who fail to adapt and transform are often left behind, while disruptive innovators take their place.

Because of this cycle, learning to quickly and effectively implement company-wide transformations (when necessary) need to be an essential part of planning for your future as a startup.

To learn more on how to successfully transform your business without de-railing what’s currently working, I recently had the opportunity to speak with renowned transformation expert, Behnam Tabrizi, an award-winning Stanford professor and managing partner at Rapid Transformation.

The author of five books on business and leadership transformation, including international best-sellers like Rapid Transformation and Inside Out Effect, Tabrizi has also served as an advisor to several Fortune 500 companies, including major brands like Apple, Microsoft, Intel and President Barack Obama.

Professor Tabrizi’s doctoral thesis, which won the ASQ award in organization studies, demonstrated that faster, more dedicated prototyping—versus more planning—results in faster product development. His research helped lay the foundation behind both design thinking and agile development.

Needless to say, in a time when digital disruptions are changing the business world like never before, learning how to implement effective change is more important than ever. Here’s how to make it happen.

Start With Your Business Strategy

Implementing change for the sake of change is never a good long-term plan.

As Tabrizi explains, “If you truly wish for your transformations to enhance your organization’s performance, the changes must be guided by your overarching business strategy. You must start with your company’s goals. Only then can you select digital transformation tools and other strategies that’ll ensure a particular action helps you achieve desired outcomes.”

Making sure that all transformative efforts are clearly aligned with your company goals will ensure that you don’t waste money on ineffective software or distracting initiatives. Change will be focused on improving key growth metrics and other key priorities.

Aligning company-wide transformation with your already-established business strategy keeps organizational values intact, even as you undergo major operational changes. This strengthens buy-in on a company-wide level.

Changes that help maintain consistent company values also keep your employees more engaged. And as a Gallup meta-analysis highlighted, the most engaged teams reduce absenteeism by 41%, cut turnover by as much as 59% and increase productivity by 17%.

Letting your overarching business strategy guide your change initiatives will speed up implementation, reduce resistance and ultimately prove to be far more cost-effective in the long run.

Focus On Rapid Transformation

In Tabrizi’s previous research, he discovered that corporate digitization projects suffered an astounding 70% fail rate.

The biggest contributor to these failures? Speed.

“Far too many businesses spend so much time planning that it takes three to five years in order to finalize product development. By the time their change is ready, it’s already out of date. If you want to bring about successful company-wide change, you need to execute rapidly. Rapid planning and transformation can be accomplished in as little as 12 months.”

Tabrizi’s research highlights the importance of agile development and culture when implementing change. This process focuses on iterative change that allows for rapid implementation. In software, that means updates and features are often released piece by piece in order to help users adapt to the software and recognize its benefits. It also makes it easier to pivot and adapt so you can stay competitive in fast-moving markets.

These insights are gaining increasing sway in the business world at large. While only a minority of businesses consider themselves highly agile, a 2017 Forbes survey of 500 senior executives found that 82% believed an agile approach was crucial for successful strategic initiatives.

“Not all change initiatives will be successful,” Tabrizi adds.

“Agile decision making and rapid prototyping make it easier to recognize when a change isn’t bringing about the desired results. It allows for faster iteration during digital transformation. If you let traditional hierarchies slow down the decision-making process, it becomes that much harder to pivot.”

Don’t Neglect Insider Expertise

“One of the most common problems I see in organizational transformations is that they often rely fully on outside consultants. Though these individuals can provide helpful insights, they tend to offer cookie-cutter solutions based on their perceived best practices,” Tabrizi explains.

“In reality, your best insights come from your insiders—the people who work in your company every day. They’ve seen firsthand what works and what can be improved. By leveraging their expertise, you’ll gain crucial knowledge to implement the right changes for your unique needs.”

This input can even apply when introducing new software. Your company is unique. By adapting your tools and systems to your team’s work flow, you can increase efficiency and speed up the adoption process.

Don’t forget customer insights, either—understanding the roadblocks to their satisfaction can prove just as crucial in ensuring that your transformations yield the desired results. In fact, the key to success, Tabrizi argues, “… is the combination of bringing customers’ insights from the outside-in and aligning them with your employees’ engagement from the inside-out.”

With digital transformations in particular, business owners must also be mindful of how employees—and even customers—can fear automation and other technologies. With some experts claiming that AI will replace up to 40% of jobs in the next 15 years, many are understandably wary of getting replaced by technology.

Getting employees to author the change from the inside-out not only leads to more successful transformation, but will also reveal any anxieties about tech adoption, which allows you to help them recognize how the changes will support their unique role—not replace it.

Implementing digital transformation within your company isn’t always easy.

Startup leaders who want to change successfully, must understand that there’s more to a transition than just the technology itself.

By better understanding your company’s operations and unique set of challenges, you can succeed in the transformation of your company—and elevate your employees’ value to your organization.

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