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Not Ready For Six Sigma? Try These 3 Steps First For Successful Business Transformation

Making the changes for a successful business transformation may be easier than you think.

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You have decided you want to transform your business to meet the demands of a digital marketplace and better respond to the rapidly changing needs of customers today. Before you dive in, consider a simple analogy.

Have you ever opened up the package of a seemingly “easy to assemble” new toy for your child, and think to yourself, “This seems pretty easy. I see the picture on the box and there aren’t too many pieces. I don’t need the instructions.” However, when you get halfway through it, you realize that while you’ve been putting things in the right places, you’ve done so out of sequence.

You have to disassemble the toy and start over, this time using the previously-abandoned instructions. It’s not that you aren’t knowledgeable, or that you don’t have the capacity to complete the task. You are simply going through a process that you’re unfamiliar with: transforming individual pieces into your child’s new favorite toy.

Business transformation is the same. You are doing something you’ve never done before: changing all the current parts of your business into something new. And, as with toy assembly, there are certain steps that have to come first. Here are three that are critical to every business transformation.

Step 1: Get Ready To Drive Cultural Change From The Top

For successful business transformation, a new company culture needs to be fostered – a culture where communication is key and innovation is applied at all levels. A culture where people learn to look at the big picture rather than at narrow departmental agendas.

Without executive leadership and the definition of project milestones, such a culture will never come into being. Cultural change has to come from the top down to prevent interdepartmental conflict. There has to be a universal acceptance that this is a big project. Clear goals for the business transformation will need to be established with all involved parties, with brainstorming and discussion sessions held as frequently as necessary.

Step 2: Think “Adaptability” and “Flexibility”

Business transformation is an evolving process that should be capable of adapting to future business goals – goals that will very often change due to internal or external influences, whether technology- or market-related. It is therefore best to implement a framework that is easily modified. You do not want to start from scratch to implement another business transformation exercise just because a key factor in the company or the marketplace shifts.

Some of the factors you should account for as you plan out business transformation are:

  • Economic instability. What if you encounter a lack of capital and cannot obtain more? What if the economy in general or your industry in particular takes a downturn?
  • New technologies. With emerging technologies including everything from new software to faster chipsets and cloud, you want to be flexible – not locked in to technological dead ends.
  • Service and pricing models. New ways to produce and consume products (utility or as-a-service), often involving a ‘pay-as-you-go’ subscription model, are always coming out. You want to be able to take advantage of them.
  • Customer interaction. Interaction between customers and businesses is big business and only going to get bigger, as demonstrated by the proliferation of Digital Transformation initiatives.

Step 3: Determine The Process That Will Get You From Here To There

It would be nice if you could wave a magic wand and transform your business. But that’s not reality. There are many phases and stages of transformation, so you need a process that will bring you from where you are to where you want to go. Some companies use Lean or Six Sigma to guide their business transformations. However, if you don’t have the capital or internal resources to go that route, you might try the Deming Cycle, created in the 1950s by Dr. W. Edwards, a quality control expert.

The Deming Cycle works on the principle of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). ‘Plan’ involves the creation of a process improvement plan, ‘Do’ executes that plan, ‘Check’ verifies results (adjusting the plan accordingly), and ‘Act’ integrates the process improvement plan into the existing system. The use of the Deming Cycle allows companies to manage an entire process framework, monitor it, and improve it as problems or shortcomings are identified. This is not unlike the methodology necessary for Six Sigma certification, but without the expense. It is also included in best practice frameworks, such as ITIL v.3.

Putting a toy together in the right sequence ensures your child’s happiness. Putting your business transformation together in the right sequence ensures your company’s success. It’s worth the time and resources to do it right.

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