8 Questions to Ask to Encourage Business Transformation


8 Questions to Ask to Encourage Business Transformation

Have you ever noticed how some companies seem to naturally grow and adapt and even innovate, while others seem to keep doing what they have always done? Which one are you? What makes the difference?

In watching companies over the last years, I think much of it goes to the attitude and action of leadership. I have observed these three leadership must-haves that bolster the growth of an organization:

  • Leadership must live out positivity toward change. We can’t be the ones throwing up our hands in frustration over change or promoting how good it used to be before. We must embrace the new, promote it, and encourage adoption.
  • Learning must be in the DNA of our organization. We must carve out time for people to learn, initiate learning plans, and celebrate those who move to the next level. Learning is stretching before the game. It is what prepares us for the race of doing that next great thing.
  • Time must be reserved and guarded for innovation. Many of us are moving at a ridiculous pace, so this is a real discipline. As leaders, we must help our teams carve out the time to implement that new solution, try, fail, try again, and finally succeed. It is far too easy to do it as we always have, the way we know, but going to the next level requires reserved time to work through the steps of innovation.

Sometimes it seems that those of us who have been in a business for many years have a harder time adopting some form of business transformation than others. Think about a couple of the big disruptors.

Uber’s Travis Kalanick did not come from the Taxi industry but worked in file sharing and content delivery before Uber. The vacation rental company, VRBO, was founded by David Clouse, who was just a guy trying to rent out his ski retreat. Our challenge as leaders who have been in the business for so long, is to step outside the four walls just long enough to think differently and see the big picture.

A big part of innovating in businesses is about managing technology well. This involves hardware, software, process, and people. One way to take a harder look at where we are now is to step aside from the day-to-day and make time to answer  some tough questions.

Consider these 8 Questions to Encourage Business Transformation:

  1. Are we moving fast enough? I don’t know about you, but my answer is almost always “no”. I’ve incorporated another question into this line of thought. When we are discussing something new, and there are many concerns, I ask, “What is the cost of trying it?” If the barriers are low, solicit team members for their willingness to give it a trial run.
  2. Are we proactive or reactive? Go beyond the surface. Ask, “What can we do to anticipate the next step?” and “What is the next step after that?”. If you are looking at IT, dig even deeper. Many IT departments say they are proactive but are not at all. It is valuable to examine exactly how. What is the ratio of time spent reacting to time spent preventing? What systems and processes make you proactive?
  3. What is our distraction level? The primary distractors used to be phones, email, and people stopping for a conversation. Now many of us have Teams, Slack, and a plethora of social media inboxes. These are huge personal time killers, but what does it do to our team? What can we do as a company to help cut distractions for everyone? Do we really need to instant message everything and interrupt everyone? Can it wait for a scheduled check-in meeting?
  4. How well do our systems talk? Whether this is manual business processes or automated software-based ones, how is the handoff between systems? How much rework happens from one function to the next? What is lost as things go through the process? Where are the silos? As an order makes its way from sales to delivery, just how much paper and how many messages via email, Slack, or Teams go back and forth. What does it take to maintain continuity through the process? How can we make it more efficient? What do we lose track of that unknowingly annoys our customers or produces rework?
  5. Are we using the right solutions? The path of least resistance is to keep using the same ERP software, the same CRM, the same HR management, the same solution that you used 20 years ago. The barrier to change is expense, time, and resistance to change. Often an old solution can be a serious roadblock, and we don’t even recognize it. It is far easier to keep doing what we know and are comfortable with. Challenge even the hard stuff. Get rid of the relics, even those disguised as a current solution. Sometimes the newer software is just more agile. One consultant I have worked with suggests challenging your core software solutions at least once every 3 years, and I’ve grown to see the value. Even if you don’t make a change, it raises awareness of exactly what you have and what is available.
  6. Is our technology budget appropriate? Judging appropriateness is sometimes tricky. Two areas often are out of alignment in the overspend category. One is money spent propping up an old solution because of a perceived roadblock to change or because it is just easier to keep doing the status quo. The other is spending too much on one category of IT, resulting in starving another. Generally, it is difficult for a one to two-person IT department to have the right perspective on expenditures and best practices. Gaining external leadership here can be critical. Often, companies do not spend enough on transformational initiatives that reduce and streamline manual work processes in production or the knowledge-work of the office. A business process audit can help uncover areas ripe for transformation.
  7. Is there an opportunity to use AI? This may seem rather sensational, but AI is a transformational technology, and every business should at least ask the question. AI can identify key information on documents, read emails, create or perform data analysis, identify production slowdowns, and much more. New solutions often have an AI component. Asking the question may edge you toward a deeper discovery in your business.
  8. Are we taking the appropriate cybersecurity measures? The cybersecurity landscape is changing dramatically, which means your risk today is higher than it was a year ago. Innovating with new IT security measures protects your ability to continue to innovate and grow operations. If you don’t know what you should be doing, contact an external resource like CTaccess for guidance.

Nobel prize winner and biochemist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said, “Innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Sometimes it takes some hard questions to help us think just a little differently and move things out of the status quo. Maybe even the process and procedure we have created that is “safe” in our minds has to be set aside with a strong “what if” until we see the new paradigm. Transformational thinking does not come easy, so let’s challenge ourselves to think beyond the constraints of our current normal to see what could inspire next-level growth.