There’s been an enormous shift in the way value is created by companies in the last 20 years. Now, it’s not just consumers who are demanding that businesses be available to them 24/7, operate with transparency and stand for something larger than their own profits – it’s that employees and shareholders are demanding that too. And in the tightest labor market in 50 years, designing the best organization and building a compelling culture is the only way to keep those stakeholders happy and achieve uncommon growth.
This kind of work—defining and distilling a compelling ambition for the future, then building the organization that will help it flourish—is especially daunting for legacy companies. We often ask executives what their business would look like if they were designing it today, and the answer is inevitably radically different.
Tellingly, most of these conversations begin because companies believe that they are falling behind technologically. And they are. It’s not only that they lack leading-edge digital capabilities, what’s also missing is a truly modern organization and culture. What is needed is a culture that is able to organize and create value from vast amounts of data, and that is intimately connected to its customers or consumers. A culture that works rapidly, collaboratively and iteratively. And a culture that embraces change and learns fast and collectively, proactively testing new products, services and business models in the market, and swiftly killing any that fail to find traction.
It’s a vastly different way of working from the majority of historically successful firms founded in the twentieth century, many of whom have business models concentrated in an aging generation of customers. They often have consistent but flat or even gradually declining revenues. But collectively, their instinct is to not take the back off of a ticking watch. And so, looking at an aspirational future of a more contemporary organization and culture, while currently saddled with obsolete functions and disconnected capabilities, it’s not surprising they often don’t know where to start.
Our jumping off point is an intense look at a company’s DNA. We work backward, starting from the strategic business goals, then examining exactly what is new in a company’s purpose and values, all the while constantly questioning what kind of transformation is required.
Once we know that, we can focus on an organization’s soul: What needs to change to help employees adopt – and even evangelize – the mindset and new ways of working that will make the transformational ambition achievable? What shared traits will enable them to forge a culture that thrives on continuous change? What symbols and rituals – physical and virtual – might increase engagement, belonging and offer positive signals and early learning for the transformation journey?
Next, we look at the company’s mind. What skills and capabilities do employees need to drive that transformation? We must consider how leadership development needs to evolve to actively pull the firm into the future. We have to design programs that build skills and help colleagues grow while actively doing the work that is moving towards the new ambition. What should also be identified are the critical skills that must be recruited externally to accelerate the transformation.
An important part of this effort drives towards crafting an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that is distinct. Why should people with the right skills and capabilities choose to work for this company versus its competitors, or even other firms who might be in more seemingly attractive industries, not searching to reinvent themselves?
And finally, we evaluate its body. What is it about the operating model itself that has to change for this transformation to become real? We redesign functions to create faster and more agile responses to the market. We rethink governance models, moving decision rights closer to the action and making it easier to do the right thing for colleagues, customers and partners. And we ensure incentives properly recognize the cross-functional work and agile decision making needed for success in the digital age.
When all four dimensions – DNA, Soul, Mind and Body – are aligned, they form a powerful growth engine. With leadership and employees clear about what to do and how to do it, people become more efficient, effective and engaged.
As we work with clients to co-create these changes, we are always sweating the numbers. Our solutions don’t just drive uncommon growth; they do so in ways that are real and measurable.
We strive to build cultures that deliver the compelling strategies, roadmaps and experiences that catalyze change and spark growth, creating both the workforce and workplace of the future.