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Asena Atilla Saunders
Asena Atilla Saunders 5 July 2021

A 10 Step Guide for Holistic Growth Transformation

‘Transformation’ has almost lost its true meaning due to frequent misuse in the business world. It’s often used for any form of change, however minor or routine, even for quick fixes. But true transformation is the transformation for growth, which requires full commitment and the ability to radically change through all-around improvements in the business model, pricing mechanism, culture, capabilities, and performance.

In an era of relentless change, staying still is not an option. Businesses have learned this the hard way since the beginning of Covid-19, and it’s now clear that to thrive in the new normal, they need to embrace growth transformation.

Here are some important strategies for increasing the odds of a successful transformation:

1. Start with the Leaders

Whether it’s the CEO of an enterprise or the founder of an SME, any major organisational change has to begin with senior management. This is clearly because of the senior management’s knowledge of the company’s full potential be it about the finances or the employee skill sets, and their ability to set a new vision and change the mindset across the board. 

2. Show True Ownership

But of course, it doesn’t stop there. For a growth transformation to be sustainable, the leadership team should roll up their sleeves and play a proactive role in the transformation. To achieve this, they need to:

  • Set the vision, principles, and expectations 
  • Show true ownership and role-model the vision throughout every process
  • Build a new mindset and culture across the business.

3. Involve Everyone in the Transformation

That goes to point number two: communicating the vision, principles, and expectations. 

The rationale for the change and what needs to be done might be very clear for the leaders. However, without the buy-in from the rest of the organisation, we can’t talk about a sustainable growth strategy. Transformation should be scalable and involve the whole organisation.

Leaders can achieve this in many ways, such as inspiring people from the start and communicating clearly how the rigid processes will change, how value will be created, what type of mindset will be adopted, and what everyone’s role in this whole transformation process is.

This is essential for employees to take ownership of their role in the transformation. This will, in turn,  pave the way for better ideas, more efficient approaches, overall upskilling, and a cultural shift across the company.

6 Step Guide for Holistic Growth Transformation

4. Set Clear and Measurable Targets & KPIs

When everybody is on board, a clear roadmap including the targets, KPIs, and key milestones should be determined for each source of value creation. And of course, these KPIs should be monitored periodically—more often at the beginning of the process.

In order to simplify the process, it is better to build a cascade-down structure starting from the main objectives, which metrics to monitor, and when to analyse the performance and the values created, backed up by well-grounded data.

Additionally, we witness that setting tens of objectives with the same priority might be complicated and hard to track, especially at the initial stages. So try to focus on the most important goals at first, and always prioritise goals according to your roadmap.

After covering the basics, let’s look at some growth transformation strategies:

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Self-Cannibalising Your Business

Or someone else will”, as Steve Jobs famously said. 

This probably sounds quite aggressive but when we look at the companies leading true transformations such as Netflix (becoming a media giant from distributing DVDs), Adobe, and Alibaba, we can see that they left their traditional business models, let alone processes.

Even if your organisation is not yet ready to go that far at once, you can shuffle the cards in smaller ways— or through some stages as listed below. 

  • One of them is finding new growth opportunities, without killing your main business (at first). A growth-focused organisation should think beyond increasing sales of existing products. For instance, a bank can prioritise a fin-tech initiative rather than investing in increasing the sales of their cash cow services. This way, growth can be still funded with the current services and potentially have the power of cannibalizing the core businesses when successful enough.
  • Taking a look at your core business from an outsider's perspective is also a successful method when identifying growth opportunities. Imagine starting from a blank canvas in building your business. Is your core business innovative enough to meet future demands and dynamics? Is it a resilient company ready for different worst-case scenarios? You can even simulate an attack of a disruptor and generate growth options to overcome these scenarios when you face them. 

If you feel you are biased or have a narrow perspective about your business, it is possible to hire advisors or a CTO for honest analysis and a professional point of view.

  • Another way you can try is to set up new business units that compete with your current ones. Again, this way, you won’t have to kill your business right away.

This mindset is pivotal for company growth. You might be a pioneer in your industry (for now) like the Singer Corporation — the pioneer of many innovations from technology to marketing; but if you can’t be one step ahead of disruptors and don’t make fundamental changes to your business, we can’t talk about sustainable growth.

Singer in 1800s and Now 

6. Build and Leverage Ecosystems

Innovation in an area you are not familiar with is surely challenging and costly. That’s why building strategic partnerships and orchestrating an ecosystem where mutual benefits can be created is a great way to be exposed to and seize the emerging opportunities.

Growth is a continuous process with constant work on innovative ideas. So an ecosystem will help you to share these challenges with your strategic partners as well as utilise their unique value, key assets, and extensive knowledge of different processes/businesses. 

7. Embrace Dissatisfaction

Everyone loves to focus on customers who are happy with their products/services or the way they run their business. But many insights can be gained from the people who don’t use your services or are not satisfied with them. 

What is the motive for these customers? Why are they not satisfied? This is a great way for understanding your company’s weaknesses, discovering untapped opportunities for growth, and it helps you to be alert to possible threats. 

This can be taken one step further by finding rare opportunities and meeting customer needs they are not even aware of. For instance, a hotel is fundamentally concerned with solving accommodation needs. However, rather than just renovating the interior of the hotel, customer satisfaction can be increased by going green or more digital; or the services can be extended with travel packages, restaurants or tours, etc.

8. Infuse Purpose into your Organisation

As mentioned earlier, growth transformation requires commitment, ownership, and engagement at every level. And achieving this goal is only possible by inspiring people. 

In addition to making the business better with regards to maximizing shareholder value; adding a different level of purpose in environmental, social and governance matters will engage employees. When a growth transformation is supported with such purposes, employees will have more ownership in the transformation, have less resistance to change, and will be more likely to embrace any disruption or uncertainty.

9. Get in the Mindset of Continuous Improvement 

Being in survival mode is simply not sustainable. Whether it is a government regulation change, a global pandemic, or the threat of automation; uncertainty and disruptions will be in businesses' lives, so staying put can be the riskiest move.

That’s why taking holistic growth transformation as an ongoing strategy rather than going for quick fixes or interim solutions is the key to sustainable growth. Transformation is a never-ending process and it should be taken as a fundamental change in a business—not as a project.

Once growth initiatives are implemented, the growth mindset should continue throughout the organisation by ensuring leadership continuity. It is crucial for leaders to implement transformation capabilities by promoting agile ways of working and improving the organisation’s response to change, or in other words, building the transformation muscle.

10. There is no Better Time than Now

An effective growth transformation’s value comes from fundamental growth strategies—not cost-cutting. We can only talk about sustainability if businesses take a holistic approach to transformation. 

As a Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”. It is a big commitment that will take your organisation to the next level, but there will never be a better time to start creating a new future and to leverage a growth-driven mission. 

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