What are the business transformation trends arising from the COVID-19 crisis?

by | 16 Aug 2020 | Business transformation

As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, there are likely to be factors that will change how we approach business transformation in the future according to Karen Thomas-Bland, founder at Seven, a business transformation consultancy based in London. In a world of unprecedented disruption and market turbulence, transformation revolves around the need to generate new value, to unlock new opportunities, to drive new growth and to deliver new efficiencies, but in doing this we need to be purposeful, bold, human and courageous in our approach.

The business transformation trends emerging include:

  • Being bolder and more courageous in the transformation ambition set. Incremental improvement is not enough to win in today’s exponentially disrupted business environment and the winners will be those who make bold moves.
  • An even tighter connection to value creation, lending from the private equity world. All transformations require a rethink on how the enterprise creates value and there is a greater need to see value on a shorter and more iterative timescale than ever before.
  • The disrupted working world we find ourselves in needs an even greater focus on leading with purpose and humanity, with EQ skills coming more strongly to the fore. There are higher degrees of uncertainty and transformations tend to increase uncertainty and anxiety further. It’s currently hard to get a read on culture as people are likely to be dispersed, often working remotely, requiring the need to keep a frequent pulse on what is happening.
  • People will likely look for even greater purpose and meaning. Linking the transformation journey to the organisational purpose will become an imperative in the communications of why we are embarking on the journey.
  • We will see a greater focus on putting human centricity at the heart of the transformation and creating a culture of psychological safety so there can be open dialogue, debate and time given to people to adjust, remembering it takes six weeks to make, or indeed break, a habit.
  • We are in or entering into a period of recession and potential depression.  We are already witnessing large cost cutting efforts and companies being forced to accelerate towards a digital transformation than they had planned.  Transformation efforts are likely to get greatest focus here.
  • Physical and mental health and wellness are rising even further up the corporate agenda. The loss of norms, uncertainty about the economy, lack of contact we all took for granted and the fact everyone is going through it at once has created a sense of mass grief. We need to ensure that any transformation programmes don’t create burn-out, but rather make health and wellness a key part of the design.
  • Delivering the transformation digitally using a platform to support delivering the changes needed. Whilst this is certainly not new, this will need to generate even greater connectivity between people.
  • Typically, in downturns organisations hire less and develop their existing people more. Ensuring transformations create learning and development opportunities for people will be important for retention and job satisfaction.
  • Stronger linkage between the transformation and the board agenda. Boards often haven’t been as engaged in transformations as needed and board members often haven’t been selected on transformational capabilities. The COVID-19 crisis has showed this. Moving forward, a stronger link between the transformation objectives and value creation need to be discussed, agreed and signed off by the board with continued engagement over the life of the transformation.
  • Build in resilience, sustainability and constant evolution to support long term value creation. We know that real value emerges over time.  Transformation solutions should support a quantifiable and analytical approach to capturing this value over the long term.

There is a greater imperative for transformation as organisations emerge from the crisis. These are subjects to give extra thought to in the transformation design that are not new but do need more emphasis in the new climate.

Based in London and with over 24 years’ global experience, Karen Thomas-Bland is often cited as one of the top business transformation consultants and coaches in the world. She is a trusted advisor to boards, executive teams and investors, creating sustainable, long-term value for FTSE/Fortune businesses and PE funds. She writes for many publications including The Times, FT, Association of MBAs and Management Today.