This post is adapted from our Transformation report. To download and read the report in full – and the other reports in our Sustainable Success series – visit our blog and select ‘Reports’.

Achieving long-term success is increasingly challenging. With an uncertain economy, new competition, technological advances and climate change, leaders need to think differently.

They must seek to turn risks into opportunities, understand context, form collaborative partnerships and motivate customers, employees and suppliers to act. The mantra for all companies seeking long-term success is transformational change.

But how do companies transform? How do they respond to these external challenges – a growing population, changing expectations, more power to the consumer, new technologies?

And, because all change is imagined and delivered by people, how do you link organisational change and personal change?

We believe there are seven steps to sustainable success.


STEP ONE: IDENTIFY YOUR BURNING PLATFORM

Every company has a burning platform that gives them a reason to change. It may be short-term issues like increased competition, reduced profit-margin, the challenges of a merger or a sudden change in demand.

The burning platform process involves defining two futures. The first is your preferred future, the second is the probable future if you take no action to change.


STEP TWO: DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE

Transformation requires momentum. It is change towards something. That something is your purpose. The Japanese have a word for it – Ikigai. Ikigai means ‘reason for being’ or ‘reason for waking up in the morning’. Your purpose is why you exist.

To pin down your direction of travel, differentiate between your purpose (why you’re in business); your vision (what you want to achieve); and your mission (what you do). It can help to create a compelling narrative to bind context to strategy and strategy to action.


STEP THREE: CREATE YOUR DECISION-MAKING FRAMEWORK

Share your beliefs. All decisions are based on the beliefs of the key decision-making executives. But are these beliefs articulated? If they are not, employees will make assumptions about these beliefs based on what executives say and do and on what happens in their workplaces every day.

Once your beliefs are clear, you also need to make it easy for employees to act by creating simple decision-making or behaviour frameworks that can help employees take decisions each day that contribute to the company’s direction.


STEP FOUR: IDENTIFY YOUR TRANSFORMATIONAL PRIORITIES

In the short to medium-term, ambitions and goals can be translated into a small number of key transformational priorities to help tackle the right things at the right time and earn the confidence of stakeholders.

We have identified 10 common strategies to draw on to help identify your transformational priorities.


STEP FIVE: TRANSFORM STRATEGY INTO ACTION

All change is about action. It’s about what people do. There is always a clear link between the impacts we seek and the actions we take. That is why we need to be clear who we want to act and what we want them to do. This requires a deep understanding of people.

Knowledge based on scientific insight, neuroscience, psychology and behavioural change suggests an emerging model of how we work. We call it the ‘Human Operating System’. Understanding how we work can significantly speed up change. For more information, see our Human report.


STEP SIX: ENGAGE EMPLOYEES, THEIR TEAMS AND THEIR NETWORKS

All transformation begins by engaging employees. To engage them we must understand their needs, and their perspectives on the world of work. There are different levers that can be used. People are motivated by personal and social benefits and tapping into both streams can accelerate employee engagement and action.

The behaviour change process is also often one of exchange. There are a number of ‘currencies’ that can help persuade employees to act and enable transformation.


STEP SEVEN: BRING YOUR CHARACTER TO LIFE

The character of a person is their distinctive nature. It is what makes a thing true to itself. It is about strength, originality, behaviour and reputation. The idea of character is a key part of transformational change and it is what makes an organisation distinct from competitors.

It provides continuity between an organisation’s past and its future. And it provides alignment between an organisation’s goals and its actions.

We believe there are 12 key elements of character. They include an organisation’s origins, leadership, brand, ownership, beliefs, products, services and approach to customer service.


Summary

In conclusion, companies that achieve successful transformational change do a few things well. More than anything, they link people to progress. The journey of the company and of the individual are a single integrated system. To find out more, see our Transformation report.