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October 21, 2019

Defining Effective Business Transformation

"Over my 24-year career with Accenture, I’ve been involved in many projects... The most significant hurdle any change-related initiative must overcome is created by people."

By Anjanette Damman

The word transformation carries with it a great deal of baggage. For some, it makes the statement that what we have now or, worse, who we are now, isn’t good enough and therefore must be changed. For others, it seems like an insurmountable problem. When companies get it done, it can seem like magic.

Maybe there’s a reason for that. Transformation hearkens back to a time when powerful alchemists were employed by wealthy patrons with instructions to transform lead into gold. In time, the whole topic took on a mystical hue.

Alchemy began as a branch of natural philosophy and was an early scientific tradition. History tells us that early alchemists never considered their work to be magical or mystical. Instead, it was a focused exploration of the world around them, with the goal of understanding how the world worked. Traces of many of their approaches can still be found in modern scientific methods used to achieve the same goal.

Today technologists have taken on the role of the alchemist, striving to bring dramatic change to organizations that are held back by culture, old processes and outdated systems.

In many ways, this task is not that different from turning lead into gold, and seemingly just as difficult, despite the emergence of shiny new technologies. Despite the promises, these new tools can no more turn old processes into greater profitability than an alchemist could turn lead into gold.

In this article, I will share what makes transformation challenging and why I am proud to be making it happen for Mortgage Cadence.

Defining corporate transformation

Corporate transformation focuses on driving positive change for a company and its people, ultimately leading to better business performance. This goes well beyond tweaking a process or even adding new technology. It’s about big change. Technology can pave the way for transformation, but true transformation can only occur when there’s a vision for the people and culture as well as the supporting processes.

Big change isn’t limited to any one factor in the high performance equation. It impacts all three: people/culture, process and technology. Transformation initiatives will have a profound impact on:

The way we work with our employees and develop company culture

Change comes from the top and is about motivating and inspiring our people to take a new and different perspective to old problems. It is about bringing our people together to create change internally and driving that change externally to our customers.

The way we work with our customers

It all starts and ends with the customer, in our case the mortgage lender. We serve our customers by empowering them to serve their own customers, the mortgage borrowers. Lenders want to serve more borrowers at a lower cost and deliver an excellent customer experience. What needs to change?

The way we leverage technology

Many suppliers assume that transformation starts and ends with technology.  That is not the case. Most functions within any modern business organization rely upon good technology, however, our annual benchmarking study proves that high performance goes beyond technology alone. How do we use technology to operate more efficiently and with lower costs?

The way we execute on our mission statement  

This one’s critically important. Once we have a renewed culture, empowered people, and the right processes and technologies in place, how do we move forward and execute on our mission statement: “To be the last lending solution our clients ever need through our commitment to service, partnership and technology”?

Transformation happens when all three elements (culture/people, process, and technology) evolve to reflect the lender’s strategy, thereby empowering the organization to fulfill its mission.

What really sets the work we do today apart from that done by alchemists of old is that we’re not trying to change something in the “material” itself -- in our case, the mortgage loan asset our clients create. Rather, we are bringing change to the lender’s entire origination business along all three axes, increasing our clients’ efficiency and profitability in the process.

Preparing your team for transformation

Over my 24-year career with Accenture, I’ve been involved in many projects that were launched to affect this kind of major organizational transformation. The most significant hurdle any change-related initiative must overcome is created by people.

For transformation to work, team members should be inspired and motivated by a vision and given the authority to make decisions that align with the company strategy. Just as important, our teams need to know why the vision and strategy are so important so they feel empowered to drive the vision forward.  Fears can be countered in two ways. First by incorporating a diverse group into the decision-making process; this includes all perspectives, even those that may not be 100% aligned. The second is by sharing how the company culture will change, and expanding upon the positive impact each employee will feel as the company advances on the journey.

This often comes down to a leader’s ability to motivate the team and drive cultural change – this is where many analytical managers have trouble.

We’ve all heard Peter Drucker’s famous adage that says, “What gets measured gets managed.” Measuring employee motivation and engagement is a bit of a gas cloud. It’s hard to reduce it to a metric on a spreadsheet, so some managers treat it less seriously than measurable metrics. I disagree.

Your people are the organization’s instruments of change. Over the course of my career, I have seen initiatives both succeed and fail. A number of those that failed included delayed schedules and increased costs, often underpinned by a team that did not see the vision and the path to get there OR a company culture that limits employee authority. You simply cannot underestimate the importance of a motivated and engaged team in achieving change-related initiatives.

Real transformation doesn’t just start at the top of the organization. It requires buy-in from the top, but it must also come from the bottom-up, so it includes everyone working within the company. That’s the only way to make sure things change.

Transformation is all about change, which is why it takes great leadership to make it happen. After all, "The work of leadership is getting people comfortable with being uncomfortable."

The result of great leadership? Transformation.