Five steps to change

Organisational transformation is a journey, not a destination.

Johannesburg, 26 Feb 2020
Read time 4min 30sec
Francois du Plooy, CEO, Ovations Group
Francois du Plooy, CEO, Ovations Group

Francois du Plooy, CEO of the Ovations Group, says companies need to be constantly evolving in order to survive in an increasingly competitive market. This includes physical restructuring as well as changing processes and procedures – and perhaps even the direction of the business.

Du Plooy says: "It's important not to transform just for the sake of transforming. You need to continuously evaluate whether you are still on the right track – and transforming at the right pace. Keep your finger on the pulse to make sure you are going in the right direction. Your organisation is transforming, whether you like it or not, so best you drive it."

However, transforming companies can experience a phenomenon called change fatigue, and Du Plooy warns organisations against falling victim to it. He offers the following advice: “Make sure you remain relevant in terms of your value proposition and organisational culture. Be aware of paradigm shifts by becoming more agile as the organisation changes for the better. The people who will thrive are those who will adapt and adopt, as there can be elements of chaos throughout your transformational journey – the key is to continuously live and learn along the way.”

Organisational transformation needs buy-in from the entire business. Every single person in the organisation has a role to play in driving and managing transformation, bringing their own expertise and skills to the fore.

“While the executive team will need to set the direction and strategy, as well as be involved in the final decision-making, people and technology drive the change,” clarifies Du Plooy. “Technology changes paradigms, as insights from data change and drive strategy. As the company grows, the value proposition changes with specific industry demands. Economic changes in the environment also drive transformation, both strategically and tactically.”

“Your focus should be on people, technology and how this drives transformation. Technological changes and their global impact need to be acknowledged – such as social media allowing instantaneous communication regardless of location. Consider the coronavirus outbreak as an example; the world became aware of it almost immediately owing to social media. The pace at which conversations happen differs greatly from before the advent of social media.”

He goes on to highlight five lessons learnt from his own company’s transformational journey:

  • Adapt or get left behind.
  • Flexibility is key.
  • Change old paradigms.
  • Long-term thinking.
  • Proactively seek changes in the workplace.

Du Plooy says in order to move the business from where it is to where it needs to be, the main thing is to “stop starting and start finishing”. He goes on to explain what he means by this. “You need to know where you want to be. Don’t get stuck trying to change small things, work towards the bigger picture. Go on a journey and continuously strive to be better. Take small steps but be agile enough to change when required. Understand that things may go wrong but continue to persevere.”

When embarking on organisational transformation, change management is important to ensure that you take your people on the journey with you. The success of any change within the business is driven by people within the business. “You need to keep an eye on the end goal and see whether you’re on the right track so that you can finish what you started and see your strategy through.”

Asked whether it’s preferable to drive change or to let events in the marketplace drive change, he replies that a mix of a proactive and reactive strategy is best. “It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Being proactive is important, but you need to remain agile enough to respond to events around you.

He offers some fundamental advice for companies wishing to transform. “Just be aware that there’s no one definitive blueprint on how to transform your business, each company’s journey is unique.” On that point, he highlights that in South Africa, companies also must be cognisant of the fact that their workforce comprises people from different generations, backgrounds and cultures, all of whom must be invited to bring their own unique perspective on the transformation journey.

He closes off by offering his top five pieces of advice for companies embarking on a transformation journey:

  1. Evaluate whether change is feasible and value adding for the business.
  2. Set timelines and processes in place to execute and measure change.
  3. Don’t forget the people in the organisation – take the people on the journey with you.
  4. Patience – allow those changes enough time to add value before embarking on an additional change. If you are not patient enough, making changes upon changes could be more harmful to the business in the long run.
  5. And, finally, persevere and constantly evaluate whether you’re on the right track.