The definition of transformation, according to Merriam-Webster, is a thorough or dramatic change in form; a metamorphosis. What science has taught us is that when a caterpillar goes through metamorphosis to become a butterfly, it must completely disintegrate first, then re-forms into the new creature. While transformation is not quite that dramatic for most organizations, it is still a thorough and dramatic change. Change of this magnitude requires thoughtful leadership. It requires a solid understanding of how the organization works today, as well as how it desires to work in the future. And, because these are often 3+ year journeys, it requires empathy, strategy, influence, and a dose of patience.
Organizations that wish to become truly nimble, lean, and sustainably innovative in our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) are committing to this level of transformation across multiple industries and verticals.
But, who is best to lead these efforts? Which function can lead through this level of change?
Our hypothesis: a well-developed Insights function is best suited to rise to the occasion and lead through transformation. Effective transformation starts and ends with PEOPLE; it requires the use of DATA to measure effectiveness and progress. Across both people and data, we must recognize PATTERNS of behavior, mindsets, and output to continually iterate and refine our approach. Putting these all together into a compelling STORY inspires vision and perseverance to move ultimately into new modes of DECISION MAKING that shifts from knowledge-based decisions to learning based decisions, and marks real transformation.
Insights leaders understand and operate in, better than any other functional leaders, these five key ‘ingredients’ to effective transformation.
- People. Insights, is, at its core, about people. What makes them buy or shop our products or services, certainly. But, turning the sights of people understanding inward to the people within the organization unlocks the ability to enable change. What motivates, rewards, stalls or shuts down; what fires up the people in your organization? How is this different across the organization, and how should we think about that relative to the change we desire to enable? Insights professionals use the same skills they use to understand customers, to deeply understand the people within the organization and therefore are well equipped to lead through change.
- Data. In the world of insights, data is the representation of behavior or beliefs numerically. Insights professionals understand how to collect as well as decipher data of all kinds. They know when there are truly significant differences between data sets; they can recognize bias in data collection. Their mastery of data and how to use it to help others understand truth is a strong component in the journey to measure meaningful change; to monitor the impact of change; and to diagnose progress or problems along the way.
- Patterns. People understanding or single-source data, in and of itself can be incredibly insightful. However, patterns that emerge across people groups and data sets reveal a deeper understanding and signal more holistic understanding. Insights professionals are highly skilled at recognizing these patterns across various sources that can help an organization understand and navigate through change. Most transformation efforts seem to move in stages as the processes, mindsets, and systems that support transformation are implemented and take hold. The ability to recognize patterns in adoption and application is a key diagnostic and a key enabler to transformational change.
- Story. People, data, and patterns woven together into compelling stories enable individuals and organizations to see themselves and their future during transformation. Insights leaders instinctively understand the power of story to influence, motivate, excite, frighten, or inspire others. Story is critical to transformation. It keeps folks motivated through difficult and sometimes scary change.
- Decision Making. Ultimately, transformed organizations make decisions very differently. Primarily, they’ve learned that they will always be learning, so they make decisions to keep learning vs one-and-done knowledge-based decisions. And this is where the Insights function can truly shine. In most organizations, insights exists to enable great decisions from the business. Among others decisions that inspire and ensure relevance to customers, equip organizations to be able to supply products and services commensurate with predicted demand. As such, a great insights leader understands, within an organization, how decisions get made today; They have a sensitivity to changes in how decisions get made. They know the right combinations of people and data and patterns to weave into the stories that facilitate decisions. This understanding is critical in leading transformational change.
Now, it’s not to say that other functional leaders don’t also possess some of these same skills and competencies. But, where we’ve seen them integrate together most holistically has been within well-developed Insights functions. And, when transformation is led, people first, we believe it’s much more likely to be sustainably successful.
What have you seen work well or not so well in leading through transformation? Let’s connect and share stories and see what we can learn from each other. When you are ready to step up to the plate, The Garage Group will come alongside you to equip and encourage you and your team, help you engage with the business in a new way, and deliver the impact your organization needs.
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