Looking back at 2020, it is clear that we witnessed transformation and change at an unprecedented speed and scale. With the onset of Covid-19, organisations moved into crisis-management mode, constructing solutions for the immediate ongoing challenges they faced. It was a matter of survival! However, they soon realised that there was a need for more permanent, long-term and sustainable solutions. Select businesses were prepared to embrace this phase of accelerated change and adapted nearly seamlessly. However, many others struggled to cope.
Covid-19 may have stimulated unintended transformation within several parts of the ecosystem; however, in doing so, it magnified the urgent need for ‘intended’ transformation on a much wider scale. Transformation being a multifaceted concept, a good starting point for leaders is to first define what success will look like for their wider group of stakeholders and then begin the journey towards redesign and reinvention.
This, however, does not imply a superficial makeover. Nor does it imply transforming only one aspect of the business. Rather, it brings to the fore the need for outcome-driven transformation. It means making choices and taking action that creates value, both now and well into the future, with the objective of attracting the right talent, capital and customers and creating a compelling brand.
If we look back at the last decade, the organisations that are ahead of the game are those that have demonstrated agility and woven stakeholder expectations into the fabric of their operations. Consumer brands that realised the value of digitisation in driving omnichannel sales, consumer retail companies that leveraged data and analytics to create a differentiated customer experience, food service companies that made the shift to biodegradable packaging, traditional financial institutions that leveraged cloud to improve operational efficiencies, energy conglomerates that were cognisant of the growing need to transition to clean and renewable sources, and manufacturing houses that built robust and ethical supply chains: These are the organisations that were quick to identify and seize the opportunities beneath the surface of disruption.
In my view, an organisation’s path to driving outcome-focused transformation is defined by 4 Cs.
Continuity: Before organisations chart their aspirational growth journeys, building resilience to ensure continuity of day-to-day operations is critical. Organisations of the future need to have in place contingency plans that take into account near-term disruptions and prepare them for new and differentiated risks. These risks could be geopolitical, tech-led, regulatory and even humanitarian. In this disrupted landscape, for organisations to truly become resilient, they need to make responsible decisions and take purposeful steps while balancing the expectations of all stakeholders.
Challenge: While continuity is vital, organisations and leaders need to reinforce their efforts at ensuring uninterrupted operations through a critical re-evaluation of traditional structures that may no longer be suitable to their long-term aspirations. This includes reviewing and optimising costs as well as establishing proactive risk management capabilities.
Change: A big part of the transformation journey is reimagining decision making—streamlining data and leveraging predictive modelling to make more informed choices. In parallel, organisations need to focus on ironing out any creases and improving internal efficiencies. Unlocking people potential is another key aspect—leaders need to realign talent strategies and focus on upskilling and tech enablement to effectively combine the best of human intellect with tech-powered solutions and tools.
Creating value:The pressure to deliver meaningful and value-driven outcomes is as high as it is complex. Businesses will need to engage with the right partners to enable and accelerate their refreshed strategies. They also need to be cognisant of the dynamic nature of the environment in which they operate. Infrastructure and capabilities are foundational elements in any growth strategy—creating a need for businesses to evaluate the right value propositions, including acquisitions and alliances, to scale their operations.
Apart from transforming the way they operate, businesses are also transforming the way they think and act. Organisations have realised the benefits of conscious action. They are proactively taking steps to modify their approach in ways that prove to be mutually beneficial for them and their stakeholders. They are working towards creating shared value to drive long-term sustainable success.
Organisations that integrate this ‘4C approach’ into their strategies will be able to deliver consistent outcomes, which in turn strengthens relationships and builds trust right across the value chain—with shareholders, employees, capital markets, vendors, regulators and the wider stakeholder community.
Societal needs and changing market dynamics are continuously fuelling business opportunities, transforming the way organisations not only drive performance but also deliver results. Gaining the trust of stakeholders and delivering sustained outcomes—which are essentially two sides of the same coin—will become a common and indispensable currency for building smarter and stronger businesses of the future.
The author is Chairman of PwC India.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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