Every day at HighPoint, we help our clients recognise the need to create agility within their businesses; agility that enables them to adapt to disruptions in their industries and take advantage of the opportunities that these disruptions present. Often, creating this agility involves helping them manage and drive complex change programmes in their most critical environments. If you’re a fan of Dr John Kotter, you’ll be aware that making change happen within an organisation doesn’t occur by accident. Rather, it starts with creating a climate and urgency for change, moves into a phase of engaging and enabling your organisation before finally implementing and sustaining the change to make it stick.
Although almost a quarter of a century old, I see Kotter’s thinking being as relevant today as it was when he first unveiled it. The COVID-19 pandemic has initiated a wave of change and economic uncertainty the likes of which haven’t been seen in the modern era. This means that now, more than ever, businesses who want to survive and grow need to quickly adapt to changing circumstances and build for the future by successfully executing the changes that create agility within their organisations fully and with bravery.
Like our clients, HighPoint isn’t immune to the impacts of COVID. Likewise, the business and technology trends that affect our customers affect us too. Just as we advise our customers that they must create agility within their organisation to be able to navigate these, we too must embrace the necessary culture changes to make sure that we keep delivering with agility and impact. Call it walking the talk or drinking our own champagne if you like, what’s clear is that HighPoint must be successful in driving our own transformation to build the agility required to continuously adapt to the needs of our customers and help them do the same.
We’ve come a long, long way together…
HighPoint’s transformation started way before the beginning of the pandemic. The last three years of sustained growth have come off the back of a strategy that’s been deliberate, purposeful and planned. And just like Kotter’s 8-step process, we started by agreeing and communicating our vision for change in order to engage and empower our team. Where transformation so often falls down is when an organisation misses this critical first step and fails to outline the colleague journey properly to those who are not only affected by the changes, but who are critical to the success of implementing them. However you choose to communicate it, people need to know, “Where are we now?”, “Where do we want to get to (by when)?” and “How will we get there?” Get this right and you can kick things off with the right culture to succeed.
It’s in this area in particular that the inputs of Tom Coulbeck, our Global Programme Director, have been invaluable to our strategy group. Tom’s approach to servant leadership, outlined in his recent blog, has allowed us to identify ways of truly taking the organisation with us through the transformation. This has created an approach to teaming that allows each person to contribute to our growth responsibly and not burn out whilst maintaining an outward mindset toward their career development. Getting this colleague journey right early on is essential if you want to empower the team to deliver the changes you are looking for and to build people agility successfully into the fabric of the organisation.
Creating the right climate for change has meant showing the team that the growth we’re aiming for is not just about scaling revenue. It’s also about personal growth. Our intent for corporate growth at HighPoint is to enable more great people to join the company and pursue success and career satisfaction, whatever that means to them personally. Employee fulfilment, empowerment and responsible autonomy come before profitability for us and we won’t abandon those principles even as we grow, despite the pressures that scaling a business such as HighPoint inevitably brings. We commit to this because we know that when we get this right, the agility and resilience of the organisation is strong, and we can achieve solid growth even in adverse conditions such as the ones facing us all at the moment. By putting front-line staff at the heart of the process, the transformation becomes their journey and never something that’s being done ‘to’ them. With this engagement and enablement in place, the team plays an important part in shaping ideas, achieving quick wins and grasping opportunities to take action.
Of course, not everyone is ready to embrace change at the same speed. To quote another renowned thinker in the area of human response to change, Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there is a ‘Change Curve’ which people progress around at different speeds. People have different reactions to change. Some people fear it. Others are excited by it. Few people face it without doubt and most importantly, all reactions are valid. Our focus is to help our team embrace the need for change and create an urgency around marching towards it together as a team and getting to the stages of acceptance and commitment as soon as possible.
Part of change is letting go…
Another feature of successful transformations is knowing which of the core tenets of your culture and the way you do things should be protected and which you should let go of, or at least evolve, in order to progress positively. One typical pain point associated with growth is the realisation that tribal knowledge and a willingness to swing into action to “get the job done” can sometime mask operational problems and inefficiencies. Successful scaling cannot rely upon reactive responsiveness, no matter how willing your star performers are to make diving catches. Of course, the flip side to this particular coin is that many organisations become overly bureaucratic as they scale in their eagerness to implement processes and controls, often at the expense of empowered accountability amongst the front-line team that are actually delivering the growth being sought.
Here again, agility has to be our watchword as we walk the tightrope of retaining the inherent qualities of our culture with the need to introduce appropriate repeatable processes and maintain good corporate practice. HighPoint’s approach to this problem is to focus on the needs of our front-line resources and introduce processes and tools that support simplicity and free them up to spend more time with our customers.
As our UK Sales Director Rhys Ellis-Jones wrote in his recent blog, it’s been extremely important to demonstrate the V (Value) in VAR to our customers throughout this era of change. The objective here is not just about running harder and delivering faster; it’s about truly understanding the outcomes our customers need and embracing the front-line resources within our team to deliver them. Part of this process is about identifying ways to responsibly scale our people and maximise their client-facing time; it’s this sort of productivity gain that all of our clients are looking for right now so that they can benefit from the availability of our expert team.
How do we achieve this? Well, there are many critical success factors, but one key ingredient is the combination of a common, extensible business platform that doesn’t bind the organisation and the intelligent use of automation within our business processes. Both of these should feature strongly in any transformation and, as you would expect, they do in ours. In line with a key principle of Agile Enterprise, the transformation also forms part of our growth strategy too. As we continue to build our own agility, we are developing skills and experience beyond the infrastructure layer that we can bring to our clients for their benefit as we continue to help them undertake their own transformations towards being an Agile Enterprise.
The further we journey through our transformation at HighPoint, the more I remain convinced that an ability and appetite to change is one of the most fundamental capabilities that organisations must embrace to survive and thrive. I’m confident that HighPoint will remain at the forefront of change and agile transformation with our customers because of our ability to do this within our own organisation.
For more information about how HighPoint is tackling organisational change, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Graham Coates, Head of Strategy, HighPoint UK