An agile business culture is a prerequisite for agile transformation

An agile business culture is a prerequisite for agile transformation

Digital transformation has been a megatrend for a number of years. Banks are being challenged to take charge of managing this change and thus propelling the business model “bank” into the future. More and more traditional banking services are moving online and are increasingly offered by other service providers as well.

Banks must respond to this change, transform themselves even more than before and become more digital. And all this while ensuring that customer satisfaction remains high, and even rises. For example, many customers expect to be able to seamlessly move between all available channels when conducting banking activities. Digital availability, performance and security therefore play a major role, particularly with regard to sensitive data.

Although digitalisation has been talked about for years, digital transformation is stalling in many companies and requires additional investments. Why is that?

Businesses are now facing the major challenge to remain competitive in a time of constant change and disruptions. This is not an easy task for companies whose start-up phase is just a distant memory. Yet, implementing digital transformation and propelling those businesses that have been optimised for efficiency into the next era requires precisely this kind of start-up mentality. The focus of change is all too often on overhauling the information technology, with IT adjustments and associated adaptations of operational and customer-related processes. Despite their complexity, these adjustments can be effectively predicted. The picture is very different though, when it comes to the social connectivity of digital transformation because it can easily lag behind. This happens because other megatrends such as new work, connectivity, individualisation and health are “jumping on the digitalisation bandwagon” and are clamouring to be dealt with at the same time.

We believe that the digital transformation will lead to a twofold concentration: To automation of all suitable functions in the first instance, and secondly to focusing on complex, i.e. people-oriented, functions in a market and competitive environment full of innovations, changing customer demands and other surprises at all levels. This requires agile responses all the time.

When writing about the evolution of his 1990s award-winning 8-Step Process for Leading Change in 2012, change management expert John P. Kotter said that it takes two operating systems to make the most of both worlds, i.e. the hierarchical organisation and the network-like structure of agility.

The common goal of achieving the highest quality in any transformation can only be achieved if the company clearly and openly acknowledges that both operating systems are needed in order to continue to be successful in the future. The chances of this happening is much higher if digital know-how is more strongly linked to the social connectivity of the change processes. This calls for specific expertise. And this is where management and executives need to proactively manage these changes.

The influence of megatrends on companies

The megatrends mentioned above are forcing companies to rethink and adapt their current business model. And terms such as “customer centricity” and “cost savings” soon start playing a major role at this juncture. How do you get to grips with these challenges? What seems to be the obvious answer soon appears: agility, which then becomes “agile transformation”.

But be careful. Agility is neither a methodology nor a tool you can introduce quickly, organise and practice in a few training sessions. Agility goes far beyond Design Thinking, SCRUM or SAFe.

Bestandteile von Agilität

Agility is an attitude, a mindset. And radical digital changes are likely to present an immense challenge to the attitude of agility, not just now but also over the coming years. Optimising this attitude in the best interest of the company means that managers and teams in particular must re-evaluate their current ways of thinking and continue to develop them. This does not happen overnight. Experience has shown that it needs to be dealt with alongside the day-to-day business, which is normally top of the agenda.

And companies also have a set of beliefs and convictions that are put in a nutshell by claims or corporate values. Experts also like to talk about corporate DNA, which is a statement of corporate values or even an explicit expression of employees’ values. These values make people feel proud of themselves and give them something they can identify with.

Increasing competitive pressure puts companies, their values, tools and processes, methodologies, principles, and mindsets to the test. In a reflex reaction, people immediately ask the question: “Why?”, “Why does it have to be now?” and: “Why would this change make sense?” These questions are useful and important, and answers have to be found. This is where you discover how well you can bridge the gap between old and new, or, to stay with Kotter, how well your two operating systems work in harmony with each other. The answers to these questions determine whether and to what degree the people concerned will engage with the process.

Leading change proactively

If major change is to be successful, companies have to start with people – preferably managers. They are the ones who have to engage with the digital, agile transformation first and they are the people who have to lead their staff into the new working environment. The leap into agility and thus taking responsibility for their actions is generally a particularly big one for managers. Their first step must be overcoming any worries about their own professional future. The second step is taking on greater accountability within their position, and the third is being aware that agility and courageous action come with the risk of making mistakes. And making mistakes needs to be permissible. This is the only way people and businesses successfully progress.

Together with our partner ®LNE, we are committed to accompanying companies on this journey. ®LNE has been supporting change projects in SMEs and comparable group companies for the past ten years. Our joint team of trainers and coaches has a wealth of experience in breaking down obstacles that slow down corporate innovation. Conflicts are often caused by different values and behaviour patterns of those involved. They also arise from people being concerned about their future in the digital world. Enabling managers and meaningful empowerment of employees are therefore the key triggers for accelerating or reigniting stalled digital transformation processes.

We have developed a set of modules to strengthen all-round agility in order to make fundamental improvements to the conditions that allow major implementation projects to be delivered “on time and on budget”.

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