The Business of Transformation Interview Series: Guest – Murray Howe
In June, I introduced The Business of Transformation interview series, in which I question leaders about their experiences in business transformation and how they’ve helped successfully lead their/other organisations through a transformation. My second guest was Murray Howe, Head of Industry Strategy, APAC at computer software giant Adobe.
Murray sees transformation as being inherently linked to technology and innovation, with a business’s transformation need instigated by external disruptions and opportunities enabled by digital technologies.
“Essentially, it is the business effort to re-tool, repurpose, rediscover new values or create value using a digital tool,” explains Murray.
In recent years, Murray has seen a shift from companies seeing transformation as a “digital issue” for a digital team or department to solve, to CEOs and leaders recognising that a transformation, while technology and innovation-driven, is an organisational-wide effort for all to conquer.
“It really is a people process and business model conversation for the organisation. Technology is a key enabler of it,” he says.
When it comes to taking on transformation within the organisation, Murray believes it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s subjective.
Successful transformations can be achieved top down, through a management led single holistic programme that is all encompassing across the business, as well as bottom up, seen as the sum of many parts. Ultimately, for effective and lasting change to occur, leadership needs to come from the top.
“Getting traction, momentum and progress can be the result of many little things that you do. Even in the big programmes, notable successes are the result of the success of many little incremental things. Because I do believe that there’s a natural path to the maturity that these transformations are being designed to achieve.
“I think both can work and they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. The important thing, I believe, is that we don’t have to wait for permission to drive change that we believe in.” says Murray.
The strategy and marketing expert sees strategic planning as a core challenge for business leaders today, as both the nature and impact of future outcomes are becoming harder to predict with any certainty.
“Companies are worried about maintaining their current relevant connection with the customer into an uncertain future,” says Murray.
“In essence, how the role of transformation relates to the customer experience is to do those things necessary to give the company the best chance possible of maintaining a future coherence with their future customer.”
He sees transformation efforts falling into three buckets:
- Becoming a good listener to better understand what’s going on in the company’s marketplace; to understand what customers are trying to do with the organisation at any given moment; and to understand what competitors are trying to do within the marketplace.
- Developing skills needed to become an effective decision maker; making timely, well-informed decisions quickly; and enabling more people in the organisation to make those decisions.
- Reorganising and developing the muscle memory necessary to be a fast and agile executor; experimenting quickly, at a low cost and doing and learning more things in the marketplace in any given period of time.
In a recent LinkedIn post, Murray touched on what I believe is a key point in business transformation: “for all the complex stuff we occupy ourselves with, it is the most simple of things that our customers truly care about, talk about and remember.” Transformation programmes are complex, and sometimes overwhelming, so how do we ensure the small, simple things are not forgotten?
While it’s easy to get wrapped up in new platforms, new propositions, restructuring teams, all the things that a transformation sees, Murray believes the problems they are there to solve are “actually quite simple”.
“Those human interactions that people are looking to replicate online or on a call are fairly simple and natural ones for us to expect,” he says.
Where he sees the problem is an organisation’s, particularly the business leaders’, understanding of the customer experience and digital space. It’s not about a tick-the-box mentality, where you check the box ‘DONE’ in a spreadsheet and move on to the next important thing. It’s about a focus on continual improvement and enabling staff within the organisation to make that possible.
“What the people really need on the ground is the ongoing training, process and funding support necessary to enable them to collaborate, experiment and leverage the tools available in owning the interaction that they’re having with customers,” says Murray.
“We often find ourselves working against the company in order to do what’s right for the customer interaction. And so, we need help from our leaders to recognise that and act on it.
“If the tick-the-box had been ‘training’, move on to the next thing, that’s not what people need. The first training they receive is just the first training they need. It’s an ongoing programme of support and enablement to effect the ongoing change that the leader is actually looking for, not just one big bang launch or training programme.”
So does a transformation ever stop?
For Murray, the transformation effort at its core is about helping transform a company to become more agile, more adaptable, faster and more flexible.
“If you think about it that way, you’re bringing experimentation out of the periphery into the core of what the company is doing in order to be adaptive. Then you’d say it’s de facto transformation, therefore it never truly goes away,” he says.
When you look at a current transformation and question what’s on the other side, Murray believes the answer is “an experience-focused organisation”.
“Companies by and large are recognising that they need to shift their mindset of what good is; from being good at making and distributing things to be good at providing utility and enabling experiences.
“And it’s that effort to move from one to the other that we see resulting in a transformation of capabilities, processes and people,” says Murray.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn