How a 16th Century physicist helped me with a successful Enterprise Transformation

I have been fortunate to be involved in a number of product and enterprise level transformations during my professional career.

In the last year alone, I have had the privilege of helping two of my clients execute on their transformational journeys. One client is undergoing a product Transformation and another is undergoing a large Scaled Agile Framework transformation effort.

Both of these have been underpinned by Aha! as a roadmapping tool.

But whilst there can be huge benefits for companies deciding to embark on a transformation effort there can also be many obstacles ahead.

Enterprise Transformation is hard.

Interestingly, in the world of Physics, Sir Isaac Newton's three laws of motion describe the challenges you might face when implementing a transformation programme and what you can do to help overcome them.

Here is what I've learnt and how they relate.

1. A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.

Put simply, things cannot start, stop, or change direction on their own. It takes an external force to act on them first to start things moving.

In a business context, it is going to be vital that you can get as much "force" behind the change as possible. This isn't just about digital or technology - it would be naive to think so.

It is vital to consider every facet of the organisation that must align and contribute.

This includes:

  • Leadership, management and the workforce at every level

  • Architecture and Information Technology

  • Business process and change management

  • Your products, services and commercial offerings

  • Sometimes even your customers so they can get behind the benefits to them and be more forgiving of potential impacts along the way

Next, we need to ensure that force is all acting in the same direction. We can do this by:

  • Being clear crystal clear on the vision and goals

  • Getting buy-in and make sure everyone understands the "Why"

  • Creating a roadmap to show the implementation timelines and manage expectations

  • Defining how you will measure success and what it looks like

  • Navigating political and cultural challenges

  • Remembering the customer is always at the heart of everything you do

Once you have a force and a direction, we need to apply that to the enterprise...

2. The force acting on an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration.

Wait, what? Stick with me here...

This describes what happens to a massive object (the company) when it is acted upon by an external force (the transformational effort). Initially you may not notice movement or a change in direction. But you must keep going.

The constant force applied will gradually start to accelerate change in the organisation and build momentum.

In a business context:

  • Consistent driving force is required to overcome the organisational inertia - especially in the early stages

  • Transformation starts from the top and permeates down

  • Hire people that bring in new energy and proven results to enable the transformation and evangelise the benefits

  • Cultivate internal champions for change

  • Develop an agile mindset and a culture of adaptability

  • Understand this is a continual journey and teams should be thoroughly invested for the long haul

3. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is what happens when one body exerts a force on another body. Forces always occur in pairs so when one pushes against another, the second pushes back just as hard.

Now, whilst I don't believe there will be an exactly "equal" opposing reaction to the transformation effort.

There will always be some resistance that needs to be overcome; Political, Organisational, Technical, Financial, Cultural.

This is especially true early on when not all of your business really is aligned in the same direction after all – intentionally or otherwise.

Here are some of the ways you can help bring people on side.

  • Define clear roles and responsibilities

  • Remind people of the strategy and vision

  • Have clear and frequent communication plans, roadmaps and effective programme management

  • Make it a joint effort and bring everyone along for the journey

  • Show white papers and case studies from other companies that have already been through the same process

  • Celebrate small wins that show the benefits the transformation is already bringing

I never expected a 16th Century physicist to have such wisdom on Enterprise Transformation but, in a world where the only constant is change, I hope this serves as a useful way to ensure your transformation effort is as successful as possible.

Thank you to Roman Mager on Unsplash for the photo used in this article.

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