As far as Wikipedia is concerned “Business Transformation” is about making fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to help cope with a shift in market environment.
In plain words: It is about changing your business so it accommodates to market changes.
However, the general perception by those running businesses is that business transformation is something different, naive… and their idea on how to run a business and make changes do not necessarily match with the aforementioned definition. They just dont need advise on transforming anything, they know what they are doing because they are the experts… the ones in charge. Showing that they need help may rest credibility to their actions and decisions; much like the fear that Tony Soprano was showing when he was visiting a psychologist. Whether it is a family business or a big corporation business transformation is subjected to the desire, will and determination to commit changes by those in command. If we created a poll asking what business transformation means to them, everyone would probably give a different answer: For some transforming the business would be to have a better accounting system while for others would be “just” to retain customers. These “hints” (because they are only hints) may be part of the overall plan, but they don’t address the reality of what transforming a business is all about. They will help towards reaching the ultimate “Wikipedia” goal (cope with a shift in market environment). We should rather ask:
“What do you want to achieve with your business?”
Then, and only then, we can speak about putting a “Business Transformation” plan in place.
Transforming a business is like planning to lose weight. You wake up and think “I am a bit overweight but it is fine”. Then one day you try to catch the bus and the running almost kills you…and while catching your breath again you think “it is ok, I am not a runner, this happens to everybody”. Months later you realize that those few extra-kilos you wanted to get rid of are now 20 or even 30 extra kilos. Then it is the time when you think what to do next: you seek for professional advice. To your “surprise” (?) the doctor recommends you have a healthier life: go to the gym, cut down on greasy food, more walk less car… you will “think about it”. Well, while you “think about it” sadly enough you suffer a heart attack. If you are lucky enough and survive then is when you take seriously the advice about changing your life habits. If not… well… it was nice meeting you.
While it may be a hard analogy this resembles how people look after their businesses: As long as we have customers and we sell we don’t have to worry about anything else. You call for advice just for curiosity and the experts tell you that you should look at your processes and procedures, maybe change some IT, maybe diversify, maybe some training…but you are doing ok so, why to make any changes if everything is working and it has always worked this way? (Famous last words in every failing business).
Suddenly your company starts losing customers, your sales are not hitting the target and you are, in general, behind your competitors…this is your “catching breath” moment (if not your “heart attack”)…the moment you seek for serious advice. You may be able to recover but, commonly, it is too late to come back in a “gentle” and swift way…for some companies is when they realize that they have already passed the turning point. Their “business transformation” is going to take a bit more than just a couple of trainings and touches here and there. For some it will not matter what they try, it just may be too late all together.
So, bottom line, you don’t have to transform everything to run a healthy business that is able to “cope with a shift in market environment”. You just need to think that the spirit of “you have always been doing” may fit with the approach to transform the business…you can keep that spirit but in an up-to-date context. Remember: The business will transform and evolution as much as the effort you are willing to put into it. If you are expecting your business to grow and make better without going through some occasional pain, you’d better start thinking on what you will be doing in a few years. Whatever you are doing now will not be there.