5 steps to accelerate transformation and innovation in your organization
Transformation is a well-worn word these days. It means different things to different organizations. Frequently, transformation becomes about solving the most salient challenge facing the organization at that time and is often linked to a current pain point that’s been difficult to solve. I argue that transformation is much more than that.
The real secret—and key aspect of any transformation—is your people. That’s it. Every possible definition of transformation is underpinned by the people who work in your organization. This means that investing in your people and creating an environment where they can all become owners in your mission is the only lasting, sustainable way to truly transform your organization.
The proven path to a sustainable culture of transformation
These are five steps from our experience with customers, which have resulted in successful transformation and cultural change in organizations:
- Communicate a clear mission
- Develop new skills
- Give permission
- Architect a community
- Incentivize, recognize, and reward
If we want our people to have the ability to act on their ideas, competence and clarity are our key ingredients. They’ll need competence to effectively and safely use the tools they’re experimenting with, and clarity of the organization’s purpose to know that their experiment will serve business objectives.
Our first point is to communicate a clear mission. This could be your company’s mission statement or something more granular for a team or department. But the crucial part is that it’s a guiding statement against which people can test whether what they’re doing is serving the organization.
Second, develop new skills. This is where your people undertake training and attain industry certifications to gain the competence they need to build effective experiments quickly, efficiently and above all, safely. Never before have we seen such a shift in the technology available to us, and formal training is the best path towards being able to leverage the tools in building well-architected, well-operated, secure, and cost-optimized applications and infrastructure.
Your people also need to be given permission. This may seem obvious, but people need to be reminded that they’re allowed, expected, and encouraged to experiment and innovate quickly on behalf of your customers. When a person has a thought about how they can better serve customers, permission allows them to immediately act on it, test their theory, and see if it works. They’ll take control of innovating on behalf of your organization by using your mission statement for clear direction, their competence as a result of training, and your leadership’s permission to spend time doing so.
Together, these actions empower your people to become owners of the way you achieve your business objectives. Leaders can’t always be on hand to say “yes” to every idea or small experiment and tell people they should or should not proceed. In most cases, it’s only the outcome of the experiment that can tell us that, so why slow down your people with approvals, meetings, and committees? If your staff know how to use the cloud securely, cost effectively, and with a clear understanding of your goals, in most cases they’ll spend time and effort experimenting in the right direction. These experiments are where innovation is born and leaders are developed.
Implementing long-term change
Now comes the part where you make it sustainable. In architecting a community, we’re taking things beyond just teaching people “how to cloud.” With a community, your people will teach each other “how we cloud here.” A community is more than documentation, wikis, and whitepapers. It’s a way of providing everyone in our organization opportunity through easy, informal, and collaborative access to the acquired knowledge of the business. Community members share how they’ve tried new things, made mistakes, overcome hurdles, and delighted customers. When these community members share their innovations, people in other parts of the organization gain new insights, the ability to replicate innovative work, and the inspiration to pursue a new career opportunities.
The final question you’re probably asking yourself right now is, “If I create this environment, will my people leverage it?” We address this in the final step, which is to incentivize, recognize, and reward.
Reward mechanisms are likely already part of your organization, but here is where you can think differently and redefine “exceptional.” Instead of just recognizing revenue-generating successes, recognize and reward failures, too. Consider that a fraction of new ideas go on to impact top-line revenue. Acknowledge that the behavior that generated a failure is the very same behavior that produces success: unfettered invention.
Reward and praise early failures so your people will continue to try for that one success. It’s a simple idea to recognize and encourage the behaviors you want to see, not just the outcomes. By redefining “exceptional,” you’ll see your people develop the tenacity to chase an idea that will improve customer experience or reduce operating costs—and this is how you’ll see a shift in the way your people become owners in your shared mission.
So, there it is. Five steps to help you create an environment that allows your people to achieve their best—one that fosters innovation and rewards experimentation. Through the AWS Skills Guild, we have seen this investment in people and the opportunity to drive cultural change deliver great results for businesses such as National Australia Bank, Kmart Group, and Korean Airlines.
We invite you to learn more about AWS Skills Guild.