Value adding business transformation Part 3 with Jess Tayel

We conducted a Q&A interview with Jess Tayel, Global Business and Digital Transformation Coach and Mentor, about business transformation, where it should sit within an organisation and the importance of value-add business transformation to an organisation. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 you can view it here.

Often if the people aren't on board with a transformation, then it won't succeed, how can you make sure you get the people on your side and ensure you involve the people with the right skills?

Transformation in isolation is the death of transformation.

Co-designing and co-creating with your people, your employees, and your customers is crucial to the success of any business transformation.

However, to get people involved, you need to define these three things first:

  • Why are you doing this transformation / What is the burning platform?
  • What change are you delivering for this transformation at the people, process, technology, operating model and data level (even if at a high level to start with)?
  • What does success look like?

And to further determine who you need for this change, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Your success partners (leaders, key vendors or suppliers, other partner organizations)
  • Your change agents
  • Your customers or customer groups that are impacted by this change
  • Your force on the ground to execute on the change – The doers
  • Your council of wisdom (the critical few who advise on the design and tracking of the transformation program)

However, getting people on board when the transformation starts, when energy is high and there is momentum, doesn't necessarily mean that they will continue to play along or stay connected to the cause.

That is why it is equally essential to ensure that they stay connected and engaged throughout the transformation. From my experience, these are the key reasons why people start to distance themselves from the transformation along the way:

  • The transformation becomes about executing a hidden agenda
  • The reason why this transformation was initiated has changed without consultation
  • The messaging behind the change is no longer clear or has become confusing
  • The transformation becomes cumbersome and goes down the route of a complex governance structure
  • The transformation execution is not effective enough to work with people around their BAU (Business as usual) and does not excite them to go the extra mile
  • When people feel that they have been cut out from the conversation 
  • When communication is not consistent
  • When priorities keep shifting for no apparent reason
  • When transformation becomes a tick box for an executive or a group of executives and solutions are rushed through with assumptions being made around what is right for the business

To avoid losing people down the track of transformation, I would recommend that we:

  • Stay true to the objective, the cause, our guiding principle, and our vision – Hence why it is critical to have these figured out before we go down the path of execution and delivery.
  • Co-Create and Co-design with the team and keep them engaged. Don’t assume, always ask. 
  • Simplify and don’t complicate. This applies to how you choose to design, execute and communicate transformation, but also make sure you choose the right language that matches the organizational language without over-complicating matters. 
  • If things change or something was missed, or a mistake was made, don’t hide it or attempt to keep going, but instead communicate and be down to earth. This brings up authentic leadership, authenticity and a culture of care that people appreciate.
  • Consistent and clear communication during the entire journey.
  • Show respect, empathy and seek to understand.
  • Celebrate regularly and have fun.
  • Give credit and motivate.

Is there a benefit to hiring people specifically for a business transformation project, and how could this affect the team dynamic?

Designing, managing, delivering, and sustaining business transformation is a skill that is required to ensure you have a successful business transformation.

Most of the companies hire professionals for business transformation based on their technical skills or their expertise in one or two of the business transformation components.

Those professionals, while they deliver excellent work in their own areas of expertise, they mostly made their way into business transformation because of their previously acquired skills and expertise in other areas, but not necessarily in business transformation. 

I always say, "What got you here, won't get you there." In most organizations I worked with, the need to hire for business transformation did not make it into the priority list of the executive team. This decision must be a very conscious decision, given how critical transformation is to the realization of the organization’s business outcomes.

If I must spell out the single most crucial skill for business transformation professionals, then that would be, to have the skill, experience and battle scars in holistically designing and delivering a business transformation program to bring all its components to work together. This is by far the most important skill and the hardest to find. It is equally important to hire the right personality and character to achieve success. The most important personality traits for this individual(s) would be to:

  • Be down to earth and humble
  • Value people engagement and connection
  • Be mature

Besides, the business transformation professionals are a particular caliber of professionals who:

    • Have a diverse set of experience and understand the complexity of transformation.
    • Understand that design for transformation is equally as crucial to execution transformation.
    • Have a high sense of ownership, maturity and are heart-centered leaders.
    • Create transformation through a holistic and integrated approach.
    • Are bold, authentic and humble.

This doesn't also mean that we wait to hire the business transformation (BT) dream team for the program to start, but rather, make sure that the key professionals designing and delivering the program have the right skills and character.

If you hire the right BT resources for your program, the team dynamics should play out in favor of the program. Having heart-centered and humble BT professionals will allow communication to flow smoothly through the creation of rapport and trust. Realizing that we don't just do work in a workplace, but rather connect and engage with fellow humans (not only professionals) to share emotions and interests, will make any change a lot easier and much more productive. This part is usually not given importance as it is perceived by some as the “Soft Skills” part. “Soft Skills” is probably the make or break for any change that is required for “people” to engage and change.

If 100% of your customers are human and 100% of your team are human, you might as well seriously consider the human side of the change equally as crucial as the technical change.

Often business transformation affects people, processes, and technology. How can early technological adoption affect the success of business transformation?

Technology is an essential component of any transformation and ensuring that the change is enabled and supported by technology is a crucial aspect of a successful transformation.

Engaging technology in the early conversations enriches the conversation on what is possible. This conversation is not about finding or designing a technology solution but instead to:

  • Understand the possibilities
  • Know what technology can help with
  • Know the in-place technology capabilities within the organization
  • Understand the role of technology in the transformation efforts

Engaging technology as a partner to the change is critical in creating the right environment whereby the transformation is not divided as two distinct teams (business side and the technology side) but rather working together in achieving a common goal as one team. 

What do organizations need to change to succeed in business transformation?

Our perspectives on transformation need to change. In most organizations I have worked with or know of, transformation is underestimated or looked upon as a dry piece of work that is all about deliverables, documentation, packs, sign offs and not much about people, conversations, rapport, engagement, and connection. Working with the end in mind, focusing on how transformation exists to create value, is crucial to looking at things differently. A holistic and integrated approach is the key to bring transformation to life. 

There is so much that is needed to bring on transformation failed projects percentage reduction and start creating value for our employees and customers. If I was to put forward the top 7 things that need to change, I would say these would be:

  • Leadership

Leadership backing and support for the transformation is a given and is necessary, but what I would like to emphasis is heart-centered leadership. Leadership that truly wants to create value and impact. Leadership does not stand in the way of creating a meaningful change for employers and customers. Leadership is not about being right and controlling all the time. Leadership should be based on trust and growth.

  • Accountability and Ownership

As transformation is complex by nature with a level of uncertainty, it is essential to ensure that we have clear accountability, roles and responsibilities set up-front to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the roles and also the decision-makers. 

At the same time, accountability without ownership and responsibility is just talk. A sense of ownership and taking responsibility for decisions is key to the success of any organization, let alone the transformation 

This can be an area that causes vast amounts of confusion and back and forth communication. I find that not defining accountability while ensuring responsibility, is a significant source of frustration, loss of momentum, and the main driver behind designing a solution that is not fit for purpose.

  • Design your transformation

Spending time on designing your transformation program and truly understanding the current landscape and dynamics, is crucial to the success of the transformation both long and short term.

Sometimes, we fall under the pressure of delivering something "tangible," and that makes us skip through the design step and make a set of assumptions on what would work to start the execution quicker. This is the most common problem I have experienced and seen within transformation programs.

Leaders and change drivers should ensure that the design phase is completed before moving forward with spelling out solutions and how things should run.

In a nutshell, make sure you are doing the right things before doing things right.

  • Hire the right people

Professionals with experience in designing and delivering business transformation programs are crucial to driving success and value across the organization. The key is to take a holistic and integrated approach to bring in the silos and break down the walls between technology, process, data, people, customers, and strategy.

In addition, transformation leaders need to be heart-centered individuals who appreciate human to human interaction and care for the wellbeing and growth of individuals.

  • Focus on the human side of the change

This is key in any transformation program. Focusing on the human element, and not leaving it to last is vital. Change starts, develops, and ends with people. These are your employees, customers, and partners…

  • Co-Create & Engage

It is essential that we adopt co-creation as the way forward for any transformation. WE need to ensure that we engage with the people and co-create the collective understanding, the solution, and the way forward together. Failing to do so will result in additional resistance to change and is more likely to cause a solution that is not fit for purpose.

  • Simplify

It is easy to complicate things. It takes intention, clarity, and understanding to ensure that we simplify matters. I have often found that communication is not speaking to the average team member in the organization, but that the language often has a consultancy tone or is using complicated jargon, lacks visuals and has so much text that it become hard for people to follow and always leaves people asking "Yes, but what do you want me to do?" or "What did that come from?". This will only cause disconnect and misunderstanding, which sets the scene that this transformation is not going to work.

Another area that can quickly become cumbersome over time is governance project management templates and forms. There can be so many meetings and steering committees with various reports, packs, and presentations. As this is asking the team members for more of their time to be spent on something that does not seem to add value because of the complexity of the forms and the frequent meetings, the quality of what the project team will get will be low. This means that the decision-making forums do not have the right information to base their decisions on, there will be follow-up meetings to try to understand more about the progress and people will start to lose interest.

Governance must be effective and to the point. Excessive use of reporting and meetings is counter-productive to getting things done especially during a transformation.


What are your top tips for driving value-add business transformation?

To summarise, my top 5 tips would be:

  1. Treat transformation as if it is spending your own money
  2. Focus on designing the transformation before execution
  3. Co-create and engage customers and employees
  4. Do the right things the right way (and in that order)
  5. Hire the right professionals who have the business transformation experience and are heart-centered leaders

This Q&A has been split into 3 parts. If you missed it, you can view Part 1 and Part 2 here.


Jess Tayel is a Business and Career Coach, Consultant and Mentor, who helps individuals and businesses design, build, manage and achieve true success in business transformation.

She also helps business transformation individuals achieve their career goals, grow it and win contracts/jobs and achieve fulfilment.

Jess has global experience, having worked in 4 continents for over 20 years, giving Jess well-rounded, hands-on experience specialising in business transformation, PMO setup and management, program management, business process improvement, business analysis, user experience design CX, service design, business systems support, technology implementation and change management.