Getting a compass for sailing on the seas of transformation
Author: Katalin Juhász
The Switzerland PMI chapter has hosted an inspiring event on 7th November in Geneva by Ricardo Viana Vargas, a renowned project management professional and expert of strategy implementation. Between 2012 to 2016, Ricardo was the Global Director of the Infrastructure and Project Management Group within the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). During this session he provided a first-hand opportunity to learn about the recently published transformation framework, the Brightline Compass. The method has been developed in collaboration with Professor Behnam Tabrizi, an acknowledged expert in transformation and a consulting professor at Stanford University.
„Brightline™ is a Project Management Institute (PMI) initiative together with leading global organizations dedicated to help executives bridge the expensive and unproductive gap between strategy design and delivery.” Its target audience is the c-suit and its aspirants, who experience intensified pressure to guide their organizations through transformation.
As we pass by the frequently heard quote that „the only constant is change”, more and more discussions are gravitating around the pressing „urge for transformations”. The difference between the two lies in their pace and complexity. While change is perceived as a gradual evolution process, transformation refers to the quantum leap of performance increase achieved by the fundamental change of the way it delivers value to the customers while embedding this shift in the mindset of employees and the organizational culture.
The need that evoked the creation of Brightline Compass was the emerging demand for organizations (let it be corporations, non-profits or governments) to transform, driven by the fast pace change of consumer behavior, the exponential technology innovations, the paradigm shift in the way we work and the value set of the youngest generations.
The stakes of making it right are high, as those organizations who don’t prepare early in time might easily find themselves in a similar situation like the one Blockbuster was facing in 2009 being challenged by the rise of Netflix.
Who could foresee that the moderately declining revenues signal its bankruptcy, strike as soon as the following year?
Brightline Compass is a framework providing guidance instead of prescription to better understand the components impacting the outcome of a business transformation. We have to acknowledge that the challenge is massive: how to structure the complex problem of finding adequate answers to the changing business environment. The beauty - and the difficulty at the same time - of this quest is that the adequate answer to these challenges often emerges as a result of an iterative process of continuously testing potential solutions.
In Brightline Compass I could discover approaches and methodologies inspired by project management, lean startup methodologies and change management amongst others. But as Ricardo emphasized, it is not the tagline of the method what matters. It’s about finding the combination of tools in our transformation toolkit which are most impactful at a given case.
The Brightline Process strikes the importance of having a crisp and engaging vision providing adequate answer to the question: „Why this transformation is necessary?” It also builds on the importance of understanding changing trends of customer behaviors. When it comes to the operative implementation of transformations, it provides guidance regarding the transformation operation system, recommending a flat, adaptable and cross-functional organizational structure. The model emphasizes the importance of engaged advocates, volunteering to become change agents in the process from all levels of the organizational hierarchy. Finally, but not last the model also points at the need to align employee aspirations with the organizational vision, ensuring that people can wholeheartedly embark on the transformation journey.
Being an organizational development expert, leading the employee engagement domain, personally I found it very delighting to see how much the model acknowledges the significance of employee commitment. Even so, that we know how much organizational changes inevitably pressurize the sense of security by the (harsh or silent) question of „How this change will impact me?”. While very often the risk of this hidden landmine is underestimated by senior leadership teams.
I am a firm believer of human adaptiveness however the pace of change happening these days seems to exceed our capacity to absorb it, which often results in fear and resistance from the unknown. The fact is, that want it or not, transformations are happening anyways, even if we welcome them or we resist. Actually the only choice we have is either to be prepared and help our organizations to do so or get hit by the tide. Of course there is no silver bullet, a „solution fits for all”, but I found the Brightline Compass as one possible framework helping us to prepare and drive through transformations.