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  • Writer's picturePlus Rasmussen

The Transformer’s Voice – Niels Rasmussen

Recently, Niels was interviewed on his insights on transformation by Martyn Cuff, head of Allianz HR Transformation and passionate and curious transformer with more than 30 years of experience in driving change and transformation in various CXO Leadership roles. On his Transformer's Blog, Martyn Cuff regularly shares his interviews with other leading transformers such as Dave Ulrich.

Read an excerpt of the interview here.

Niels, why are transformations important?

"Transformations are critical and in particular the ability to transform with speed and agility. It is increasingly key to the survival of business as the speed of external, in particular technology, change increases, we must “transform” and evolve with it – or better, lead it to successfully survive and grow. Digital change is on everyone’s lips for the past 2-3 years and yet we’d would argue that the digital age started 30-40 years ago and only now is the true impact being understood – and thus the critical need to catch up. That means that we are still behind the curve, trying to catch up – rather than driving new change and evolution through smart and future oriented transformation. We call that Transformation Leadership and believe firmly that this is the stage we need to reach."

How can you make transformations a success?

"Prioritise properly and do not attempt everything in one stroke. Once a decision is made it is important that we make it broad and include the people and necessary parts of the organisation as it will otherwise take too long and hit too many transformation barriers. In big transformation efforts, start from the Top and ensure full engagement from the C-Suite! Transformation can only succeed when senior leadership, and the CEO in particular, has grasped the need to transform and when we have prioritized and calculated both the emotional and rational RoI on the transformation. Once the basics are completed here you may sometimes need to start a fire, if there isn’t one already, and it is key to get the senior leadership, not behind the transformation but out in front and under the well proven adage – that change starts with me (you) and that the real action is taking place outside of our Comfort Zone. And here we need to support senior leaders to become Transformation Leaders as this is the part most C-Leaders did not learn in their formal studies or career steps. There are many reasons that transformations do not succeed and we see clear evidence that fear is one of the biggest barriers – i.e. fear of the new world, employees/managers fearing power-loss, comfort and even their jobs. Thus it can be no surprise that we need a clear balance between selling the vision of the better world, post transformation, and the impact this will have on employees through the various stages – and both vision and impact carry equal weight in order to succeed. Back to the digital change speed and transformation need there is compelling evidence in 2018 that we are dealing with wide transformation initiatives, that are basically enabled by a huge amount of new technologies. This is what makes them so potentially powerful and fast and thus a bit scary one can argue. However, the critical factors that truly decide upon the success or failure of these projects are the usual “old-school” companions such as organizational culture, leadership competence, trust and proactivity, and not the technology itself. Hence, in the age of digitization you can say that only those who digitize will survive. But if you take one further step back we need to say that only those who constantly transform (their business, their organization, themselves) will survive and will be able to lead what is happening in the age of digitization. We call it Enabling Leadership!"

What advice would you give to someone embarking upon a transformation?

"Understand the fear barriers with yourself and your clientele. Be clear too that change is the only constant and figure out for yourself if you can passionately enjoy Transformation Leadership as this is hard work and often not the most thankful assignment in any organisation. Some personality types have preference systems better attuned to this type of work and this should not be underestimated. On a more systematic and team/organisational level we see success through our 7E approach i.e. when we:

1) Enlighten through removing fear barriers and clear the buzz-word jungle,

2) Educate by co-developing new concepts that are specific to the business/industry (and regardless if they are efficiency (cost reduction) or new value (revenue adding),

3) Explore business relevant new scenarios for your industry,

4) Engage (in particular leadership and C-Suite in the Transformation but also those who may stand to lose (that, by the way is often leadership, as in particular control and power are issues at stake,

5) Eliminate Barriers to healthy transformative growth (fear being a big barrier but the complexity in transformation lies in the breadth of barriers be they cultural, structural or process related.

6) Execute and here there’s value to starting small and just getting off the ground in order to prove that it works and to eliminate endless “what if discussions” and in order to

7) Elevate the transformation power and concept. It is interesting also to keep in mind Gartner’s 2017 research that shows that Enabling transformation is 15 times as powerful at the RoI level as what is still called Digital Transformation – thus start with the people and organisation and let technology follow. But with speed – and enjoying the ride!"

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