Imagine if you were given two options - to have an 80% success rate on your efforts or a 20% success rate. Easy choice, right? We would all go for the 80% success rate. Now, imagine if you had to choose a mascot for your latest project - a Cheetah or an African Wild Dog. The Cheetah wins hands down. What’s not to love about the speed, elegance and stealth-like movement of the Cheetah?
Unfortunately, you can’t have the 80% success rate and be a Cheetah. While there is so much that is appealing about the Cheetah, they are actually very inefficient and ineffective hunters - scoring a meal only 2 out of every 10 attempts. If you want your projects to go the distance, there is a lot to learn from the African Wild Dog.
The need for speed
KPMG’s Global CEO Outlook for 2015 found that 85% of Australian CEO’s are concerned about new entrants disrupting their business model. They feel the need to respond - quickly. Many business transformations are being driven by the need for speed, but this has its own inherent dangers. Consider the Cheetah that can hit a top speed of 120 km/h, but burns considerable resources in the process, and often fails in their hunting efforts. Speed must be combined with stamina to achieve results, much the same way as the African Wild Dogs.
Today, markets are demanding more from businesses - to simplify to our lives. Increasingly, organisations that 1) adapt to the speed of adopting a new way of doing things, 2) have passionate people to support the transition and 3) the strength to continue evolving, achieve greater success.
Given speed, agility and stamina is at the centre of adopting a new way of doing things to survive in today’s markets (like the African wild dogs), it is increasingly evident that successful organisations have a system and structure to connect their stakeholders. Users are generally removed from the transformation agenda and decisions; however, support systems and structures are the cornerstone to achieving your transformational agenda – much like the African Wild Dogs are united and successful to a common goal.
Resistance can be a blessing
Whenever you are working through a transformation effort, you will encounter resistance for the new way of doing things. This is generally through a missed opportunity to engage with a group of stakeholders, or an individual that maybe struggling to understand the change being introduced. These resistors are signs that you have an opportunity to establish empathy for key contributors to your transformation agenda. Ignoring these signs will be at your peril, as the ‘resistors’ will become more and more anxious that they don’t understand the change, or believe they are not being listened to – giving them an opportunity to air their points, is an opportunity for you to identify new and interesting ways of delivering key messages.
What can we learn from the African Wild Dogs? They have a systematic and structured support network, which can change based on the needs of the pack. Some hunt, others guard the den and take care of the young and old. It is good to drive change, but someone has to be guarding the nest…looking after the business. Cheetahs are solitary, which leaves them vulnerable.
African Wild Dogs aren't afraid of resistance. They don’t scare away easily and stand their ground. Cheetah’s are shy by nature and will often get chased away when confronted. You have to welcome resistance as an opportunity to clarify your position in business transformation.
Everyone is affected
Whilst your transformation project may not directly impact all stakeholders, those not directly involved can impacted – let me explain. Company XYZ is introducing a new expense claim system. It is recognised that the directly impacted areas are IT, Finance, Sales and Consulting – as Sales and Consulting travel regularly, Finance process the expense claims and IT implement and support the new system. The system has gone live; however, now HR is involved in a grievance because an employee has called out that their expense claim wasn't paid in the time frame committed to in the new process.
This employee is quite upset at this situation, as they are spending a considerable amount of their own money and reimbursement is not forthcoming. As time is delayed in the reimbursement of expenses, they are becoming more and more agitated that the money is not coming back to them – they start telling a colleague from Operations, in the lunch room. This is overheard by others, from other areas of the business. The employee is now refusing to travel, until the last expense claim is reimbursed.
As can be seen in this hypothetical, you have taken the time to map out your directly impacted stakeholders; but other areas are pulled into the transformation project, to sympathise with one of the directly impacted employees – a friend or colleague.
Having everyone on-board in the journey will create a sense of inclusiveness – and you never know, you may have some change agents in other areas of your organisation that can help you deliver your desired objectives…just like the African Wild Dogs.
While not the fastest hunter what the African Wild Dog has that makes it such a success is good speed combined with excellent stamina. You have to be able to go the distance…be in it for the long haul…see your project to the end. The speed of the Cheetah requires a huge amount of resources and can only be sustained for short distances. If it doesn't pay off, the cost is huge and it takes a long time for the Cheetah to recover before it is ready to go again.
African Wild Dogs hunt in the open - they make no secret about what they are trying to achieve. They are not scavengers, but have clear targets in their sights. Transparency. Cheetahs rely on stealth and when their cover is blown they are left exposed.
It’s easy in the short term to focus on what’s attractive and desirable. But true success comes from combining the desirable outcomes with the stamina and resilience necessary to deliver real results.
Is your business transformation agenda connected? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.