How we empowered our people to drive transformation from the bottom-up

Believe it or not, businesses have an enormous incentive to transform. Rapidly changing customer needs, a shifting marketplace and continuous disruption are consistent factors in today’s business world.

Once we had identified the main challenges we faced, we followed 6 key steps to ensure that business transformation was embedded fully across our culture and laid the foundations for a completely new way of working.

1. Getting real buy in

The first, and most important stage of transformation, is right at the start: buy in.

Getting real buy in from your organisation requires honest and open discussion. We made sure that everyone in our organisation understood the journey we were embarking on through regular communication. You can’t just sell change to managers and employees, you need to involve them in the process and give them an opportunity to ask questions.

It’s about recognising that you are going to change the culture and the hard work this entails. It’s about understanding the overall vision and the prize if you get this right. Fundamentally, it’s about recognising that something that needs to change and bringing people on board and helping them to accept the change.

Set the scene, be honest, don’t over commit or over sell. Paint the vision and be clear on the benefits of getting it right.

2. Selecting a core team to lead change

One of our first steps was to create a new core team to drive change across the organisation. This was a group of people who could influence, engage and excite the wider business. We looked for individuals who possess resilience, dedication and passion for what we do. You also need a team who can work together to provide their own support structure but also keep themselves motivated when times are difficult.

This team are effectively the champions of change. They can convince and guide others and provide a healthy amount of challenge in a non-confrontational way, like a river’s unending energy that smooths away the ragged edges.

3. Disrupted and dispersed change

We created a disruptive (but accepted) team of individuals dispersed across our organisation. They worked together as a virtual team to challenge the norm and change some fundamental, embedded processes across our business. The results of this were seen and resulted in tangible change and created a continuous improvement culture.

We asked this team to actively go out into the business and evaluate the processes and look at ways of making things better. But they couldn’t implement the changes alone: they needed to work with the IT department to change the systems that drove the process.

Finally, we asked them to lead people to adopt the new ways of working.

4. Tools and methodologies

There are many different approaches for driving change. At Ricoh we used Lean Six Sigma, which supported structured process improvement. It also ran hand in hand with change management and project management practices we were already using.

As the approach matured and it was embedded within Ricoh, we wanted to expand the tool set to enable our people to address more issues.

Our approach consisted of:

  • Structured problem solving
  • Designing new processes
  • Designing new products and services
  • Creating agility

Some tools fixed cultural issues, some practical. When combined together they empowered our workforce to drive transformation by themselves. It gave them new skills and an immediate opportunity to put these into practice.

When the tool set was distributed throughout the organisation, the group mindset changed. Once you’ve reached the point of being able to build new skills within the organisation as a whole, then you begin to tip the balance between sceptics and advocates.

5. Leadership development and training

The development of leaders is the route to sustaining and embedding change on a long-term basis. We developed a new four-layered leadership programme, from spotting talent through to senior managers.

At each layer of leadership development we encouraged participants to ask “why” and “how” so we could get sustained behavioural change.

In addition, we recognised that change needed to stop being an initiative. To transform in the way that we envisaged, the things we were asking people to do as part of the change programme needed to become the way we do things.

By embedding this into the Leadership development programme, bringing elements into the induction process, recording achievements in the HR systems and writing it into job descriptions, it starts to become “the way we do things” and fundamentally the culture of the organisation. The leadership team is critical to sustaining the change. By hard wiring this into the future leadership development programme, you ensure it becomes part of your organisation’s DNA.

6. Integration and future development

What does the future hold for organisations and more specifically for organisation capability?

You only need to look at the news or the latest articles on technology, future of the workplace and the future of commerce to realise there are many conflicting opinions.

I believe it’s possible to build capability despite this new uncertain world.

As the nature of work changes, this capability needs to be woven into the fabric of an organisation. If you successfully combine the other five points in this article and integrate them into the roles of all of your teams, this is where I believe you can flourish in a new world.

If you want to learn more about workplace transformation, fill out the form to the right to download our Decision Maker’s Guide to Workplace Transformation.

Mike Baddeley

Head of Innovation and Strategy at Ricoh UK

Read all articles by Mike Baddeley