A New Report from The Boston Consulting Group Finds That It’s Not Enough for Business Transformations to Focus on the “Head and Hands” of Transformation; They Also Have to Engage the “Heart”
SAN FRANCISCO—As digital transformation sweeps the business landscape, large-scale change efforts are not just increasingly necessary but also constant—businesses today are in a state of “always-on” transformation. To succeed in this environment, leaders need to engage three crucial elements, according to a new Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report titled The Head, Heart, and Hands of Transformation. Not only do they need a strong vision and a focused set of actions (the “head") and agile ways of working (the “hands”), but also they must inspire and empower people at all levels (the “heart”).
“‘Always-on’ transformation calls on leaders to go beyond traditional one-off short-term approaches,” says Jim Hemerling, a coauthor of the report and a senior partner at BCG. “Too often, with the focus on short-term results, leaders neglect their employees, who more than ever are overwhelmed by the demands of constant change. In this challenging environment, it is vital to take a holistic, human-centric approach to transformation, emphasizing things like an organization’s purpose, an empowering culture, and demonstrating care for people whose lives are being disrupted.”
Research from the report underscores the importance of the head, heart, and hands: of the more than 100 transforming companies BCG studied, 96% of those that fully engaged all three elements showed sustained performance improvement, compared with 33% for companies that did not.
One example of the success of the head, heart, and hands approach is Microsoft’s transformation under CEO Satya Nadella.
Nadella hammered home a “mobile-first, cloud-first” vision and focused the organization on growth, addressing the head of transformation. Notably, and this is often overlooked, he articulated a new purpose—“to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more”—and fostered a new culture and leadership model, thus tending to the heart. He unleashed new ways of working that have not only enabled execution but also spurred innovation and agility; that is, he equipped the hands.
Unfortunately, among the companies BCG studied, the heart was the most consistently neglected aspect of transformation. Says Hemerling, “People, working as individuals and in teams, are the lifeblood of successful transformation. But in practice, they are frequently treated as a means to an end or, worse, as collateral damage, which can have dire consequences for them and the organization.”
Hemerling offers some specifics on the steps leaders must take to engage the heart of their companies:
“It’s no longer enough for leaders to excel at setting direction and executing change quickly,” Hemerling says. “Increasingly, employees are looking for much more than a paycheck or tangible rewards; they seek intrinsic motivations, such as meaning and connection. They want to contribute, develop, and achieve. While it’s not a panacea, the head, heart, and hands approach to transformation enables organizations that truly embrace it to succeed today and thrive tomorrow.”
A copy of the report can be downloaded here.
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