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Making the 5Cs real

Making the 5Cs Real

In my post on 1 Aug 2022, I summarised my wide-ranging conversation on Heath Gascoigne’s podcast addressing the many challenges of successful business transformation programmes. It will come as no surprise to most of the organisations and their people undergoing the transformation, that a failure to pay proper attention to the people and culture dimensions is a key risk factor for failure. This common experience notwithstanding, it is an idea that does seem to have escaped the attention of many consultants and change leaders, given the prevalence of such occurrences.

In our conversation, I suggested that a useful guide to ensuring we pay sufficient attention to such key issues within any transformation programme could be summarised as the 5Cs.

The model can be very helpfully used alongside, for example, the NESTA conception of the innovation ecosystem because they can helpfully be thought of as stepping-stones along the trajectory of navigating the innovation ‘spaces’.

The components are obvious.

Attention to culture gives voice to the deep organisational milieu which enervates the beating heart of the organisation, and which shapes organisational dynamics. The culture needs to be apprehended broadly and not just through the lens of the cultural narrative with which organisations describe themselves and which often are at variance with reality. Visualisation tools such as the Johnson and Scholes cultural web can add value here (G Johnson, R Whittington, and K Scholes. Fundamentals of Strategy. 2011).

The context component sits on top of the culture piece and describes with precision and breadth the organisational desires, imperatives, commercial realities, and functional elements driving the transformation. These are not all necessarily addressed a priori in practice, but they must be. In terms of the NESTA innovation spaces model, this is about insisting on addressing the intelligence space before moving to the solution space, and not allowing the technology space to pre-empt either. In the podcast, Heath cites powerful examples of the negative consequences of failing to attend adequately to the situational context of each transformation – countless other instances abound. The challenge piece expects effective multilateral and robust challenges between and across stakeholders and transformation leads. Challenges include, inter alia, thoseto the status quo, the perceived need of change, the pain points, the proposed solution, the business imperatives, and the need for technology.

The robust and comprehensive challenge of making the 5Cs real is key to assuring effective transformation. So, too, is the spirit in which the challenge is offered and received. Highly tuned people skills are required of those who lead such programmes, and adequate preparation is required for those impacted, to enable effective challenge. Careful attention to the psychology of change will reap rewards. For example, the work of William and Susan Bridges is helpful in this regard. (W Bridges and S Bridges. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, Revised 4th Edition)

Co-creation is a natural, if counter-intuitive, extension of the challenge stage, whereby the immersive and cooperative nature of the challenge fostered leads naturally into a fruitful, collaborative space in which stakeholders may create together an optimum trajectory through the innovation/transformation ecosystem. Co-creation not only minimises the possibilities of blind alleys, misapprehensions, and flawed assumptions, but also engenders buy-in and commitment to the end goal.

Finally, the construct phase brings together and builds upon the insights, intelligence and instincts emerging from the preceding phases to generate a coherent and impactful outcome. It could be suggested that the construct phase is embedded throughout and therefore should not be constrained in this distal position. While there is merit in this assertion, in that these distinct phases do merge and iterate, the danger of the instinctive approach to go straight for the perceived solution without due attention to the prior steps is a sufficient driver to insist upon the distinctiveness of the construct phase to complete the cycle.

The terminology of the 5Cs could no doubt easily be supplanted with other, equally valid stage descriptors. However contrived they might be, their true value lies in their attempt to insist on priorities and essentials, and in particular, making the 5Cs real, the psychological and cultural dimensions of any successful transformation programme.

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