Does Your Ego Block Corporate Development?

Frederik Bisbjerg, Executive Director, Digitalisation, Daman - National Health Insurance Company

While all executives agree that a business transformation’s biggest challenge by far is corporate culture, there’s another culprit to be very aware of, egos.

A recent survey amongst business executives on LinkedIn confirms that corporate culture is still the most powerful force stopping companies’ transformation – but surprisingly ‘only’ 47% chose this as the main force hindering the transformation. It is interesting to see that the remaining 53% relates to silo thinking, lack of management commitment and – egos

Silos, commitment and egos all boils down to individuals; a business unit’s isolation is determined by the actions of the unit manager, and commitment comes from individuals – indeed, it could seem an even bigger factor hindering corporate development could be personal interests(!)

There are many reasons that personal interests stand in the way of transformational corporate projects. Business transformation is just that, transformative, which in most cases has personal consequences for the employees of the company. The transformation could mean a new job description, a changed position and in worst cases even in the loss of the job

When embarking on such a journey, the end results is rarely known and this creates an understandable uncertainty and concern amongst the employees, also with the managers and while the common employee has little change to actively influence the process and outcome, managers have – especially the more senior they are

Senior managers tend to be more worried about losing authority (power) and position in the organization than losing their job, so they will focus on keeping status quo and not be very interested in opening up for changes or other people’s involvement in their business area

It should be clear that it is impossible embark on acultural change journey, if egos, unit isolation and top-level commitment is working against the changes – so while 47% states that culture is the largest hindering factor of business transformation, it’s worth noting that the remaining factors hindering the transformation are all vital to enable an actual cultural change

However, business need to transform themselves to be in a position to cope with the market changes already caused by the pandemic and be prepared for the many aftershocks expected over the coming years – a method for successful transformation has to be found!

The first and most important step is to understand if YOU stand in the way of the corporate transformation project – and if you’re a seasoned manager, there’s a high probability that you do. If you’re running a team or a business unit and have been done this successfully for some time, there is little incentive for you to want to change

It is therefore natural that you’d resist – maybe unconsciously – any changes proposed as you wouldn’t know the outcome of the changes and your future position in the company. This is not only you, this is a concern that is with everyone in the organization except with the team that initiated the change project; they’re in charge so they will have a good understanding of the company’s future state and therefore be less concerned with the outcome and their positions

If you are one of the managers holding on to your silo and resist change, you have a couple of options moving forward; you could continue to resist the change, embrace it or take a ‘wait and see’ position

Resisting change has the highest stakes with no possible long-term win as outcome. If you’re powerful enough to resist changing your team or business unit, you’re jeopardizing the company’s future which at the end will hurt you – and all your colleagues

Experienced transformation leaders are acutely aware of the resistance to change and most transformation projects focuses on identifying the major areas of resistance to report to the steering committee, as removing this resistance is vital for the project’s success

Assuming a ‘wait and see’ position means you won’t resist the change which is good for the company, so the transformation team can continue to work, creating a future strong entity, but it may be less attractive for you – the passive attitude basically allows the project to decide your future destiny in the organization

Embracing the change will give you the opportunity to actively participate in shaping the future organization – a journey that will be challenging and rewarding for you personally while at the same time give you an opportunity to actively shape the future role of your unit and for you

If you’re part of the transformation team and faces resistance (which you will), you have a wide array of opportunities to reduce the resistance and align your colleagues to work towards the same goal – this topic is for another article, but here are a few of the most important tasks

Start small – don’t embark on a corporate-wide transformation as you’ll be fighting on too many frontiers at the same time. Find one or two key areas where people already are motivated for change, make this a success and celebrate the success with the organization – this will make other units less reluctant to change and you continue through them, step by step

Set shared targets and measure them relentlessly – nothing gets people together than a set of shared targets with a clear financial motivation. This, too, will help the teams work together as their salaries or bonus now depends on this. The old saying “you get what you measure” still holds very true and this is a sure-fire way to get changes done quickly and effectively.

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