Digital Transformation » Behavioural design is key to successful business transformation

Behavioural design is key to successful business transformation

Technology can help businesses pivot, but corporate leaders must make sure the workforce pivots too, says Mike Bentley, Managing Director for Deloitte Consulting’s Change Strategy and Analytics practice.

Businesses today have the ability to be much more agile with how they transform and modernise their business. Cloud-based business software, delivered as a service, has changed the landscape by being available pre-configured and “out of the box,” guided by best practices, and can be implemented by organizations with minimal impact on the business.

Only a third of change efforts are clear successes, 16% show mixed results, and half are clear failures. These are the often quoted figures around driving organisational change. This doesn’t give much hope for success, but yet, businesses still continue to drive change. Seventy per cent of organisations expect to increase the number of major change initiatives they will undertake in the next three years.

So how do businesses think about driving successful Change in ways that are more successful?

Well, firstly let’s break down to the key elements of driving Change. In our research, Deloitte has found that driving successful change really boils down to two seemingly simple factors:  Organisational Ability and Organisational Willingness.

Organisational Ability can be thought of as making sure that the workforce understands What to do, and How to do it. Organisational Willingness is best thought of as building an understanding of Why the workforce needs to do something a new way.

Next, let’s consider what the desired outcome of Organisational Change is – at Deloitte, we have found it helpful to think of Change as one of four key types:

  • The Tech Slam

Companies are replacing their existing IT systems or other enterprise technologies with a new technology and expect no process or organisational behaviour change. The success of this type of change hinges almost entirely on employees’ ability to learn how to use the new technology through the delivery of training and support resources.

  • Process Acceleration

Process acceleration involves adjusting an organisation’s defined processes, with the goal of  increasing efficiency and speeding up processes. Process enhancement could drive some modifications to existing job roles and structures. Examples of this include outsourcing certain tasks or restructuring certain departments. As with a tech slam, the adoption of this type of change hinges more on employees’ ability to understand the new processes so that they are able to execute them effectively rather than on their willingness to do so.

  • Modernisation

When companies modernise, in addition to upgrading technology and accelerating certain processes, they strive to fundamentally change the way aspects of the business operate. Modernisation requires focus on the workforce understanding why the change is taking place and driving alignment across the organization’s leaders and key influencers. Implementing customer self-service is an example of this type of organizational change. When changes become more fundamental to core operations, the willingness of employees to change becomes increasingly important.

  • Transformation

Transformation sits at the other end of the spectrum from a tech slam, and represents the most disruptive type of organisational change. Businesses seldom transform without a good reason to do so, and common reasons include entering new markets, acquiring or merging with another company, or facing off against a new competitor.

Transformations ultimately aim to change the way ‘things are done around here,’ through changing technology, processes, culture, behaviour, and leadership values. To successfully transform, the workforce needs to have the ability to operate in the new state but also the willingness to transform based on a clear understanding of why the change is occurring.

Building ability vs. creating willingness

Building ability is easier. New technologies have given rise to new learning techniques that can be tailored to the individual. Many enterprises have also learned to increase the overall ability of their workforce by hiring tech-savvy individuals who can learn new systems quicky.

Creating willingness requires more advanced techniques like behavioural design and culture change. This involves intangibles like making employees feel fully invested in the new processes, acceleration, or modernisation a business is implementing. It’s also more painstaking, but it can be the difference between a successful transformation and one that falls into the half that are clear failures.

Behavioural design

Getting a workforce ready—and willing—for transformational change involves rethinking and redesigning interactions between leadership and employees.

The first step to effective behavioural design is identifying pivotal moments in an employee’s worklife, and designing specific interventions to support an employee’s own transformation journey by informing and empowering them.

At Deloitte, we refer to these pivotal moments—which range from hiring to performance reviews to retirement—as “moments that matter.” Designing interventions to address the changes in an employee’s “moments that matter”  is critical in creating willingness within the workforce. An example of an employee’s “moment that matters” is a conversation about performance. It is possible to architect these conversations by making information more transparent and available to both employee and manager to better guide the conversation and build trust.


The way management communicates with employees is another important component of behavioural design. Today, many companies communicate in a style that’s far too broad to be effective.

New marketing technologies and other innovations mean the company newsletter—a one-size-fits-all approach to communication—should be retired in favor of a more personalized approach.

Employees are offered a personalised experience whenever they use the internet outside of office hours, including when they shop, network, or book travel. This same kind of personalization is now possible with business communications. Deloitte’s industry leading ChangeScout tool is an example of bringing the latest technologies to the core of delivering a more personalized experience that delivers marketing-like analytical insights into how Change is being managed.

How to transform

So the first question is: Are you looking to just do a tech-slam or a process acceleration? In that case a more traditional “training and communications” approach that builds ability will do; but don’t expect modernisation or transformation to occur.

If you are looking for modernisation or, more ambitiously, true transformation, then an approach that drives willingness through designing the desired behaviours, culture, and leadership is crucial to success.






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