My Approach to Holistic Transformation

Understanding What is Happening to Us

Life as we know it is being transformed at a vertiginous pace and is producing deep successive waves of transformation…and these “tsunamis of transformation” will, by no means, slow down.

Concepts like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Automation, Digital Transformation, Internet of Everything, Exponential Technologies are becoming a natural part of our daily lives.

Disruption is the new normal…and change is no longer gradual. It has become an exponential Tsunami of Transformation. What used to be dumb and disconnected…is now wired and intelligent!

Today, more than ever, CEOs, business owners and their senior teams live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world that, often, challenges them beyond their current levels of understanding.

Speed, clarity, fitness, leadership, flexibility, trust, agility…are words more often used to describe world-class athletes than an organization’s leader or its teams. Given the complexity and uncertainty of the world we live in, we can no longer operate within our comfort zones. In fact, there are no comfort zones anymore in this type of environment.

In organizations that are complex, global, diverse, rich in experiences and ultra dynamic, we can no longer expect that senior leadership and its teams be prepared to respond to the continuous and complex daily challenges. To be resilient and live without comfort zones, senior executives and their teams must constantly assess the context they operate in, their skills, knowledge and development needs, and must ensure they are able to cope productively and timely with an environment that is in constant transformation.

This is where CEOs and C-Level executives become a key piece of the puzzle. Through their conversations with their senior teams, teams and stakeholders, they become partners in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires them to “connect the dots”, maximize their personal and professional potential, and look for answers and solutions to the complex business issues they are currently dealing with.

Through a robust transformation process, we co-create, collaborate, disrupt, construct, generate value, and we continue to transform our business.

What is Transformation?

There are many definitions of transformation. I like to keep it simple. So, for me, Holistic Transformation covers three key areas

  • 01 – we CORRECT– where we focus on correcting past inefficiencies and creating “new ways of working” and “new ways of being” within the organisation
  • 02 – we ANTICIPATE– where we focus on anticipating current and upcoming challenges and shifting beyond the organization to deepen our collaboration and value generation capability with our business ecosystem
  • 03 – we INNOVATE– where we focus on innovating the business model and re-inventing key components of our strategy

The first step in a process of transformation is to create a common language so that people can work together to productively transform and create “new ways of working” and “ new ways of being”. In order to do so, we must create a new Corporate DNA.

What is a Corporate DNA?

In order for a group to become a team…it needs a common language. In order for a team to become a high performing team…it needs mutual trust. A Corporate DNA provides the ingredients to build and sustain a high performing team over time. It provides the ingredients to create the common language and the mutual trust.

The Corporate DNA provides a space within which all team members cohabit, interact and work towards a common end…whilst preserving individual cultural identities.

And by cultural identities I mean not just one’s national, regional or local culture, but also the local office culture, the culture of being a finance person or a commercial person or a production person, generation culture, gender culture, the culture one acquires through education…both formal and through the school of life, culture born out of successes and failures, out of happiness and sadness, the culture shaped out of achievements, what we experience with friends and enemies, the legacy from our families…both the good, the bad and the ugly, and so much more…

When we talk people, when we talk professionals, when we talk talent…we are talking about this rich complete collection of experiences that we want to preserve, cherish and harness into value creation energy and passion.

What does a Corporate DNA look like?

A Corporate DNA blends eight powerful ingredients to create a common language. It creates a playing field that is embraced by all members of the team. The Corporate DNA becomes the cements upon which the team builds its story. In a matter of speaking, the Corporate DNA is the common thread that runs through all members of the team and creates a unified sense of purpose.

The 8 ingredients of the Corporate DNA are divided into three levels of hierarchy.

The first level sets the cements for understanding and bonding:

Purpose and Strategy – Some may say the first ingredient is a classic…but you need to gather people around a common fire. You need to be able to tell people what the project is all about. What are you trying to achieve? What will the endgame look like? What is the light at the end of the tunnel that you will continue to work towards? In broad lines, what will the end of the road look like? People need to feel the passion and they need to make it their own. You need to tell the story…and then, they need to tell the story…in their own words, with their own anecdotes but, in the end, you will recognize it as the same story…You need to talk value…and to whom. People need to own the purpose and the strategy. If you want them to engage and be passionate about it…they need to make it theirs…they need to own it.

Values and Behaviours – Mutual trust is the key element in building a powerful high performing team. In fact, mutual trust is the key pillar to any relationship. A key ingredient to this Corporate DNA is the adoption of a set of values and behaviours that foster mutual trust in the interactions among the team and with others. But it’s not just about trust…what other values and behaviours need to underpin our relationships in order to facilitate and reinforce the vision we have for this team. A team that shares the same values and behaviours is a team that interacts well together, it’s a team that moves out of its comfort zone, and it’s a team that’s willing to take some risks.

The second level sets the cements for building efficiency into the day-to-day interactions:

Decision Making Model – What filters will be used to make decisions? Time? Fulfilment? Happiness? Inclusion? Money? Efficiency? Quality? Innovation? What will we base our decisions on? How will we make decisions? How will formal and informal decisions be made? By one person? By committee? By consensus? By delegation? Decision making is key in the engagement, empowerment and ownership of team members.

Conflict Management and Innovation Model – Conflict is both necessary and desirable. It is an integral part of the team’s daily life and it is key to stimulate creativity and innovation. Conflict moves us “out of the box”…it helps us to shift and transform paradigms…it makes us question the status quo…it puts the “…what if” questions on the table. However, human beings tend to personalize conflict and see it as negative personal criticism. There need to be some clear rules of engagement to generate the desirable environment to promote constructive conflict within the team. The team also needs rules of engagement to engage in productive conflict with its broader business ecosystem.

The third level sets the cements for building communication and understanding:

Leadership Model – We manage things. We lead people. Management is a science and it has clear and defined rules. Leadership, on the other hand, is an art. Since leadership is about people and people are unstable, we need adaptive leadership styles to deal with instability and fast changing complex business ecosystems. There will be various types of leaders within the team and there will be more than one leadership style available to deal with the multiple situations that arise. What will those leadership styles be? And how do we make them ours and fully connect with these models…Leadership, passion and engaging people’s hearts and minds go hand-in-hand…

Diversity Model – There is tremendous power in diversity…and yet, in organizations (as in society), we seem to react uncomfortably to anything that falls outside the norm. However, in a world of complex business ecosystems shifting and evolving at the speed of light, we should be welcoming diversity and all of its power and energy to innovate and seek out answers to new challenges. Cultural diversity, gender diversity, racial diversity, generational diversity, skill and knowledge diversity, technological diversity, etc.…etc.…we need to preserve and utilize all of this diversity to contribute to the success of the team. Unfortunately, many times we tend to want to normalize a team…we want everyone to look the same, to smell the same, to act the same…and we loose the power of diversity. So, how will we harness the power of diversity to add value and contribute to the team’s success? How will we ensure that all the team members feel valued and feel like they’re contributing from within their rich and diverse experience and background?

Communication Model – Internal and external communication…formal and informal communication. Communication is another powerful element in building trust. Clarity, transparency, timely, simple and accessible…these are some of the words that come to mind wen we think of trust and communication. The team will be constantly communicating…so, communication is a key ingredient in the team’s Corporate DNA. What ingredients will be key to the way in which the team will communicate, both within and outside the team?

Relationship Model – Relationships are important…and within a team they’re really not optional. Trust is a key element of relationships. The team will operate within a complex business ecosystem. Relationships mean different things to different people in different places. However, there is one thing that people operating in a business ecosystem share…they all understand that we are interdependent. The team and its members will build fluid relationships that will shift over time. From competitive to collaborative. From suppliers to advisors. From clients to partners. etc…etc…we need a relationship model that is trust based, that evolves over time and that allows for the flexibility of fast changing business ecosystems.

The second step in a process of transformation is to visualize, simplify and integrate all the necessary elements to create a “new way of working” and a “new way of being” that will generate sustainable value.

Over the years, I have understood transformation to be almost organic in nature. In other words, there is equilibrium and interdependence to the whole system.

Not only do we require clarity on what are the pieces that make up the transformation puzzle, we also need to ensure that there is a common language and a synchronicity between the pieces…

There are seven key pieces that make up the transformation puzzle. For transformation to be real and sustainable, these pieces need to be developed, transformed and aligned at the same time…and as part of the same process. These seven key pieces are

  • Purpose and Strategy – provides a clear and unifying direction through a strategic narrative. A strategic narrative is a unique type of story. It talks about who we are as a company, where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. It describes how we believe value is generated and what’s important in our relationships. It explains why we exist and what makes us unique. Our story will inspire our people, excite our partners, attract our clients, and engage influencers. The story is concise but comprehensive. It’s specific but with room to grow. It transmits your company’s vision, communicates our strategy, and embodies our DNA.
  • People – are the “viral” drivers of transformation, not just in the way they own the process, but most importantly in the way they re-invent themselves and redefine purpose into new and challenging situations. Their Perceptions and Experiences are key to embedding a process of transformation sustainably. How we shape these perceptions and experiences fast tracks the process, not just into the organization, but throughout its business ecosystem.
  • The Corporate DNA– blends eight powerful ingredients to create a common language. It creates a playing field that is embraced by all members of the organisation. The Corporate DNA becomes the cements upon which the team builds its story. In a matter of speaking, the Corporate DNA is the common thread that runs through all members of the organisation and creates a unified sense of purpose.
  • Experience – provides valuable insights into the experience of our clients, our people, our providers, and other stakeholders throughout our business ecosystem. Shifting pieces of the puzzle will obviously affect the experience of others in their process of interacting with us and our organization. We need to understand how their experience shifts and how we need to adjust the various pieces of the transformation puzzle in order to optimize their experience with us.
  • Architecture – including Processes, Policies, Systems, Structures, and Technologies– are the simple, but necessary, side of transformation. We say “simple” because we are dealing with “things” and, as such, defined, changed and implemented by people. As well, this is the side of transformation we have spent the better part of the XXthcentury dealing with. This is the area where there are the most experts. However, it cannot be addressed independently from the rest of the transformation puzzle. It must d¡be dealt with in context of the rest of the model and understanding and adjusting the impacts it generates in other areas of the model.
  • The Business Ecosystem – is so much more than the organization’s traditional market. It brings together a multitude of valuable players (even some unlikely players) that come together to integrate the organization’s value generating model. The Business Ecosystem brings together competitors and suppliers, competitors with their own clients and suppliers, suppliers with their own clients and competitors, professional and trade associations, government, regulators, lobbies, learning institutions, innovation incubators…and so much more…Understanding the extent of the organization’s business ecosystem is key to understanding the extent of its value generating potential and the extent of its transformation requirements.
  • Value Generation – is transformed, not just as a consequence of a holistic transformation process…but also often as the cause for transformation. In this new world, with new challenges and new opportunities and potential, we also look to redefine the way value is generated within the organization and across its business ecosystem. Value generation in a transformation context also focus on the duality of quantifiable and qualifiable value, both withing the organization and across the business ecosystem.

We want to captivate the hearts and minds of intelligent, passionate and experienced people to integrate our projects, our teams and our business ecosystems. Our holistic transformation models need to preserve and harness the sense of purpose, the richness and the diversity they bring to the process. In the fast changing and instantly communicated world we live in, the old biases no longer hold true.

This holistic view of transformation is based on the simple concept that, if we want to capture the hearts and minds of an organization and its people, we need to treat it as an organic being where harmony, synchronicity and alignment of the transformation puzzle is a basic requirement to sustainable transformation.

The second step in a process of transformation is to visualize, simplify and integrate all the necessary elements to create a “new way of working” and a “new way of being” that will generate sustainable value.

”Transformation isn’t about improving.

It’s about Re-thinking!”


Luis Soares Costa