For a lot of people, the concept of transformation quickly evokes an image of a caterpillar that miraculously morphs into a beautiful butterfly. Most of us don’t really know (or understand) how that happens. It’s actually a fascinating and rather involved process. The same is true in the world of business. Transforming your business involves more than meets the eye.
I recently came across a very interesting post by Katya Andresen on Linkedin. Click here to check out her description of the transformation process—and how it relates to how people also change. I’d like to shift the comparison a bit to focus on how transformation happens in businesses.
Transformation doesn’t just happen.
Earlier I referred to the “miraculous” morphing of a caterpillar into a butterfly. While the change—the transformation—is dramatic, it doesn’t just happen. Just as there are a lot of different things that go inside of a cocoon, there are also a lot of different things that have to happen inside a business that is transforming. If you cut out part of the process with the caterpillar you don’t end up with a butterfly. If you leave out parts of growing your business you won’t end up with what you want.
Not everything is obvious on the outside.
A casual observer can watch a cocoon for weeks without being able to tell that anything is happening. It doesn’t look dramatic from the outside. In fact, it looks as if nothing is happening. The same is true for a transforming business. Outside observers may not notice anything different for a while. Even the results you’re aiming for may not appear right away. It’s not an overnight process for a butterfly and it certainly takes more time to transform a business.
Transformation can be messy.
Here is one of my favorite parts of Andresen’s description of the process:
If you consult a textbook, it will explain that what actually happens is the caterpillar releases enzymes that digest its body and its previous self-melts into a sort of yellowish-white goo before it reconstitutes into a butterfly.
You may not like the idea of having the company you’re trying to grow being compared to “goo!” But the point is that sometimes the changes required to scale up your company and make it something different means that there will be some mess involved as your processes, culture, and even your strategy changes. The good news is that the goo doesn’t last.
Transformation makes a difference.
When we think of the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, it’s easy to focus on the visual. Caterpillar’s aren’t particularly attractive. Butterflies are beautiful. But there is more to the story. A caterpillar has a very limited range. A butterfly can fly and can go places no caterpillar can even dream of going (assuming, of course, that caterpillars dream). That’s what happens when you transform your business. You enable your company to do things that were out of its reach before. It’s not just about being able to make more money (although that’s a nice benefit). It’s about being able to accomplish things and influence the marketplace.
If that’s what you have in mind for your business, you need to transform your business (and yourself) first. It won’t just happen. Not all the changes will be immediately visible. It can be a messy process for a while. But the results make all the difference.