Business model and collaborative governance: what link?
According to Jean-Pierre Christiaens, “to facilitate the understanding and adoption of activities within organisations, a more holistic approach to the connections, both internal and external, is required. In many companies, the mission and vision for achieving the goals are written, shared and operated throughout the organisation; a series of action plans are proposed to make the strategy a reality at the operational level. However, there is often a missing “connector” between strategy and operations.
The missing “connector” is the way in which the strategy is supposed to be translated, for example in the management of its processes or in its relationships with its different stakeholders. If management is not clear enough in this respect, the level of understanding and adoption of the strategy by all employees will probably be insufficient. This is precisely the pitfall that can be overcome by developing a good business model.
This point is even more crucial in organisations that aim to distribute management, to empower employees in a different way by strengthening autonomy and leadership at the operational level”.
How does the business model play this ‘connector’ role?
The business model is commonly defined as the way an organisation creates, captures and delivers value in order to generate profitability. “The business model is not an expression of the company’s vision. It starts from the strategy of the organisation to connect the value proposition offered to the market, to the customers, but also to the infrastructure put in place in the organisation and to the financial viability. The business model creates links between the sources of revenue and the costs incurred to deliver the set of products and services,” explains Jean-Pierre Christiaens.
In this context, Jean-Pierre Christiaens evokes the notion of impact: according to him, organisations must write a business model that aims, beyond their profitability, to reinforce their sustainability and their raison d’être. These three dimensions (profitability, sustainability and purpose) are particularly important today.
A combination often missing from transformation projects
Partena Professional’s approach is certainly the way forward, although it is still in the minority in the landscape of organisational transformation. According to Laurent Ledoux, if organisations that start transformation projects do not think of integrating a reflection on their business model, it is because they are not sufficiently documented on the subject and/or the process of implementing collaborative governance has not been pushed to the end.
“In the case of Partena Professional, the business model and collaborative governance were closely linked from the start, as the company wanted to change its business model and realised that to do so it also needed to change its organisational model. Then, the adoption of a more collaborative system further reinforced the need for a revision of the business model,” he explains.
Jean-Pierre Christiaens confirms that collaboration is crucial in this context. “When you are aware of the importance of the business model in which the organisation interacts, it is essential to include the teams in the review of the model and in its revision, according to the vision and strategy of the company”.
Coupling the business model with collaborative governance requires the inclusion of all
Jean-Pierre Christiaens assures us that there are many tools that can be used to exploit the collaborative model, but that the key to the approach lies in its inclusive nature: “Everyone, at his or her level, has the right and the duty to understand the business model in which he or she finds himself or herself, in order to participate actively in its construction and to reflect on its evolution.
Collaborative tools must evoke a common vocabulary, a language that makes things easier. If the business model is explained by an external expert and if it is expressed in too specific a way, it will not live in the organisation”.
Working on the business model, autonomy and innovation
To innovate is to bring something new, either by improving what already exists or by creating something from scratch. What key should be given to employees so that they become masters of their own innovations? For Jean-Pierre Christiaens, opening up the work on the business model to all the members of an organisation and making it a daily reality is beneficial: “Employees who are autonomous in their work, responsible in their decisions, aware of their impact, but also well informed, will be better able to innovate in order to deploy, maintain and facilitate the permanent evolution of the organisation in relation to the needs of the customers”.
A long-term approach
For Jean-Pierre Christiaens and Laurent Ledoux, one of the keys to the success of the transformation is that the transformation processes initiated at Partena Professional are thought out over the long term. “If the organisation that wants to reinvent itself remains in a short-term logic, it cannot work. It is not enough to decree the appropriation and adoption of a new business model and imagine that everything will be settled in six months. That would be completely counterproductive. In that case, you might as well do nothing! ” emphasises Jean-Pierre Christiaens.
Transforming an organisation in depth involves both ‘unlearning’ and learning. The willingness of employees to do this double work depends not only on their state of mind, but also on their social and personal context. This double work takes time, especially as some “unlearned” habits tend to resurface quickly when the organisation is faced with an emergency or crisis situation. By adopting a pace that is adapted to the needs of the employees, the transformation process is better anchored in the organisation.
“This was a challenge we faced at Partena Professional at the start of the coronavirus crisis. At the time of the first containment, some teams had already started the transformation process, while others were still 100% in the ‘old system’. All of our employees were involved in order to continue to respond quickly and efficiently to customer needs. We observed that the teams that had already experienced collaborative governance, integrated its processes and the new business model, were even more agile, because they were less concerned about the means to implement, about what they could or could not do”, says Jean-Pierre Christiaens.
“Partena Professional is an excellent example of the type of leadership that is required to carry out such a transformation. To reinvent an organisation in depth, leadership must be prepared to question itself, to commit to the long term and to deal with short term setbacks to promote a long term approach. To do this, the organisation needs strong leadership, capable of resisting pressure, ready to distribute decision-making power throughout the organisation, and willing to let go, to work on oneself in order to mute one’s natural need for control,” adds Laurent Ledoux.
Will the covid crisis encourage organisations to reinvent themselves?
“After the shock, all organisations needed to reorganise very quickly. Every organisation goes through different phases before adapting to a rapidly changing context. What we see is an acceleration of the need to reinvent ourselves in depth, not just a relifting. According to a study conducted by Deloitte, almost 90% of respondents in Belgium believe that organisations need to be reinvented in order to give them meaning and to better distribute roles and responsibilities. The problem is that most organisations do not know how to achieve this: 42% say they are not ready to take the step and 37% say they have too many other priorities to embark on such a transformation project”, explains Jean-Pierre Christiaens.
Faced with these results, Laurent Ledoux does not seem surprised: “This apparent contradiction is not surprising. To envisage a transformation, a real one, requires a long-term vision that goes beyond the pursuit of financial profit. However, the crisis we are currently experiencing is pushing companies to think about their survival: some are therefore thinking even more in the short term and are sticking to their current model at all costs; others, on the contrary, are raising their heads, scanning the horizon and trying to reinvent themselves. Everything depends on the leadership of the organisation and its ability to change its position and evolve. Not everyone can do this, but when we see the success of certain transformation projects such as the one currently being carried out at Partena Professional, we can hope that others will follow a similar path and that this virtuous dynamic will spread. The key is to understand that you can start small. Not everything has to be done overnight, allowing the organisation to prepare and manage its priorities as best it can. With Partena Professional, we first set up pilots to test the new business model and governance and we quickly measured their impact. This quickly proved positive, not least in terms of the organisation’s Net Promoter Score (an indicator of the propensity or likelihood of customers/users to recommend a product, brand or service), both internally and to customers. Any leader who is interested in such an approach can start a transformation project on a pilot scale, and then gradually roll it out to the whole organisation if it is successful. One of the prerequisites for a successful transformation is the genuine commitment of the executive board to the transformation”.
For Jean-Pierre Christiaens, the challenge is to work jointly on the mode of governance, on the business model and on the development of everyone in the new system. The key is to move forward at the right pace and in a synchronised way on these three dimensions, because it is on their combination and on the will of the leadership that the long-term success of the organisation’s transformation depends.
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