Transformation has been a buzzword for a few years now. Much of the time we see it applied to digital and technology. The idea of ‘digital transformation’ has almost become synonymous with ‘digital disruption’.

But what if I were to tell you that just bringing in your fancy, new tech is a waste of time and money?

Technology is a tool, not an impetus

As much as we strive to shape our companies into machinery – things we drive, which crunch numbers and give us deliverables and outputs – the truth is that they’re living things. They’re alive because a company is a group of people who (ideally) have the same vision, and work together to achieve it.

To achieve whatever this collective vision is, we have to do a whole lot of things. Technology of various kinds forms the toolkit that lets us achieve those things more efficiently. It’s not the way we do business, but it amplifies and speeds up the way we do business, when it’s already working.

If your business isn’t working, then just applying technology isn’t going to help you. Click To Tweet

Transformation isn’t about the technology

Great companies, that have been through significant transformation, weren’t transformed on the back of the technology. On the contrary, they changed and then decided which technology could help.

This was one of the key findings by Jim Collins in his exploration of what makes a great company:

‘If technology is so vitally important, why did the good-to-great executives talk so little about it? Certainly not because they ignored technology: They were technologically sophisticated and vastly superior to their comparisons… Yet the executives hardly talked about technology.’

The primary factors in transformation in at least one of Collins’s case studies were the consistency of the company, and ‘the ability to project its philosophies throughout the whole organization’. (p.156)

On a similar theme, a TechCrunch article from 2015 argued that digital transformation isn’t about digital at all. That, instead, ‘it’s a philosophy that all must adopt’, that it’s re-imagining of the entire process. It’s not just applying technology to them.

Slightly more bluntly, Stefan Thomke wrote in the Harvard Business Review that tools and technology won’t automatically improve your operations. Instead, they ‘must be integrated into systems and routines that are already in place.’

New tech must be integrated into systems and routines that already work. #business #technology Click To Tweet

Successful transformation changes your people

Your business’s systems, routines, and philosophies are carried by your people. This is why you will see that a successful transformation program, according to Forbes is all about the people.

Your people are one of the critical ‘resources’ in your business, and also the one ‘resource’ that you don’t control. You can give them the right environment and skills, but you can’t control them. They’re not like a machine with a known service requirement. Your people are the weakest link in your chain, because you are one of them, so it’s harder to see what they need.

Why do you train? You train to change

If you didn’t want a behaviour to change, you wouldn’t train people. That behaviour might be directly related to a process. Such as, How to use The Widget to Help a Customer. That behaviour might be less about process, and more about company values. Such as, How to handle conflict to create happy customers.

All #training is about change. It’s entirely why training and development are critical to a successful #transformation. Click To Tweet

When people come together, they create a culture. Training isn’t just about how do we do this thing, but also about personal mastery. It’s about creating people who are capable, resilient, positive, and engaged; about enabling their leadership to give them the right environment that helps them to thrive. When your people thrive, your business thrives. Your people can make or break your business.

Great training has direct, measurable outcomes for your business

Many executives fail to see the role that training and development has for their businesses. At Training x Design, we believe that this is because they haven’t been given the tools to see them. Very often, training is handled by a learning & development manager, or someone in Human Resources. It’s not often something you’ll find discussed in the C-Suite.

Great training is measured and has a real impact. A great example is the customer service training we developed for one of our national clients. Their investment in the training was approximately $2000 per person ($1000 in lost work time, $1000 training cost + incidentals).

Before training, their team members were averaging 22 up-sells per quarter, at a value of $25 each.

After training, that had increased to 150 up-sells per quarter, resulting in $3,200 more income generated per person, per quarter. Over the course of a year, that’s an astonishing $12,800 of revenue generated per person trained. And all because of a behavioural change.

What are you leaving on the table by failing to see training as a strategic exercise?

The CEO’s guide to the business of training

In the coming months, we are bringing you a series of articles about the business of training.

Designed for you, the CEO, it is a series that takes you from strategy to longevity. It gives you the nuts and bolts you need to consider training and development as a key strategic tool.

Far from the ‘how to create training that works’ articles, the Business of Training is about the stuff you care about: Profit and loss, growth, and sustainability.

Subscribe so you don’t miss out!

Make sure that you don’t miss out on any articles in the forthcoming series by subscribing.


Collins, J. 2001. Good to Great. Harper Collins: New York. pages 155-6.