As McKinsey & Co recently reminded us*, the vast majority of transformation programmes undertaken around the world continue to fail.
This is not only a cause for concern, it proves conventional systems have had their day and need to be replaced if organisations are to survive the Fourth (Industrial) Revolution.
Although change has been part of business since its inception, new concepts and technologies are disrupting markets faster than ever meaning incumbents need to find better ways to adapt or they’ll be surpassed by next-generation solutions they never saw coming.
Having specialised in performance transformation for over 30 years, and organisational transformation for the past 20, we’ve identified 10 common failures leaders typically make.
- Executives relegate the process to a ‘transformation’ lead which dilutes its impact from the outset
- The purpose of the transformation isn’t articulated so no one understands it
- People aren’t included so wait for evidence before they buy into it
- Culture isn’t the point of focus meaning it descends into a set of initiatives
- Leaders aren’t enabled to own it in their workgroup so they pay lip service to its intent
- Front-line staff are excluded so they wait it out as they’ve heard similar promises before
- Stakeholders aren’t informed so they see it as an IT upgrade or shuffling of the deck chairs
- Conventional systems are used to support it hence the changes never eventuate
- Management systems remain the same meaning peoples’ mindsets or attitudes don’t change
- The desired behaviours are never realised thereby negating its relevance where it matters
Although the above may be obvious, transformation failures tend to only become apparent to those in command on reflection. In other words, it’s only when the changes aren’t realised that Executives examine the issue to try and figure out why. However, because the purpose of the transformation is typically dominated by the activities undertaken to support it, its sponsors presume that if its managed properly as a programme of work, the outcomes will automatically be realised.
The fact is, almost every so-called transformation programme we’ve observed in an organisational setting focuses on either company or interdepartmental restructures or technological upgrades.
However, unless the purpose or intent of the changes is to enable employees to better deliver the organisations vision, it’s unlikely to change the way the company operates.
The fact is, organisational restructures are only relevant if a business has to be right-sized to reflect the market or it changes its strategy so needs to be reconfigured in order to execute it.
If, on the other hand, it’s about a technological change, the organisation has to identify how its people will need to think and behave to leverage the benefits it offers because unless this occurs, the value of the investment will never be realised despite the potential of the tech itself.
So how should transformation programmes be managed?
- The Leadership Team has to own the process and the outcomes it delivers in its entirety
- The purpose of the programme needs to be explained so everyone understands the benefits
- It has to be focused on people, for people, given they’ll determine its uptake and success
- Put the culture of your business first to enable your people to support it
- Ensure every leader owns the change in their workgroup that way it will be relevant to them
- Provide regular updates so your front-line staff know where you’re up to and what happens next
- Advise your stakeholders so they understand its relevance and how they can support you
- Engage your people in the process from the outset so they can see and feel the difference
- Update your practices to generate a movement rather than managing those it affects
- Give your people the opportunity to help you change the business rather than telling them what you think they need to know when you think it matters
Experience over the years has told us the secret to successful transformation programmes is your people and how well you engage them in the process from the outset.
Because you cannot manage your way to greatness, you need to get everyone on board so they understand the process and how they, as an individual, can help you realise the value it offers.
©1995 to present day. All rights reserved – Steel Performance Solutions