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Being successful at Change and Transformation

Over the course of last several weeks, I have been engaged in a transformation effort at a leading financial services organization. I was co-facilitating a workshop with a leadership team earlier this evening.

We talked about various reasons for change and transformation efforts not being successful, and referred to some of the commonly cited challenges such as:

  1. Inadequate sponsorship

  2. Unrealistic Expectations

  3. Resistance by Employees

  4. Poor Project Management

  5. Not having a compelling Business Case

  6. Project Teams lacking required skills

  7. Silos / Lack of End to End process view

  8. Aligned Approach for People, Process and Technology

The above list is indeed not exhaustive, and could be restated / rephrased in various ways. But, often what catches everyone’s focus and attention is “resistance by employees”. And, it did today as well. Out of the room of 13 senior leaders, when we asked them to choose 1 key reason for failure – 7 opted for employee resistance. Next highest scored 2!.

In my individual opinion, this whole notion of people resisting change is a misconception. As Peter Senge had said “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed”.

This so called “resistance to change” is not a reason / cause of transformation efforts failing, but the manifestation and a measure of non-success. It’s reflective of you not being able to carry people together.

There’s no shortage of insights on change management. Google search gives 67.9 million results. Amazon has 93,000+ books!. And, yet as often cited – 70% of the change programs don’t succeed (i.e. either don’t achieve their desired and planned objectives, or don’t meet the targets in time).

So, what’s ailing the change efforts being pursued by a large number of organizations?. And, what can we do to increase the success rate of a transformation initiative.

I recommend focusing on the 5 key building blocks – the basic enablers

  • Establishing a concrete and shared Vision (Created collaboratively, or atleast communicated and reinforced actively and passionately).

  • Having the right and adequate Competencies (either internal employees or external consultants / partners) to strategize, plan, execute, review and refine the vision and the roadmap to achieve the vision.

  • Providing Incentives (NOT just bonus and rewards), but those which truly address the WIFM`s (What’s In for Me) of “your” organization’s team members. For several, just a simple pat on the back is a WOW, whilst for someone else – even a Million $ bonus is not exciting enough.

  • Provide Resources for your change programs. I often say “Run as much as you need to, but run only as fast as you can”. Too slow – you will loose the race, too fast – you will get exhausted sooner than needed.

  • Have a Roadmap – We all know about “if you don’t care where you’re going, any road will get you there”. Just having an exciting vision is not sufficient – one needs to have BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) broken down into SMART goals.

One of the most successful examples to me of a transformation effort is Project Apollo (not from corporate arena!). Several, who know about it have typically admired Kennedy’s famous speech “land a man on the moon”, and the success achieved thereafter. But, it’s critical to note the need for change (background behind the vision), and how rigorously and systematically it was pursued.

So, if you have a need for change – whether it’s “desire to grow” OR a “case of survival”, and you are pursuing / planning to embark on a journey of change and transformation – remember – there’s “no one size fits all”.

Don’t look at your organizational team members as potential roadblocks and concerns, but see them as opportunities. Get the basics (Vision, Incentives, Competencies, Resources and Roadmap) right, and you will experience – people embracing change and contributing towards the transformation success.

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