Transformation has become one of the most overused terms in business today, typically to describe any form of change. It can rather be defined as a significant, company-wide program which will radically improve the important business drivers, such as topline growth, cost efficiency, operational effectiveness, and customer satisfaction. It is a journey highlighted by key milestones, all driving towards a clearly defined end goal. Due to its complexity, a transformation can be likened to changing an aircraft engine mid-flight.
While many companies must embark on transformation programs to remain relevant, only about 30% of transformations prove to be successful. Here are some reasons why transformations either succeed or fail, and how we can ensure our transformation journeys are effectively executed:
To ensure success
- An organization must step outside its comfort zone and self-imposed constraints to define what is truly achievable. Many transformations fail because they carry a series of incremental steps that don’t lead anywhere rather than a single leap.
- Must clearly answer the “why” of a transformation. Providing purpose will motivate teams to drive a transformation journey forward.
- There must be a dedicated transformation office, complete with representation in executive leadership. The role of a Chief Transformation Officer is to drive urgency and constantly push for decisions. The CTO will work to irritate an organization that needs to think and act differently and will challenge corporate orthodoxies.
To risk failure
- Organizations are at risk of having transformations slowdown and slipping back into its old ways. To sustain a transformation, leaders must try to absorb the lessons of the transformation as it moves forward and enforce a repeatable process to deliver results long after it formally ends.
- Adopting latest and greatest technologies without a clear plan will result in a failed transformation. Innovative technologies are intended to accelerate our organization’s ability to transform and drive us to the finish line.
- Average companies rarely have the combination of skills, mind-sets, and ongoing commitment needed to pull off a large-scale transformation. With disruptions being infrequent, leaders are sometimes poorly prepared to handle the fast-paced work of transformation as they are trained to lead a steady state of stable structures, quarterly reviews, and regular budgeting.
Here, the importance of the right team cannot be emphasized enough. Many organizations attribute their successful transformations to having a dedicated transformation office that is empowered to make decisions and accelerate innovation. Regular cadence is important to establish ownership and accountability. Collaborating with senior leaders, the transformation office must have the energy and focus to lead perhaps 4-8 major work streams.
To achieve a transformational improvement, companies need to raise their ambitions, develop different skills, challenge existing mind-sets, and commit fully to execution. Organizations can also offer incentives, as they are especially important for changing behavior. Keeping all these factors in mind when embarking on a transformation journey can produce extraordinary and sustainable results.