The ‘70% of Transformations Fail’ headline is certainly a scary statistic, but should you be worried?

Transformation is happening all of the time, so surely it can’t be that bad and is probably some urban legend type marketing used to scare executives into buying in an army of consultants in pinstripe suits. Before you know it, they are everywhere, you have spent a lot of money, are being bombarded by briefs, plans and strategies and don’t appear to have got anywhere… wait why were you transforming again?

The original statistic came from a piece of research conducted by McKinsey in 2013 with lots of subsequent analysis from the likes of Harvard Business Review and other industry-leading experts. The consensus is that that failure is in the ability to achieve anything like the benefits set out in the original business case underpinning the transformation. So it isn’t necessarily that transformations are outright failures, more they seem set to be overly optimistic, run out of steam, are often under-resourced and often pay little heed to the human factor involved with big change. Mainly because it’s uncomfortable and unsettling for most and so bringing them on the journey is tough, especially when if they don’t ever see what is in it for them.

So how can you keep your organisation on the front foot and stand the best chance of success?

1. Create a sense of urgency

Create a sense of urgency at all levels in the organisation that is bringing this transformation about. After all you are doing it for a good reason aren’t you?  You make the organisation understand why, create that vision and sell it. Then sell it again and keep selling it. At all levels, not just the executive team or senior leadership team. Everyone must understand why the change is happening and what the vision for the end state is including for them, not just some high-level intangible statement or figure, but how will this affect people in their day to day business, at their desk – what is in it for them.

2. Recognise it is hard

The second key thing is to recognise this it is hard – damn hard! So, go easy on yourself and get support. Not every single member of your senior team will be a transformation champion, not every single line manager will be a change advocate, not every single team leader will be a great salesperson for change. It’s not that they don’t believe in it or want it to succeed but it isn’t part of their core soft skill sets. So, augment your teams with resource than can help keeping pushing the messages, help the business adopt changes, to be those champions and help those leaders and managers to whom this doesn’t come naturally.

3. Root out the dissenters

These people can be very damaging to the overall success of the transformation and can create ill will and confusion. They need to be engaged with to understand the reason for their attitude and behaviour. Both sides should not be afraid to part company mutually if the future state does not and cannot align to how their world needs to be. This does not need to be ruthless, but should be done with respect and empathy, but needs to be done as the transformation is needed for a very good reason hence embarking upon it, so be true to your vision and why you set about this in the 1st place.

4. Show progress

Show your people you and they are making progress!  Be very careful to identify quick wins and show these, show incremental progress and increasing benefits along the journey. This will help with the buy in of the organisation and reward the organisation for stepping up to the challenge and making the transformation begin to work and take shape. This will build a sense of community and buy in. However also be careful not to declare success to soon, be sure the organisation is yielding those benefits that it set out to achieve.

5. Strong leadership

Finally, build a resilient senior leadership team, spend time to really develop into a functional and trustworthy team. Setbacks will come, and you can be transparent about this. However, resilient leadership will be seen and felt, inspiring the wider organisation to keep going with the trust they see and feel. Transformations are hard. But they can be done. Establish your vision, the need for change and get support. Stick to your guns and keep driving and you will succeed. But remember to be kind to yourself and your people along the way, after all, it is the collective who will deliver the transformation, not one individual.

 

Ntegra have a long heritage of leading and delivering complex technology programmes, get in touch to discuss how we might be able to support your transformation journey.