At any given time I am typically involved in several transformational initiatives around the world. Some are local in nature, and others are global. Some are very complex and others more straightforward.
The goals and context of each transformational initiative can also be different:
- Some are going through major organizational restructuring and they want their people to accept and own these changes quickly.
- Some want to grow their market share from #5 to #4, or even to #1.
- Others feel their cultural values, spirit and pride have deteriorated and they want to ignite and energize their workforce again.
The dictionary defines transformation as: A thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
All successful transformational initiatives take the organization or team from one state to another.
From a culture of cynicism, resignation and discouragement – to a culture of enthusiasm, passion, high energy, and pride.
From teams working in siloes, hiding and looking out for themselves – to a dynamic of genuine cross-function alignment, collaboration, trust and sense of “we are in this together”.
From people blaming others when there are issues and behaving like victims who can’t make a difference – to a state in which everyone feels empowered to think and behave as courageous owners who take risks and do the right thing.
So, what are the key principles and steps that must be in place for any transformation to succeed?
Step one – Own the need for change.
Every change has to start at the top!
So, if you want to succeed make sure that your leaders own the need for change. This includes the leaders acknowledging what has worked and what hasn’t worked about the organization – and also what has worked and what hasn’t worked about the leaders themselves.
Step two – Build your leadership team as a high performance team that can lead a bold transformation.
Leading a transformation effort is not an easy mission. In fact, things often get worse before they get better. So, the top team has to be ready to climb this mountain. The senior leaders have to be prepared to stay the course.
Step three – Create a bold strategy that is BOTH truly transformational, AND that every leadership team member owns with 100% commitment and accountability.
You need a bold strategy for the transformation effort in order to be clear on where you are going and what success looks like. If you articulate a clear vision and strategy you will be able to engage others in your bold journey. However, if your leaders don’t fully own the strategy, they can’t expect others to do the same.
Step four – Get the middle managers to co-own and co-lead the transformation.
The middle managers are a critical link in the transformation chain – because they sit between the strategy and its execution.
If the managers are on-board they will go out of their way to break down silos and drive a new level of cross-functional collaboration. But, if they are not… they’ll play along and say all the right things. But they’ll find subtle ways to undermine the effort…AND…they’ll be the first to blame others and say, “we told you so…”
Step five – Get the employees on-board.
When you have the leadership team and managers genuinely on-board you will start seeing a tipping point.
Getting the employees on-board is much easier, because all the employees want is to do a great job and be part of something great. They don’t want to be stuck in silos or be pawns in political games that are often imposed by their managers and leaders.
Step six – Align your key stakeholders and customers with your transformation.
When the entire team is on the same page, you will want to start aligning your interactions, partnerships, collaborations and expectations with your stakeholders and customers.
Step seven – Execute and stay the course.
Now that you have all the pieces in place it is all about execution, staying the course, addressing obstacles and pursuing opportunities – with discipline – consistent with your new future.
If you execute step seven well and stay the course, you will create a new state. As the dictionary defined it: A thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
And, this new state will begin to have a life of its own, or what I call: Irreversible Momentum.