What is the most important aspect of any Organizational Transformation?

In most organizations, when people talk about Organizational Transformation, they typically mean a major reorganization or restructuring, a process re-engineering initiative or a system and tool upgrade.

These things are very important, and at specific times in the evolution of a company they may be just what the organization needs in order to reach the next level.

However, I have seen organizations with best-in-class processes, systems and tools struggle to achieve great performance and results. And I have seen organizations with barely-adequate processes, systems and tools achieve extraordinary results beyond expectations.

Why is this the case?

The reason is that even in today’s increasingly digital and technology-oriented environment, no matter how high-tech your business is – your success still fundamentally depends on your people. Whether you like it or not, the old cliché: “our people are our most valuable asset” is still as true and vibrant as ever.

Unfortunately, judging by their behavior I still see too many senior leaders who don’t seem to get this fundamental concept, or they simply underestimate what it takes to create the environment for successful and sustainable change.  Maybe that is the reason why so many large change initiatives don’t succeed.

These executives seem to think that because they are senior and have the authority to hire and fire, they can mandate people’s engagement, commitment and ownership, and people will just naturally line up with their direction.

I still see town hall meetings in which senior leaders get up on the stage, explain the rationale for change and express their expectations that everyone will step up to do their part. They then get off the stage feeling that now that people understand the direction and they will join the cause.
However, in reality, nothing is further from the truth.

Yes, if leaders create an environment in which people are afraid to speak up everyone will say what the executives want to hear. However, people are smart. They know how to play the game; how to pretend as if they are on board and pay lip service to the company’s initiatives.

So, any organizational transformation effort has to include a major focus on people; creating the right mindset and focus.

In fact, no matter how complex the restructuring or system change aspects may be, the people aspect will always be the defining factor for success.

Wise executives will prioritize their time and effort to make sure everyone is on the same page, with the same clarity about the strategy and outcomes of the transformation.

They will also invest their personal time and passion to ensure that everyone genuinely buys into the change, driving high levels of commitment, ownership, and accountability. And, that people feel they can step up, speak up, do the right things, bring the tough topics to the table, rock the boat where necessary and take risks – without being afraid of getting into trouble.

When people feel and believe that their leaders get it – that they genuinely value their people’s importance and contribution – they are much more inclined to get excited about the transformation.

And, as we all know – excited people are much more committed. They own the game and go out of their way to ensure that the organizational transformation is a success.

You can’t beat that!

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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