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Successful Transformations Published: Sunday, August 10, 2014 12:01 am By: Rafael Rios, Executive VP

A company’s transformational strategy should provide a favorable competitive position. Yet a little over half of these strategies deliver on their promised value.  Why?

We have found that high performing organizations in a transformation process seem to have certain behaviors and actions in common.  These include: 

First of all they view strategy formulation and execution as intrinsically linked—then they raise the bar for both simultaneously. They acknowledge that to be successful they honestly have to bring challenges they face to the forefront and provide an approach to overcoming them. The greater the challenge, the more these companies focus and coordinate efforts to achieve a powerful competitive punch or problem-solving effect.

The leaders of these organizations imagine and articulate an exciting future full of possibilities. Their vision is stick catchy and inspiring. Their people can relate.

They keep goals simple, concrete and outrageously challenging. They describe what the companies will do and won’t do. Transformation efforts many times are mined by incorporating subpar objectives in the planning process.  If they want to transform they put in place goals that will really transform.  The goals of these successful organizations serve an important function in the transformation process. They challenge the way the business is run, work is done, talent is managed etc. They create a sense of urgency and constructive tension that moves and unfreezes the status quo.

These successful organizations focus both on performance (short term results) and the organizations health (long term performance and strategic challenges).  This bifocal approach creates the metrics necessary to manage progress or identify obstacles.  It manages the critical organizational health factors such as the development of talent, process excellence, the development of innovation strategies etc. and receive the necessary resources as short term productivity initiatives do.

High performing organizations going through a transformation process have learned that the well intentioned process of asking each department or business unit to develop their own goals and objectives that contribute the organizations transformation strategy results in a multitude of initiatives that are running and competing parallel to each other. They drain the company’s resources and energy and do not achieve the expected results.

The transformation planning process should interconnect at three levels. The first establishes a clear since of direction and draws a picture of a future state. The second level elaborates three to six transformational strategies that are critical to the transformation of the organization. The third level is the six to ten incentives that turn the organizations change strategy into a reality 

Successful organizations continuously monitor performance. They track real-time results against their plan, resetting planning assumptions and reallocating resources as needed. They remedy flaws in their plan and its execution—and avoid confusing the two.

Explaining to employees what is expected of them in the transformation process will not significantly change behavior. Neither will making everyone feel happy, comfortable, and satisfied transform an organization. The reality is that that performance improvement is marginal at best when these are the important transformation strategies. The truth of the matter is that when transforming behavior and performance, you have to rewrite the employee’s operating system. You have to change their mindsets. The change has to make sense to the people so that they can execute it.  Team members at all the levels of the organization have to understand what they what they have to do, and why they have to do it before they will commit to putting it in practice. When rewriting people’s operating system these organizations introduce new concepts and knowledge that will provide the necessary tools to transform their work areas and the organization.

Leaders provide persistent, consistent, optimistic, and credible guidance in order to achieve expected results. These leaders model the way by holding themselves and the organization accountable for the transformation.

On the other hand we have to be careful and not fall into the trap of only focusing on concepts, strategies and restructuring while failing to transform the way work is performed on the floor. Restructuring the organizations by itself will not change service levels or impact productivity. Performance transformation occurs when fundamental change impacts the shop floor, especially when white elephants and traditional icons are removed or challenged. These successful companies identify and deploy the new behaviors, “SOP’s” and systems that will crystalize and sustain transformation (at all levels).

Finally it is imperative that the best people are assigned to lead the transformation of the organization. If your best leaders are not used because they are busy doing other important projects, what is the message that we are sending to the organization?


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