Transformation: Harnessing All Efforts

As an experienced change management practitioner, I have always felt that the premise of change management involved an organization moving from a current state to some future improved state.  We would then utilize an improvement-based methodology (i.e. Lean, Six Sigma, TQM) to identify waste or opportunities, and their ultimate removal would deliver improved business results.

So what is the premise of transformation? Is it the same as change management? I believe it is not the same, or at least, not always the same.

Transformation:  The Premise

Transformation seems to be more about doing things differently, and that is inherently not the same as merely improving things.

This transformation stuff feels like a real game changer to me.  So I think it will be important to start harnessing our collective efforts in new ways.  And what better way to do this than to adopt some new principles to guide us on our journey through this new reality.  I am offering three for your consideration, basically I just want to get the ball (and conversations) rolling.

Transformation: The Principles

  1. Bury the Past (and Present)

Transformation Principle:  Spend less time discussing the past/present state and more time defining and moving toward the future state.

This first principle arose after witnessing the copious amount of time that SME (subject matter experts) spend reviewing, documenting and analyzing their current processes as an initial step to defining a yet to be determined future state. It simply struck me as a step that could be shortened or entirely eliminated if an organization is seeking innovative solutions or looking to do things differently.

The reason for this is simple:

  • The past/present is not necessarily the basis for the future
  • People will take forward their expertise but not necessarily their practices
  • People will need to learn to apply their expertise differently and find new ways of doing their work

In order to be successful, people will need to let go of the past/present and accept that the future will be an entirely new reality for everyone.  Basically we all need to leap (i.e. leap of faith towards a yet to be determined future state) in order to actively contribute to this new reality.

2. Leverage People’s Strengths

Transformation Principle:  Assign fewer tasks with the intent of stretching or developing people and more tasks according to people’s strengths and intrinsic wiring.

This second principle came to light after seeing so many of our clients asking some great questions about the future, and being motivated to do things differently,  yet struggling to come up with the answers required to move forward.

I believe that many of us are not overly comfortable with abstract and conceptual tasks. Sometimes I refer to these tasks as blank page exercises.  We are either wired for them or not.

Where possible, in this new reality, we will need to fight our tendency to ‘just’ delegate, and embrace the concept of the ‘right’ delegation.

The reason for this is simple:

  • People will need to accept that some are intrinsically wired for strategy and innovation, and others are not
  • People will need to stop delegating strategic tasks to technical experts (and vice versa) (wherever possible)

And if we do decide to stretch and develop our people:

  • We need to provide them with the structure and tools necessary in order for them to be successful
  • We need to support them more and plan for the additional time it takes to build new skills and competencies

In order to be successful, people will need to better understand their team’s strengths and employ their resources to the best overall effect.  Let’s face it, in this new reality, or at least in the race toward the new reality, time is of the essence.  It just makes sense to play to people’s strengths and get things done well in a timely and efficient manner.

3. Trust People’s Instincts

Transformation Principle:  Spend less time on absolute risk elimination and more time following people’s instincts.

This third and last principle is a recurring thought I have during many meetings that I attend. We have become accustomed to silencing that inner voice we all have, and have not practiced enough the necessary art of saying what we think (and what we already intuitively know).

I believe that we need to take more personal risks and cut through the lengthy discussions by making more recommendations that require concrete decisions.

The reason for this is simple:

  • People will need to accept that absolute elimination of risk is counter-intuitive to achieving innovation.
  • People will need to take more personal risks and make more clear recommendations for decision.
  • People will need to get everyone pulling in the same innovative (and intuitive!) direction.

In order to be successful, people will need to trust their instincts more and better harness their collective energy in new and different ways.  But the catch here is that everyone needs to adopt this principle, otherwise some brave individuals will find themselves on the end of some pretty strong opposition.

Transformation:  The Conclusion

In closing, I think that we should all adopt some shared principles to guide our transformation journeys.  I have offered three for your consideration, and I hope that they may inspire you to have these types of conversations with your own teams.  Transformation is indeed a new reality for us all, so our ability to harness all efforts, and build momentum and enthusiasm will not only increase our immediate chances for success, but it will better prepare us to deal with the next major change or transformation that is surely lurking around the next corner.

“When people see and feel the buildup of momentum, they will line up with enthusiasm.” (re: The Flywheel Effect from Jim Collins, Good to Great)



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