Transformation Failure


Gabriel Matula

According to McKinsey only 26% of organizational transformations are successful.  Think of it this way:  if your organization goes through four transformations, one of them will be a success.  (I hope it’s not the first one!)  OK, I’m kind of stretching the truth.  It was 26% of respondents who stated that the transformations were very or completely successful.  Most are not.

But some companies are successful.  Some organizations can beat the odds and McKinsey has a blueprint.  And while there are 24 different tasks that you can do, each one of which improves the odds, there are really three things that can significantly improve the odds of success.

Focus on people, not the project.  Transformation is all about restructuring the organization, making it more responsive to the needs of the client.  I’ve written previously about how, in order to change the culture, you need to start with the people.  This dovetails with that idea in that the transformation that you are putting in place?  Well, it better be focused on the people and not necessarily the org structure that you are trying to achieve or the governance strategy you are trying to put into place.

People are the cornerstone of any organization and if you don’t put them first you’ve got two strikes against you.

Without getting people on board the idea that the transformation is going to be successful is nothing more than a pipe dream.  And not just involved at the beginning, they need to be involved throughout the process.  And how do you do that?

Communicate continually.  It’s not just a matter of talking to people, it’s a matter of listening to what they are saying.

Communication requires listening to what people are saying and responding to their concerns.  If all you do is post “information” but never listen to the responses, you are not communicating and your transformation is going to fail.  I cannot count the number of times I have been asked for my opinion only to have it ignored.  Not discussed and tossed because it wasn’t the right idea, but just ignored as if I hadn’t spoken.

Even if you vehemently disagree with what is being said, acknowledge that it has been said.  Nothing disengages people more than being asked for their opinion and then being ignored.

Take more action.  In essence, what the authors of the article are saying is that the more work you put into the transformation effort the more likely you are to succeed.  You can’t just toss a commandment like “new org structure tomorrow” over the the fence and abandon the idea to someone else.  Everyone needs to commit the transformation and complete as many of the twenty-four actions as possible.  Not start, but complete.

Transformation is a process, a journey, something that should never end.  An organization should always be transforming, always changing to become better.  The current organizational structure or the one after that, should always be thought of as the org structure du jour.

But there are some things that are constant:  people first, communicate as much as you can and do as much as you can to make the transformation a success.

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