Lessons in Leading Transformation

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We are living in a world where a lot of organisations are being forced to transform the way they operate. As we all know, being forced to change is not a good place to be in. The ability of leaders to lead their organisation through this transformation process will be paramount in enabling their organisations to continue to remain relevant.

I came across an old video (from 1993), where Dr. Barbara Lawton shares her perspective and the perspectives from Dr. Deming and his principles on how to lead a transformation process. I could not believe what I heard her say in the video – what she said almost 27 years is still very true and relevant today, when it comes to leading a transformation of an organisation.

If you are in the process of leading your team through a transformation, make time to watch the video (about 90 mins long) And make notes, a lot of notes.

Here are some important things that I learnt from this session:

Transformation begins with the individual. We need to help people begin to see the need to be willing and equipped to learn, grow and change. The higher the capacity of people within an organisation to continue to learn, grow and change, the higher the probability of success the organisation will have in their transformation efforts.

One of the primary reasons why transformation efforts fail it because they don’t understand the need for control that people have. People need to feel in control of their lives – all the time. This can manifest in one of the following ways: Ability to dictate, anticipate or manage the outcomes.

As long as the people whose behaviors and actions need to change {for the transformation efforts to be successful}, feel that they are in control, the transformation effort has a good chance of success.

Once people are able to continue to learn and grow, the organisation needs the systems and processes to capture this learning and act incorporating what it has learnt. Most organisations lack these systems and processes to learn from these individuals’ insights.

The trick is to have a balance between individuals learning and growing and the organisation being able to benefit from their learning and growing. This is a hard balance to strike.

Creating change requires a whole different level of understanding and knowledge than it takes to manage the same thing. It needs the leader to understand how each system and part interacts with all the other systems and parts.

Macro level changes better have micro level consequences. No personal changes happen without any micro level impact of every macro level changes being initiated. This is the reason why most re-organisation efforts fail. This is why even though you are part of many reorg efforts, yet your day-to-day work never seems to change

When the amount of change someone is being asked to make outweighs the ability of the individual to assimilate, we get inaction and inertia takes over.

Just like any new crop being planted in an existing farm needs the right conditions for it to grow and thrive. So, does every transformation effort needs the right culture {environment} in order to be able to take root and thrive.

Revolutionary change happens best in an evolutionary manner. You can’t force the pace of change based on our own timelines. It takes the time it takes.

In conclusion:

The way we can successfully lead transformation exercises within organisations hasn’t changed much in the past 27 years. What was applicable then is still applicable now. The only difference is that the pace at which we are expected to transform has quickened.

So, the ability to transform is going to be one of the key organizational capability that will determine the future success of many organisations. This will become a sustainable competitive advantage, if cultivated well. 

If you would like to speak to me to find out how can I help you in your transformation efforts, feel free to block sometime on my calendar and we can discuss how you can improve your efforts.

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