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10 tips for transformation

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10TipsforTransformation
The words ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ are often
used interchangeably, but they mean different
things in the context of organisations.
This article explores the difference between
‘change’ and ‘transformation’ in an organisational
context, and then identifies
10 Tips for Transformation.
Introduction
At the other end of the continuum is
‘transformation’ a radical departure
from the current ways of doing things,
and creating something new. The status
quo is disrupted through things like; a
strategic review; a new business model;
new structures across the organisation;
or working in different ways across the
whole organisation. Transformation is
often global in nature and has
significant cross-functional impact.
Transformation requires an inner shift in
people’s values and behaviours. There
is a high emotional impact because of
the need to unlearn years of habits,
which can be challenging and
uncomfortable.
Transition is a key part of transformation.
People go through individual transitions
and don’t move at the same pace as a
transformation schedule. People don’t
all transition at the same time, so be
prepared for transformation to take
longer than you think or want.
The 10 Tips for Transformation offer
guidance and support for leaders who
are currently leading and navigating
transformation in their organisation.
“I believe there’s a continuum along which the
notions of ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ sit.”
At one end there are change activities,
things that improve what’s already there.
This is sometimes referred to as
‘continuous improvement’ and requires
minimal behaviour change. These
changes are more transactional in
nature and include things like introducing
a new process or operational practice
within a team or department. If this
introduction is managed well then the
change will have little emotional impact
on people.
An example of change activity:
A client wanted to improve how
their sales and production teams
worked together to improve delivery
target performance and better
manage customers’ expectations.
 
A series of workshops and
conversations between the two
teams resulted in improved internal
communication so that customer
information was shared more freely
between departments. The sales
team referred to the production
team before delivery commitments
were made; and the customer was
introduced to a key contact in
production so they could be given
regular updates on the progress of
their orders through the factory.
 
The changes in operational practice
were relatively minor and introduced
in an inclusive way, with the teams
generating the ideas themselves, so
the emotional impact of the change
was minimal.
An example of
transformation:
A pharmaceutical company
needed to respond to a
government-led
transformation of the
healthcare sector. Significant
changes in how it would be
able to access its customers
triggered the need for a
strategic review of the UK&I
business model. The resulting
transformation saw significant
structural, cultural, and
business operating changes
across the whole of the UK&I
business
Gwen Stirling
Founder + Director
10TipsforTransformation
These ten tips, posed as questions, are taken from my 16
years of experience as an OD (Organisation
Development) consultant, and feature snippets of wisdom
from talented colleagues and clients I’ve worked with.
Too often senior leaders fail to look externally and leave
transformation initiatives until it's almost too late. Then they
want to rush forward and don’t give sufficient time to
identifying the real issue and having clear scope-setting
conversations; they ignore the human dynamics of
participation and engagement; and their visible
endorsement often disappears once things have started.
1.	Have	you	dug	deep	enough	to	get	to	the	root	cause	of	your	issue?			
2.	What’s	the	size	and	shape	of	the	scoping	frame?			
3.		Are	you	paying	equal	a@enAon	to	organisaAonal	performance	AND	health?	
4.		What	are	your	guiding	principles	underpinning	the	transformaAon?	
5.	Where’s	the	development	opportunity	for	your	high	potenAals?			
6.	Where’s	the	balance	between	top	down	and	bo@om	up	approaches?			
7.	How	can	you	widen	the	circle	of	involvement	for	those	impacted?	
8.	How	skilled	are	your	leaders	at	transformaAonal	conversaAons?		
9.	What’s	the	rhythm	of	your	transformaAon?	
10.	How	fixated	are	you	with	organisaAonal	structure	charts?
Many change initiatives fail
because not enough time
and attention is given to
identifying the real issue.
Often the root cause of
issues is systemic, so it can
be valuable to spend time
seeing the interconnectivity
within the organisation and
testing internally held
assumptions about the
external market, your
strategy, culture, and the
quality of leadership.
Getting clear about the real
issue facing the business can
prevent you from solving the
wrong problem really well.
A working session attended
by more than the ‘usual
suspects’ facilitated by an
external consultant will
stimulate thinking. Invest in
someone who can provoke
and amplify difference,
disrupt normal patterns of
thinking, bring the reality of
the outside world into the
organisation, and assist you
with collective sense
making, insight, and clarity
about framing the issue you
are trying to solve. This may
end up being framed as a
series of questions you want
answered.
1.	Have	you	dug	deep	enough	to	get	
to	the	root	cause	of	your	issue?
This scope setting
conversation is critical
when you’re moving away
from traditional ‘top down’
approaches to
transformation (when a
small group of senior
leaders decide what the
transformation needs to
be, how it will be done,
and communicates
through a series of
‘cascading’ initiatives to
the rest of the
organisation).
Setting a clear scoping
frame enables those that
get involved to be clear
about what’s fixed (they
can’t influence or change)
and what’s open (things
they can influence, shape
and take ownership of)
A client used the powerful metaphor of ‘Painting The
Future’ to set the frame for their strategic review. Each
question to be answered was framed as an artist’s
canvas with a Canvas Lead heading up the team of
artists. Each Canvas Lead was drawn from the
emerging talent pool, and a Gallery Curator (project
manager) led the overall programme. The MD was the
art buyer who saw all the canvases in an art exhibition
of recommendations at the end of the project and then
decided which ones he would ‘buy’.
 
Each canvas was clearly scoped with the Steering
Committee sponsor (the size and shape of the frame
indicated their remit and freedom to act) and each
Canvas Lead had full artistic license to use different
paints and brushes to create their canvas of
recommendations (the resources, people and budget). 
2.	What’s	the	size	and	shape	of	the	
scoping	frame?
Transformation programmes
commonly focus exclusively on
financial and business
performance and returns;
delivering stakeholder/
shareholder value, reducing
operating costs, increasing
ROCE (Return on Capital
Employed), and achieving the
cost benefits a transformation
programme will bring.
Research from McKinsey (Keller
and Price, 2011) discovered
those organisations that were
more successful with
transformation paid equal
attention to the health of the
organisation as well as the
performance. Health isn’t the
‘soft’ stuff often labelled as HR
initiatives; organisational health
is the ability to align, be agile
and responsive, to execute and
renew faster than the
competition to sustain
exceptional performance. It
includes core capabilities such
as leadership, external
orientation and attention to
culture, mindsets, and
behaviours.
The research shows that 50% of
any organisation’s long-term
success is driven by its health,
and executives focusing on
both performance and health
rated their transformation results
as 3x more successful than just
focusing on performance
alone.
Creating transformation
measures and indicators that
encompass performance and
health will keep your
transformation on track to
success.
3.		Are	you	paying	equal	a@enAon	to	
organisaAonal	performance	AND	
health?

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10 tips for transformation

  • 1. 10TipsforTransformation The words ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ are often used interchangeably, but they mean different things in the context of organisations. This article explores the difference between ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ in an organisational context, and then identifies 10 Tips for Transformation.
  • 2. Introduction At the other end of the continuum is ‘transformation’ a radical departure from the current ways of doing things, and creating something new. The status quo is disrupted through things like; a strategic review; a new business model; new structures across the organisation; or working in different ways across the whole organisation. Transformation is often global in nature and has significant cross-functional impact. Transformation requires an inner shift in people’s values and behaviours. There is a high emotional impact because of the need to unlearn years of habits, which can be challenging and uncomfortable. Transition is a key part of transformation. People go through individual transitions and don’t move at the same pace as a transformation schedule. People don’t all transition at the same time, so be prepared for transformation to take longer than you think or want. The 10 Tips for Transformation offer guidance and support for leaders who are currently leading and navigating transformation in their organisation. “I believe there’s a continuum along which the notions of ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ sit.” At one end there are change activities, things that improve what’s already there. This is sometimes referred to as ‘continuous improvement’ and requires minimal behaviour change. These changes are more transactional in nature and include things like introducing a new process or operational practice within a team or department. If this introduction is managed well then the change will have little emotional impact on people. An example of change activity: A client wanted to improve how their sales and production teams worked together to improve delivery target performance and better manage customers’ expectations.   A series of workshops and conversations between the two teams resulted in improved internal communication so that customer information was shared more freely between departments. The sales team referred to the production team before delivery commitments were made; and the customer was introduced to a key contact in production so they could be given regular updates on the progress of their orders through the factory.   The changes in operational practice were relatively minor and introduced in an inclusive way, with the teams generating the ideas themselves, so the emotional impact of the change was minimal. An example of transformation: A pharmaceutical company needed to respond to a government-led transformation of the healthcare sector. Significant changes in how it would be able to access its customers triggered the need for a strategic review of the UK&I business model. The resulting transformation saw significant structural, cultural, and business operating changes across the whole of the UK&I business
  • 3. Gwen Stirling Founder + Director 10TipsforTransformation These ten tips, posed as questions, are taken from my 16 years of experience as an OD (Organisation Development) consultant, and feature snippets of wisdom from talented colleagues and clients I’ve worked with. Too often senior leaders fail to look externally and leave transformation initiatives until it's almost too late. Then they want to rush forward and don’t give sufficient time to identifying the real issue and having clear scope-setting conversations; they ignore the human dynamics of participation and engagement; and their visible endorsement often disappears once things have started. 1. Have you dug deep enough to get to the root cause of your issue? 2. What’s the size and shape of the scoping frame? 3. Are you paying equal a@enAon to organisaAonal performance AND health? 4. What are your guiding principles underpinning the transformaAon? 5. Where’s the development opportunity for your high potenAals? 6. Where’s the balance between top down and bo@om up approaches? 7. How can you widen the circle of involvement for those impacted? 8. How skilled are your leaders at transformaAonal conversaAons? 9. What’s the rhythm of your transformaAon? 10. How fixated are you with organisaAonal structure charts?
  • 4. Many change initiatives fail because not enough time and attention is given to identifying the real issue. Often the root cause of issues is systemic, so it can be valuable to spend time seeing the interconnectivity within the organisation and testing internally held assumptions about the external market, your strategy, culture, and the quality of leadership. Getting clear about the real issue facing the business can prevent you from solving the wrong problem really well. A working session attended by more than the ‘usual suspects’ facilitated by an external consultant will stimulate thinking. Invest in someone who can provoke and amplify difference, disrupt normal patterns of thinking, bring the reality of the outside world into the organisation, and assist you with collective sense making, insight, and clarity about framing the issue you are trying to solve. This may end up being framed as a series of questions you want answered. 1. Have you dug deep enough to get to the root cause of your issue?
  • 5. This scope setting conversation is critical when you’re moving away from traditional ‘top down’ approaches to transformation (when a small group of senior leaders decide what the transformation needs to be, how it will be done, and communicates through a series of ‘cascading’ initiatives to the rest of the organisation). Setting a clear scoping frame enables those that get involved to be clear about what’s fixed (they can’t influence or change) and what’s open (things they can influence, shape and take ownership of) A client used the powerful metaphor of ‘Painting The Future’ to set the frame for their strategic review. Each question to be answered was framed as an artist’s canvas with a Canvas Lead heading up the team of artists. Each Canvas Lead was drawn from the emerging talent pool, and a Gallery Curator (project manager) led the overall programme. The MD was the art buyer who saw all the canvases in an art exhibition of recommendations at the end of the project and then decided which ones he would ‘buy’.   Each canvas was clearly scoped with the Steering Committee sponsor (the size and shape of the frame indicated their remit and freedom to act) and each Canvas Lead had full artistic license to use different paints and brushes to create their canvas of recommendations (the resources, people and budget).  2. What’s the size and shape of the scoping frame?
  • 6. Transformation programmes commonly focus exclusively on financial and business performance and returns; delivering stakeholder/ shareholder value, reducing operating costs, increasing ROCE (Return on Capital Employed), and achieving the cost benefits a transformation programme will bring. Research from McKinsey (Keller and Price, 2011) discovered those organisations that were more successful with transformation paid equal attention to the health of the organisation as well as the performance. Health isn’t the ‘soft’ stuff often labelled as HR initiatives; organisational health is the ability to align, be agile and responsive, to execute and renew faster than the competition to sustain exceptional performance. It includes core capabilities such as leadership, external orientation and attention to culture, mindsets, and behaviours. The research shows that 50% of any organisation’s long-term success is driven by its health, and executives focusing on both performance and health rated their transformation results as 3x more successful than just focusing on performance alone. Creating transformation measures and indicators that encompass performance and health will keep your transformation on track to success. 3. Are you paying equal a@enAon to organisaAonal performance AND health?
  • 7. Having five or six appropriate guiding principles about how the work will be carried out provides a compass for the work. This can be useful when things get tricky and the scope starts to shift. Guiding principles may include: •  Accepting the process is relational and that it gives the chance to build relationships •  Always being aligned with the overall question/scope of transformation •  Involving as many impacted people as possible from all levels of the organisation to seek co-creation and collaboration •  Having a rapid cycle of experimenting, testing and adjusting new ideas •  Letting leaders lead and giving people freedom to act within the defined scope •  Regularly reconnecting to share learning •  Building internal capability to reduce dependency on external consultants 4. What are your guiding principles underpinning the transformaAon?
  • 8. Organisations are increasingly using business transformation as an opportunity to accelerate the development of future leaders and build internal capability in transformation and organisation development approaches. This can be done by identifying the people who are most critical and who represent the future leadership of the business. Use your talent process for initial nominations before refining skills and attributes needed to create a diverse group who bring different thinking and experiences to your transformation agenda. ‘Canvas Leads’, ‘Changemakers’, ‘Change Champions’, and ‘Cultural Café Barista’ are some of the many titles given to internal teams who have key roles in transformation programmes. Experienced external OD practitioners give personalised individual and team support through OD Consultancy, ‘just in time’ OD Capability Building, and OD Shadow Coaching.   Action learning approaches use ‘live’ issues to build organisational learning and problem solving skills whilst the transformation programme unfolds 5. Where’s the development opportunity for your high potenAals? This group will be central to your transformation programme; the business- critical senior leaders form a steering group and sponsor different workstreams; and the talent pool will be stretched and developed ‘real time’ by taking key roles and leading different aspects of the transformation.
  • 9. Large-scale change is difficult and involves top down direction balanced with bottom up participation. This is one area where it can be tricky to get the balance right. Know what’s top down and know what’s bottom up and drive both separately. Senior leaders rationally understand the benefits of involving people in transformation yet struggle to put that into practice to generate genuine engagement through participation. Often this is given lip service by ‘town hall meetings’ and ‘roadshows’ where people are asked for their reactions and input into something that has already been decided. If you truly believe you have the ‘right’ answer and that your people have nothing to add then don’t follow a participative approach. By ‘going through the motions of engagement’ (pretending you genuinely want to hear what people think, and then ignoring them by doing what you had already decided to do) you’ll do more damage to your own reputation and engagement scores than if you were honest about setting direction and telling people what you want them to do. Senior leaders tell me they’re afraid they’ll lose control and have to do whatever their teams suggest to show that they’ve listened and taken things on board. It doesn’t have to be like that if: •  You set a clear frame for the conversation (what’s up for discussion/influence and what isn’t), •  You are open to being shaped and influenced by what people say, •  You listen and show you have listened, •  You share how decisions will be made People will genuinely share their insights, contribute their ideas, and will understand that you still hold the final decision making responsibility and accountability. 6. Where’s the balance between top down and bo@om up approaches?
  • 10. Paying attention to the human dynamics of transformation can help you avoid becoming one of the 70% of transformation programmes not achieving its intended impact. The significant human dynamics are employees being resistant to change, and management behaviour not being supportive to change. Engagement is the key fuel of transformation; it can be generated by involving those impacted by or needing to implement the transformation, and can reduce resistance. Although, resistance is often about people’s loss, and that needs to be listened to. Engagement is the big factor that decides whether transformation will be successful or not. Generating engagement involves: •  Widening the circle of involvement, everyone’s voice counts and everyone wants to make a difference •  Working systemically to connect people to each other, bringing representative parts of the whole system together to share different perspectives, collectively sense make, generate ideas, and move to action •  Working in large groups to build engagement and accelerate change •  Going slow to go fast’ - going slowly to start with to help people ‘get it’ and contribute, then the implementation will happen faster. Although don’t forget to slow down to check how things are really going as the transformation progresses. Some wisdom on engagement from OD academic/ practitioners that underpin this: •  People will support what they help to create (Weisbord) •  People don’t resist change, they resist being changed (Beckhard) 7. How can you widen the circle of involvement for those impacted?
  • 11. Leaders have a key role to play in transformational conversations and can be multipliers of these types of conversations. Leadership is inherently relational and people seek to belong, relate to, follow, and make sense of things with others. Leaders can purposefully guide the way towards transformation by setting examples of how they behave through their day-to-day interactions; by role modelling desired behaviours and mind-sets; and by enlisting help from influential employees at all levels to mirror these conversations and behaviours across the organisation. “What you do is so loud; I can’t hear what you’re saying” Ralph Emerson A dialogue-based approach to changing the organisation by changing conversations (what gets talked about, where conversations happen, and how conversations take place) generates energy and commitment whilst introducing new habits, routines and ways of working during transformation. In this way change and transformation happens one conversation at a time. Organisations are made up of series of conversational and behavioural interactions that people have everyday. We relate to each other, multiple times, in multiple ways, every day and are shaped by, and shape others, through these interactions and conversations. Used well, these can result in the creation and adoption of new behaviours necessary for transformation. 8. How skilled are your leaders at transformaAonal conversaAons?
  • 12. A transformation programme will generate a pace and momentum of its own. This gets accelerated when some of the suggested approaches to engagement from this article get adopted. A rhythm can help to shape and sustain momentum and can be built into the fabric and structure of a programme from the outset. Some ways to do this include: •  Regular communication - don’t wait until everything is finalised before you communicate, share where you are and when you anticipate having more information or a clearer picture. People feel anxious because they don’t know what’s going on. If there’s no information then human nature takes over and speculation starts, resulting in things being made up based on rumours and hearsay. •  Create and stick to a pattern of communication – use a range of media to communicate, communicate, and communicate again •  Use regular pulse checks to test out people’s reactions and responses to what’s going on. Publish a ‘word cloud’ to track progress from 3 quick questions (good and bad) and make visible adjustments •  Supporting the Transition – so people feel safe to explore the impact of what’s happening during the transformation •  Be clear about what’s staying the same and what’s changing •  Test readiness for change against the change impacts •  Develop change capability skills in leaders to support emotional responses to the shifts that are taking place •  Build organisational resilience and adaptability •  Create space (physically and emotionally) for conversations to happen Monthly Steering Group + Quarterly ‘Change Champion’ and ‘Change Ambassador’ meetings were introduced to set the rhythm and cadence for transformation in a global telecoms company. This not only provided an underlying rhythm to the transformation it also became a great platform for the teams to share their stories of successes, failure, learning, and work collaboratively to generate solutions to common issues. 9. What’s the rhythm of your transformaAon?
  • 13. Transformation isn’t complete when you’ve got the new organisation structure chart in place. On the contrary, that’s when it really starts. It’s easy to be seduced by a nice new organisation chart that can be captured on a single page; it’s all logical and rational in neat boxes and lines. However, what makes a transformation successful is the accompanying change in behaviour and ways of working that go alongside new processes and structures, in other words, the culture. Without a change to the culture then a restructure won’t succeed, as culture is the glue that holds structures together. At best, short-term performance improvements last a while then the informal relationships and deeply held cultural patterns, habits, and ways of relating short cut and bypass many systems and processes that structure charts set up. Culture change takes longer than anyone anticipates, or wants, so it often gets put into the ‘too hard’ box. 10. How fixated are you with organisaAonal structure charts?
  • 14. I’d love to hear how you get on and hear your stories of transformation. Please get in touch... Gwen Stirling Founder + Director Tel:07850 678595 theseedsoftransformation@gmail.com All of the preceding points in this article are designed to help support the cultural shifts needed for a successful transformation, although it’s not a pick and mix approach. Be conscious and deliberate about exclusion and inclusion as all ten are systemically connected.