Why Transformation Efforts Fail in Business -Bassey Daniel

As your ​ Business Sentinel​, I have seen businesses attempt to re-engineer themselves into substantially stronger rivals and more valuable service providers over the past two decades. I have helped some to succeed and I have also seen some fail.

A few of these businesses have been quite successful and a few have been a total failure, most of them falling somewhere in between.

Generally, most of the businesses that fell in between are still prone to struggle because the transition has had unforeseen challenges and negative consequences.

The lessons that can be learned are interesting and are likely to be applicable to even more organizations in the highly competitive business environment of the coming decade.

In a general sense, the most fundamental lesson to be learned is that both successful and failed cases make fundamental changes in how their businesses are perceived, conducted, and adapted to the ever-dynamic and challenging market environment.

A second fundamental lesson is that crucial errors in any transition phase can have a negative effect on the process, slow the momentum, and neutralize the hard-won gains.

Leadership is the first step and it is necessary since just beginning a transition agenda involves vigorous proactiveness before the cooperation of individuals takes place.

Without motivation and driven leadership, others will not help and the initiative will go nowhere.

As a responsible entrepreneur and a visionary business owner, it is not enough to have a leader, every employee or team member must be involved in a leadership capacity and take the necessary initiative. That’s what ​ Corporate Leadershi p​ is all about.

In the first phase of transformation, many executives (leaders) underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones.

They underestimate the fact they do not work in the capacity of leadership. They are only trying to manage the current situation of the business.

They also grossly overestimate how successful they have been when they adopt a new vision and inspire others to be a part of it.

Good leadership is paramount in the first phase of transition and someone in the capacity of a leader must do the following:

Whether the starting point is good performance or bad, in the more successful cases I have seen, a leader or a group of leaders will often engage everyone in a frank discussion of potentially troubling facts that keep everyone on their toes.

Company transition also starts well when an organization has a leader who is a stronger leader and who feels the need for a significant change as opposed to a manager who is interested in keeping the status quo.

Perhaps the main question that needs to be asked is whether you, as a business owner, are seeing a transition and are also ready to champion this change before your employees or team members.

If your business includes teams and divisions, you will have to ask your team leaders or division managers the same question after you have answered it honestly.

If a division has to change, the division manager must become the boss.

Before you start the first phase of transition, you must be confident that senior management or executives will not become paralyzed and feel incompetent.

This will show whether you have enough leaders or too many managers.

Phase one of the transformation of business is the renewal process and nothing happens until there are enough real leaders available to champion the change.

When a manager sees transformation, he sees a crisis but when a leader sees a crisis, he sees an opportunity to reinvent and explore the beauty out of the crisis.

It takes leadership to make a true transition happen.

If you need a leadership assessment for your employees, you should subscribe to EAGLES’ NEST​!

Solidarity is what comes after a leadership initiation. Major business transition frequently begins with only one or two leaders.

In cases of successful transition attempts, unity or movement grows over time and becomes unstoppable for the competitors.

But when a minimum movement is not reached early enough, the transformation process becomes ineffective. And that is why transformation efforts fail in business.

A significant change is often said to be unlikely unless the leader is an active supporter, so you have to maintain or sustain what has been built over time but in ensuring a successful transition, the leader, with 5 or 15 or 50 people, meets together to build a corporate vision and a shared devotion towards a relentless pursuit of transformation. This is what solidarity is all about.

Interestingly, solidarity is not going to be successful because other executives are joining the campaign.

The success of solidarity depends solely on the junior and mid-level employees who are like the foot soldiers who often do the groundwork because they believe in the transition agenda.

If the current executives are working well, there will be no need for a major, transformation but because the current system is not working, restricting usually involves actions outside established boundaries, expectations, and protocol.

In both small and large organizations, a successful transformation through the solidarity of three to five people within the first year of a renewal phase.

But in big corporations, solidarity needs to expand to the 20 to 50 range before more progress can be made in the next phase and beyond.

  • Solidarity creates a strong sense of urgency within the managerial ranks and reminds them that more is required.
  • ​ ​ Solidarity helps to bring people together, to build a shared assessment of their company’s challenges and opportunities, and to create a standard of trust and communication
  • Off-site retreats, for two or three days, are a common vehicle to accomplish this task.

Efforts without powerful solidarity can only make clear progress for a while.

​ is like the image of the future on which a leader’s solidarity is committed to solidarity.

In every successful business transformation I have seen, solidarity generates a vision of the future that is relatively easy to convey and appeals to customers, stockholders, and employees.

Without a vision, there is no clarity about the direction your business needs to go.

If there is no vision, there is no change and if there is no change, failure or disaster is about to happen.

Eventually, a strategy to achieve the vision is established after the leader must have had to build and reshape the vision over time with the help of 3–5 other leaders.

  • Without a clear vision, transformation effort in a business can quickly collapse into a list of confounding and contradictory projects that will lead the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.
  • Without a sound vision, the project, performance appraisal, quality program, and the cultural change exercise would not contribute to anything significant.

In failed business transformations, you also see a lot of plans, directives and programs, but no clear or sound vision.

In a couple of the less successful cases I have seen, management had a sense of direction, but it was too complicated or blurry to be useful.

If you can’t express your vision to someone in three minutes or less and get a reaction that implies both understanding and interest, you are not finished with this transformation phase.

Communication has been flogged a lot by many business coaches. So allow me to come at this from a different angle.

It is not about disseminating information and receiving feedback you want to hear from your colleagues.

This kind of communication does not lead to business transformation. Communication that leads to transformation in business is one that is clear and convincing enough to get people to action.

The feedback of a comprehensible and compelling communication is the corresponding action as opposed to given verbal agreements and nods.

Business transformation is unlikely unless hundreds or thousands of people are willing to contribute, even to the point of making short-term sacrifices, because their vision has been conveyed to them on a personal level.

Employees would not make compromises, even though they are dissatisfied with the status quo unless they feel transformation is feasible and will positively affect them.

Without a lot of credible (comprehensive and compelling) communication, the hearts and minds of your employees will not be captured.

In the case of business transformation, the short-term sacrifices ensure that solidarity comrades gain understanding and support, particularly when a reduction in the number of employees is part of the vision.

For this reason, successful visions usually communicate new opportunities for development and a willingness to treat all equally.

In more successful transformation efforts, much of the company’s generic management education is thrown out and replaced by courses that concentrate on business challenges and a new vision.

The guiding principle is simple: use every possible channel, especially those that are being wasted on nonessential information.

When the leaders and creators of the visions are walking the talk, it serves as a clear example of what the vision is all about.

That is why leadership is very important during the phases of transformation and the end is that all the parties involved become leaders on their own.

Communication comes in both words and deeds, and this is always the most effective type.

Nothing undermines change more than the actions of influential people that are inconsistent with their words.

Obstacles are unavoidable, because there will always be new approaches to try out, new ideas to create, and new leadership needs to be given from time to time by the same people involved.

The only constraint is that the actions work into the broad parameters of the overall vision.

To a degree, solidarity empowers others to take transformational actions by effectively communicating a new direction, but communication is not enough because there are still barriers that need to be eliminated.

The leadership must be proactive or preemptive enough to ensure that any barrier that hinders the performance of employees is eliminated.

The organizational structure is often hampered by the fact that narrow work categories can seriously undermine attempts to improve efficiency or make it very difficult to think about customers.

Often rewards or performance-assessment mechanisms make people choose between a new vision and their self-interest.

Perhaps, the worst of all, are the bosses who fail to adjust and make demands that are inconsistent with the overall effort.

Transformation efforts may be grounded to a halt if the bosses are allowed to undermine the new initiatives.

This needs to change if there is going to be a true transformation. Bosses must be made to exert their control within the boundaries of vision.

In the first half of transformation, no organization has the momentum, power, or time to get rid of any obstacles.

But the major ones have to be addressed and eliminated. If a person is a blocker, he or she must be treated fairly and in a manner consistent with a new vision.

Yet action is essential, both to empower others and to preserve the credibility of the change effort as a whole.

Planning is the key to real transformation since momentum would be lost if there are no goals and there are no plans to meet them.

Most people will not go in the long run until they see proof that the path really tends towards transformation as intended.

Without goals and plans, people will deliberately join the ranks of those people who have opposed the change and it is a major reason why transformation efforts fail in business

One or two years of a successful transformation effort;

  • Quality will begin to improve and the revenue will catch up with the concept of the vision.
  • There are some introductions to new products
  • An upward shift in market share
  • You can find an impressive improvement in productivity
  • A statistically higher rating of customer satisfaction.

​ ​But whatever the case, the win is unmistakable but much planning is required.

The result is not just a judgment call that can be ignored by those who reject the move, but confirmation that the vision is both true and genuine.

Commitments to produce short-term wins help keep the vision and solidarity alive and force detailed analytical thinking that can clarify or revise visions.

Culture simply means “this is the way we do things around here.” And it only happens when companies are not too willing to celebrate business transformation until it has seeped into their bloodstream.

Until new vision and solidarity are rooted in the business as a culture, you can’t claim victory, because deterioration will begin as soon as the need for transformation is not as strong as before.

Two factors are particularly important for the institutionalization of a change in corporate culture;

  • The first is a deliberate effort to show people how the new approaches, behaviours, and attitudes have helped improve performance. When people are left to make connections on their own, they often build very incorrect links.
  • The second is taking ample time to ensure that the latest strategy is reflected by the next generation of top management. If the requirements for promotion do not change, renewal can rarely take place. One bad succession decision at the top of an organization can destroy a decade of hard work.

I know that it is all made to sound too plain. In fact, transformation efforts are messy and full of surprises, but if you are willing to do whatever it takes to take your business to the next level or transform it entirely, I’m one call away. ​

​Why Transformation Efforts Fail in Business

Originally published at http://basseydaniel.com on October 19, 2020.



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Bassey Daniel

I’m passionate about helping you re-position your business to survive shocks, outlive you, and be a legacy you can bequeath to your successors!