"STOP TRANSFORMATION!" Familiar? Or not often enough? I have heard this refrain many times from "transformation leaders" during projects that I've worked on. Unfortunately, this is becoming a frequent occurrence as many things can go wrong during a "transformation project".
The Fallacy of "Transformation"
Many organisations today are getting into Agile or workforce transformation initiatives to help their organisation develop newer ways of working and to gain operational and revenue improvements.
However, most transformation projects assume that there are systemic issues and challenges across the organisation that require an intervention in the form of Agile or even digital transformation. But what if some teams of individuals are already performing well and delivering great work for their organisation?
Also, there is a significant probability that many people in the organisation are not ready for change, especially psychologically. Large "corporate transformation" activities may in fact bring on unnecessary anxieties and unhappiness among the employees, resulting in failed projects, and wasted efforts and resources.
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Instead of "transformation", perhaps a different set of questions needs to be asked:
- "What business or organisational challenges are we trying to solve?"
- "How do we improve and enhance what we already have?"
- "Shall we create an ownership culture of continuous problem-solving and gaining improvements?"
In reality, to operate well and thrive in complex modern organisations and unpredictable world environments, people need help with the following:
- Effective problem-solving strategies that are not the typical "brainstorming" or "expert-led" activities.
- A conducive and supportive workplace that encourages collaborative work and plenty of room for experimentations.
- A facilitative change leadership approach that encourages listening to all voices and responsive to emergent solutions, not blind commitment to existing business or organisational strategies despite their failings.
Truthfully, a blanket transformation project may or may not meet the needs of an organisation, especially because people are complex by nature and various teams may be developing at different paces. Some are maturing into highly effective units, while others are still finding their feet and learning more about each other.
Action Plan for Managing Business & Organisational Challenges with Agility
What we need is perhaps a much more leaner and agile approach to managing business and organisation challenges. With a preference for actionable and practical strategies, here is our preferred and practical 7-never-ending-step strategy to organisational growth and sustainable change:
Understand why there is a need to change. What are the real problems the organisation is looking to solve? To fully understand the situation and challenges at hand, the following steps can be taken:
- Identify root causes behind the business or organisational challenges
- Create psychologically safe conversation spaces
- Encourage inclusive and open communication
- Organise TeamHealth workshops to uncover underlying issues
- Identify the right organisational data and analyse for evidence of challenges and issues
- To properly identify root causes of challenges and issues, as many diverse voices or opinions as possible should be gathered and encouraged to contribute to fact-finding exercise.
As an example, a typical organisational complaint could be: "The organisation is siloed". However, the root causes of the divisions in the organisation may not necessarily be with the standalone departments or functions or the people within them. Rather, the root cause could potentially be the leaders of these groups who are overly engaged in political play in their fight for limited resources and organisational authority.
Properly identifying stakeholders that need the solution or assistance to the challenges can save a lot of time and effort. For example, when an organisation is deemed as "siloed", who needs help to improve or ease this problem?
- The whole entire organisation?
- The leaders or managers of the organisation?
- Entire departments?
- Specific teams?
- Or certain individuals?
Bonus answer: When the organisation is siloed, most likely it isn't entire the people's fault. Leaders or managers at the top of "hierarchical structures are likely not making enough of an effort to bridge communication lines or work relations between their teams and with others in the organisation.
Conceived and iteratively produced by Isman Tanuri
Isman is a Leadership & Business Agility Consultant with over 20 years of international business, operations and training experience. In his Consultant, Trainer & Coach role, Isman help leaders and teams get better at working together by co-creating workplace effectiveness and increasing productivity through actionable leadership, culture development and self-organisation.
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