A Leader’s Guide to “Always-On” Transformation

A Leader’s Guide to “Always-On” Transformation

          
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A Leader’s Guide to “Always-On” Transformation

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    Root Causes of Failure

    Why do most companies fail to meet their transformation goals? There are several reasons. The first is that companies typically adopt a short-term, top-down approach to implementation. Transformations are energy intensive and are often executed under tremendous pressure from boards and other stakeholders—frequently as a reaction to flagging performance—which leads management teams to seek fast fixes and immediate results. Consequently, many companies simply seek to compel employees to change their behaviors. They motivate through carrots and sticks—mostly sticks—rather than tapping into the intrinsic motivators that can spur employees to improve performance in a sustainable manner.

    Second, successful transformations increasingly require changes to business and operating models, which in turn require new ways of thinking and working. Yet more often than not, companies fail to build the capabilities required to enable people to work in new and different ways. Without adequate attention to enabling new behaviors and ways of working, companies do not achieve and sustain the results they desire.

    A third reason underlying the failure to reach transformation goals is that many companies approach transformation in a one-off manner—treating each initiative as an independent event. Under this flawed thinking, they essentially put up scaffolding around one aspect of the organization, focus intently on changing some part of it, and then take down the scaffolding, thinking that they can revert to steady-state operations.

    This kind of short-term, one-off approach is akin to the way some schools prepare students for standardized tests. In an attempt to improve test scores, teachers try to cram knowledge into students’ heads—basically “teaching to the test” for a few frenzied weeks leading up to the tests. That approach can work—scores often do go up to meet the short-term objective of doing well on the tests—but it doesn’t meet the fundamental goals of education: making sure students learn the underlying skills that will help them succeed over the long term.