Market pressures, new opportunities and organizational drift have compelled you and your leadership team to transform the company. You have laid the groundwork – clarified strategy, identified differentiating capabilities and assessed gaps. Yet you know, both from studies and in your gut, that most transformation efforts fall far short of expectations. For most firms much of their investment in transformation proves wasted.
Well, you tell yourself, we’ve prepared carefully and in Lao Tzu’s words, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Think again. Metaphors can mislead.
A successful transformation journey, particularly for a good company, requires orchestrating a set of activities addressing your operating model sustainably. No binge diets. No one-off projects. To succeed you must invest thoughtfully which means both balanced and aligned.
You can get along as a mid-pack player with individual, non-integrated projects. A training program for the salesforce might improve deal closure. A new software package might streamline production management. But to lead your industry necessitates a much more complicated and co-ordinated approach.
A weekend warrior looking to climb Kilimanjaro must go beyond cutting out deserts or running an extra mile each day. She needs to commit to a program that balances diet, exercise, planning and mental stamina to make that trek succeed. The diet must complement the exercise. The planning timeline must address preparation and expected Tanzanian weather. Alignment.
Individual projects rarely help companies transform to create competitive advantage. Transformation requires prudence: doing the proper things at the proper times in the appropriate manner. In short, balance.
Many business leaders lament making significant investments in transformation with little success to show for it. When unbalanced and mis-aligned even very good projects fail. Consider these two examples:
- A global oil & gas super-major instituting a new operation-management system simultaneously sends its senior executives to a bespoke operations-excellence program delivered at a top US business school. The teams developing and implementing the company-wide system does its work having no engagement with the business-school program. The philosophy, approach and vocabulary are quite different. Implementation teams become frustrated as their leaders helicopter in with inconsistent words and actions. Progress slows.
- A large financial-services company invests tens of millions of dollars in a next-generation IT platform. Senior management finds itself with the bane of systems-integration projects: technical success, commercial failure. The IT system itself works. People are slow to adopt to the new systems. Old processes are ill-suited to the system. Managers, needing to get the work done, develop and encourage workarounds that only create more problems. The IT project’s ROI is zero, at best.
A successful transformation project requires an approach that is balanced and aligned.
These investments are mutually supporting; the approach to each element is informed by the work being done to address other elements.
Read more in Triggering Transformation
We hope that you find the Triggering Transformation report thought provoking and useful. This is a series of postings – written, podcast and video – by Proudfoot executives providing concrete advice for executives in the throes of change.
Proudfoot helps clients to meet current challenges more successfully and has done so for over 70 years. Through waves of technical and social change, Proudfoot’s clients lead their industries. If this report and our ideas help you to shape your firm’s future, then we will have been successful.
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