Transformation programs: 5 sure ways to fail

Many reasons explain why transformation projects often fail.

A simple web search can reveal the key reasons, and I agree with them all.

In essence, transformation programs fail, or don’t deliver the expected results, due to an inability to challenge the status quo and provide a sustainable alternative.

Firstly, have you noticed the shift in semantics?

➡️ “Change” has evolved into “Transformation” programs.

“Transformation” implies that an organization and its employees can evolve and transform through a process.

Meanwhile, “change” may suggest a more radical approach, an event rather than a process, sometimes conveying the message that the current structure or team is “not good enough.”

➡️ One fundamental aspect to address when embarking on a transformation program is the “Why?”

The reasons should be motivating if you aim to benefit from collective intelligence and gain adoption from your teams.

So, why engage in a transformation program? Is it because:

  • The market has shifted, and quick adaptation is necessary?
  • You’re launching new products and services?
  • Cost reduction is imperative?

Clarity here is paramount. 

From personal experience and numerous interviews held, I’ve identified five flaws that spell guaranteed failure for transformation programs:

🚫 Confusing an Event with a Process

The PowerPoint slide deck and the kickoff are mere events. Without a solid program aligned with expected results, your ambitions won’t amount to more than a “well-documented slogan”. What will be left of your plan in 6 months?  

🚫 “Everyone Transforms or No One Will Transform”

Some transformations predominantly target the bottom of the organization chart. If senior management fails to “walk the talk”, your program is doomed. 

🚫 Not Addressing the Elephant in the Room

When plans focus on “cosmetic” changes (i.e. tactical moves) rather than structural improvements, the impact will be short-lived. Addressing root causes and challenging existing business practices yields better results. 

🚫 Irrelevant KPIs to measure Success and Progress

The number of meetings held is an irrelevant indicator, a mere “check in a box” indicator. Factors like the human element, organizational bottlenecks, and daily operational pressures must be assessed and addressed to maintain transformation momentum. 

🚫 Are Those in Charge credible…and capable?

Transformation programs should not neglect the human factor. Beyond tools, processes, and tangible elements, behavior is pivotal in achieving desired outcomes. The individuals initiating transformation, and the “team in charge”, will be evaluated (by the entire organization) based on their internal credibility, and capacity, to drive change. 

Instead, for successful change implementation and reaping its benefits, focus on these areas:

Transform it into a continuous process, not a one-time event.

A kickoff is just the beginning, not the program itself.

Foster collective responsibility rather than a top-down approach

Particularly if your company has a history of short-lived initiatives. Encourage bottom-up initiatives and proposals.

Celebrate successes and milestones

After “shaking the tree”, what beneficial results have been achieved?

Always consider the “What’s in it for me?” question.

Engaging the entire organization can be challenging, and the status quo is tempting if the benefits are not clearly demonstrated.  ·        

🎯 Last but not least, remember that “All eyes are turned towards senior management.”

“Walking the talk” significantly facilitates your transformation program, as senior managers are expected to embody it.  

Do you want to discuss the acceleration of your sales transformation program? Let’s talk!

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