The term “transformation” has demanded the corporate spotlight for years, but it’s is now being dissected to extract benefits while balancing cost to the business and time to implement. Despite the evolution of corporate transformations, both big and small transformations still have potential to fail. Organizations can ensure transformation success by avoiding eight common pitfalls:
1. Lack of Executive Sponsorship
A clear and unified tone at the top is imperative when driving a transformation effort to completion. Senior management’s buy-in affirms the transformation’s mandate. The use of pay for performance programs, can drive ownership at the leadership and various levels of the organization.
2. Poor Planning
Transformation initiatives typically impact many dimensions of an organization; the process, the people, the data, and the technology enablement. The implementation can get costly. A detailed project plan will ensure transformation efforts stay within scope and budget, with the right resources in place. Establishing a clear roadmap will eliminate sticker shock and keep the end goal in sight.
3. Lengthy Timelines
Prioritizing transformation efforts based on business value and ease of implementation, and implementing quick wins with tangible results will keep employees motivated in a project with long timelines. Establishing a Transformation Management Office provides the appropriate level of program governance and reviews to keep all parties in tune with the transformation progress.
4. Intimidating Process
Announcing a full-fledged transformation can overwhelm employees and cloud priorities. Using a precise approach—aligned by process or department—will allow the organization to focus on solving the pain points, avoid transformation fatigue, and realize a faster return on investment.
5. Lack of Agility
Planning is important but more important than that is flexibility in the plan. Organizations in a long-term transformation program will need to engage their internal key experts to understand the internal and external factors that may require course correction during the transformation program. Regular reviews of the transformation goals against the business strategy will help determine the need for flexibility in the plan.
6. Poor Change Management
Transformation initiatives require clear and organized change management and communication at all levels of the organization – implementation team, end-users and the management team. Equally important is communication and change management for the external parties – customer, vendors, investors, and partners. Well-curated and timely messaging to kick-off the transformation, provide regular progress updates, and share near term plans, and business value of changes can drive employee and management adoption of changes.
7. Goals That Focus on the “Now”
A team with an end goal of reducing costs by 10% needs to first determine the cause of a problem – i.e. what is creating the excess cost (or the perception of excess cost)? Cutting headcount by 20% may create short-term savings, but it can also negatively impact the long-term viability of the business. Moreover, in a world of increasing innovation and disruption, solutions and goals that are not “future-proofed” are no longer sufficient. The team needs to determine whether a solution will address the problem 3 to 5 years from now or better yet, whether the solution will be obsolete before it is implemented.
8. The Wrong Team
While beneficial to have internal personnel invested in a transformation effort, it is critical to fully understand the capabilities and capacity of the project team. Part-time project resources with the wrong skills will not cut it. External resources can be brought in to supplement the team. Internal know-how combined with objective, external perspectives can serve as the best chance for transformation success.
Understanding why transformations fail is only a part of the process. Successful transformations require buy-in from stakeholders, a clearly defined scope and well managed plans throughout the transformation journey. Without management buy-in, small or large transformation efforts will struggle to gain acceptance by the organization. Without a clear goal, the teams needed to drive success will not know where to begin. And without an eye on the future, transformation efforts will be obsolete before the journey is complete.