5 Reasons Why Transformational Change Fails
For pretty much any business on the face of the earth, stagnation is death. Businesses have to not only be constantly moving and adapting – but doing so faster than the competition. Unfortunately, more than a few businesses have fallen prey to the mistaken idea that all change is good change. Here are 5 of the pitfalls of transformational change to prevent you from making the same mistake, and a few warnings to show how a single misstep during your transformation can be catastrophic.
Change for the wrong reasons
Possibly the biggest change-related killer of businesses of all sizes is changing or transforming any part of the business for its own sake. Perhaps a CIO read a blog on a certain type of disruptive tech that’s not really relevant to his business but wants to use it anyway, or perhaps the CEO wants to embark on a reflexive transformation just because the competition did. There are a myriad of examples why changing for the wrong reasons can be disastrous and it would be silly to list them all, but a business needs to know exactly why it wants to change and exactly what it wants to achieve before it begins. Otherwise it’s just asking to fail.
Poor leadership control
Aside from changing for the wrong reasons, poor leadership has to be the biggest contributor to a business bungling a transformation. Keeping a level head and a clear goal whilst at the helm is hard enough under normal trading conditions, but during a change of brand, identity, product focus or other business transformation all of these things are made ten times harder. Losing control of everything below them at this stage can quickly lead to the management looking on in horror as the other departments fall prey to chaos, confusion and ultimately disaster.
During a change at any level, all employees need to remain focused on their goal, fully in the loop of what is going on and most importantly motivated. Failure to continue to cultivate these traits as a leader will quickly see a business emerging from its cocoon a slug instead of a butterfly.
Limited scope of transformation
There is an old adage from Native American folklore which has been tried and tested both in business and in life; ‘If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both’. Another, similar, one mentions two dogs on a rope chasing in different directions – neither of them getting anywhere. Whichever proverb you prefer, it’s pretty obvious that a business going in two directions is not going to get anywhere fast.
During a transformation there will be many changes at all levels. It is imperative to make sure that your new goals, processes and structures do not contrast with those in other areas of the business. If you suddenly decide to focus your product design on a new market segment but don’t tell your marketing team then you’re going to be selling combs to bald men. Perhaps literally.
Unrealistic time plans and resource allocation
We’ve all been there. Our managers want the Earth, they want it yesterday, and you’ve been given 2 paperclips and a prayer to do it with. It is a huge asset to be able to run a business at a bootstrap level, saving money and getting by with what you have at every opportunity. Many of today’s business titans began in their CEO’s garage or mother’s basement. During transformational change, however, saving money and limited resources are nothing but bad news.
There is a time and a place for frugality, but being frugal during a transformation can be catastrophic for two quite connected reasons. Firstly, it is a time when the chance of things going wrong is quite high and therefore limited resources and corner cutting only increase that risk. Secondly, it is a time when things going wrong damage or inconvenience the business a lot more.
Simply put, cutting corners can cost everything.
Organisation culture buy-in
Slightly related to Poor Leadership Control, failure to get everyone inspired and on board for the change can lead to resistance. Small bits of resistance in the staff are more than enough to delay or even derail a transformational change. Poor communication is the number one culprit for creating this effect, or at least making it worse. Open honesty with staff and a clear vision will help to bring them on board. At the end of the day though, just make sure it’s a change your staff want.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
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