Transformation Killers Can Create Destruction.

Change that isn’t perceived as wildly positive is not exactly the easiest thing to convince people to participate in.  The problem isn’t that people and organizations can’t change, but rather that change efforts are more often than not screwed up.  We continue the top 20 transformation killers in order of worst to first.  Recognize that even the least of the transformation killers can stop change in its tracks.

Round Two: Transformation Killers 15 -11:

  1. Ignoring Culture

The first time I heard it said that culture eats change for breakfast was in the 1980’s (yes, there were still dinosaurs). The sentiment, however, is as true now as it was then.  The problem is that everyone knows that culture is a big deal and blames culture for everything that goes bump in the night.  Most change agents don’t spend enough time coldly evaluating organizational culture to accurately understand their organization’s culture who’s really involved in shaping or changing it.

  1. Structure Only Changes

Transformation is not just how an organization is organized; transformation requires changes in behavior.  I have observed and and been part of innumerable reorganizations that focused on moving people around without addressing changing behaviors (I have heard this described as adjusting the deck chairs on the Titanic). Very few of these structure-only changes left the organization involved significantly different better off a few months later.  That is not to say that the symbolism of both physically changing the workplace and the organization’s structure isn’t helpful as part of a total change package.

  1. Long Term Only Focus

Whether software development or organizational transformation, Agile methods require continuous feedback.  Most successful transformations are mixtures of changes that have short, medium and long-term impacts. The mix of feedback cadences is designed to keep the transformation on course and those involved motivated.  Remember, though, that feedback is only useful if captured and considered.

  1. Not Planning for Resistance

While the Borg in Star Trek the Next Generation stated that resistance is futile, no one has convinced people involved in change.  Resistance happens and those involved in transformation need to accept that they can have an impact on how much resistance will occur.  For example, involving those you are asking to change to shape how they will work can have a significant impact on resistance. Change leaders need to recognize that they own resistance and build dealing with it into the plan.

  1. Lack of Skills / Capacity

Asking an organization to transform into something it does not have the skills or capacity to accomplish will result in failure.  Hiring mercenaries to add core skills or capacity is rarely successful.  A better strategy is to hire consultants to build skills and contractors to take care of the day to day stuff.  Do not plan on outsourcing core knowledge or skills that you will need to support and foster long-term change.

I can hear the feedback in my head.  Culture not in the top 10!  How can that be?  As noted before all twenty of these transformation killers are nasty. They don’t get easier to deal with from here!  The goal of exposing these risks is to facilitate a conversation amongst change agents (we are all change agents) and to make sure progress is made with eyes wide open.

Catch-up on Round One: Transformation Killers 20 -16

Next Transformation Killers 6 – 10