Sometimes you just need to walk!

Change is hard, change is easy, change is scary, change is expensive; change is many things to many people.  Change is many things because people and organizations are complex.  In order to help an organization, transform change leaders have to put down their magic wands and get their hands dirty facilitating lots of moving parts.  Lots of moving parts provide the potential for lots of different train wrecks.  As train wrecks go some are worse than others but avoiding any of them is a worthwhile effort.

Round Three: Transformation Killers 10 – 5:

10. Poor Change Management

Transformations generally require coordination of many teams, lots of money, and careful messaging to many stakeholder communities.  Managing the change is often as important as implementing the technical components of change.  A change management plan (whether a formal plan or backlog items matters less than having a plan) is necessary to communicate, sell and generate useful feedback or the change will be at risk of failing, not because there are technical faults but because the change has not been sold to all of the stakeholders.

9. All Flash and No Substance

Transformations need to address the fundamental issues an organization has delivering value; otherwise, simple incremental process improvement is a better solution.  Addressing fundamental issues requires a real change that includes both organizational structure and behavior.  Just rebranding or relaunching an old way of working with a new name (or new and improved sticker) rarely delivers substantial change.  For example, several years ago I observed an organization during what was making a big deal out of “transforming” to “agile.” To accomplish this transformation, they added daily meetings and a demonstration to the end of each phase in their phased methodology. Lots of flash in the rollout but no substantial change was made.  Putting lipstick on a pig results in a pig with a messy snout.

8. Starting Too Late

I have heard it said that a good near-death experience is a great motivator for change. The problem is waiting for a near-death experience can be … fatal to an organization (or any other group).  As noted in Transformation Killer 18, organizations need a compelling reason to provide the motivation for change, but they should not wait until panic is the driving force or they risk having clouded judgment.  Early in my career, I worked for a firm whose products slowly lost favor with our intended demographic.  Little was done to address the core issue until cash flow began to tighten which constrained the options we had and lead to a poorly thought-out bet-the-farm change.  The firm no longer exists.

  7. Transformation Not Tied to the Organization’s Goals

Transforming a team, product or organization is a tall order. The reason anyone will agree to spend the blood, sweat, and tears required to change how work is accomplished needs to be tied directly to the organization/s goals.  Tying change to the organization goals helps to ensure that support, funding, and people are available when roadblocks are encountered (and they always are).  Perhaps more importantly, linking change to the organization’s goal steers decision making and focuses organizational politics in a manner that will favor the transformation.

6. Poor Leadership

Poor leadership drains energy from the transformation and will tend to metastasize and foster a myriad of transformation killers.  Poor leadership can have many negative impacts.  Impacts range from crushing morale and motivation to generating poor decision making.

The goal of exposing these risks is to facilitate a conversation amongst change agents (we are all change agents) about risk and change management.

Catch-up on transformation killers:

Round One: Transformation Killers 20 -16

Round Two: Transformation Killers 15 – 11

Next Transformation Killers 5– 1