The top five transformation killers are the type of issues that if you even suspect they might, even just maybe, exist you need to stop everything you what you are doing and develop a mitigation plan.    

Round Four: Transformation Killers 5 -1:5. Thinking You Are Done

Declaring victory and moving on is tricky. Process improvement is a never-ending journey and as soon as you take your eye off any goal you will begin to drift. While it is important to celebrate success, it is just as important that as soon as the party is over and the new goal is set that someone is tagged with continuing to pay attention and maintain the changes that have been made in the past.

4. Charging the Wrong Team With Transformation

Having the wrong people lead change will result in a loss of focus, wasted effort, and train wrecks.  Whoever is leading change must have (or quickly develop) both technical, leadership and change management skills along with the political acumen to make change happen.  This problem could have been ranked higher but I assume that if the transformation is important everyone involved should go out of their way to ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time.

3. Constancy of Purpose

Deming’s first point in his famous 14 Points for Management is “create constancy of purpose toward improvement of Product and service.” Once launched organizations need to stay focused on the value of the process improvement they are committed to delivering.  One of the more damning responses I have heard in the past occurred when I asked a group of managers what they thought of prospects of the process improvement program they were just beginning.  The answer, paraphrased, was they could go through the motions and ignore it because this was just a reflection of the process improvement of the month club management was enrolled in.  Pick a goal and STAY the course!

2. Lack of Sponsorship

Transformations are disruptive.  Change requires people and resources, like money and tools, therefore it requires access to organizational power.  Sponsorship is required to deliver the required resources and political power needed to affect any permanent change.  There is a popular myth that fundamental change can occur bottom-up with individuals and teams re-writing whole organizational structures. I suspect that, except in small firms, this is an urban myth. Any large organization has too many controls that keep bottom-up change from occurring.  All significant changes require committed sponsorship.

  1. Clear Vision

Starting or sustaining a transformation program without a clear vision of where you are going, what you it looks like when you get there, and why you are transforming is a first class ticket to failure.  Storytelling is one technique to generate a compelling vision of the future, but regardless of technique, no vision equals no change.

For those of you that have played the board game Monopoly, these are the types of problems that when they happen, you will not pass go and not collect $200.  While some issues might not be as scary as not having a clear vision, none of them should be ignored.  Leading change requires keeping your eye on the horizon and making sure that risk and change management everyday activities.

Catch-up on

Round One: Transformation Killers 20 -16

Round Two: Transformation Killers 15 – 11

Round Three: Transformation Killers 10 – 6