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Want to Avoid the Transformation Trap? Five Tips for Successful Navigation

“Hello, my name is Andy, and I don’t like reading business books.” There. I said it. My secret is out. And while I do like finding a model or approach that helps clients lead successful business transformations and employee behavior changes, I have another secret to share…they don’t actually manage or lead a transformation!

Yes they provide a sense of security, and yes they can offer credibility and direction; but the majority of transformations still fail either fully or partially. If you still don’t believe me, here are a couple of stats to back me up:

Unfortunately, many project leaders encounter serious obstacles that derail their efforts, in spite of following robust approaches and models. This is because “good to excellent change management” can sometimes be hard to define and understand; but don’t worry—through our experiences, we’ve picked up practical tips that will help you avoid the common transformations traps and navigate successfully through times of change:

1. ACCEPT CHANGE ISN’T LINEAR AND BUILD A CHANGE STRUCTURE TO HANDLE THIS:  Beware of methodologies that present enabling change as one activity following another. This is not the case. Change is all about people and they are unpredictable and complex. At any point during a transformation it may be necessary to revisit activities from earlier in your process, or to re-order activities based on the lay of the land. Being prepared for this, and building regular, feedback cycles will make a difference.

2. IDENTIFY AND COMMUNICATE A CLEAR PURPOSE: Most organizational change entails stepping into the unknown, which can be daunting. Doing so requires trust and significant effort on the part of those affected. The presence of an authentic reason for why change is happening is often the difference between a successful, inclusive process and resistance.

3. CREATE A VISIBLE CHANGE LEADERSHIP UNIT THAT BELIEVES IN CO-CREATION: Change is shaped at the top. Individuals look to their leaders for confirmation and ownership when there is a shift in direction, so it is important to engage leadership at each level. If leaders do not seem on board with change, the organization will slip back into old patterns of behavior. Working on bonding the senior team and creating a sense of oneness will give strength and momentum during the journey. Doing this through co-creation—enabling individuals to shape outcomes together—is essential when building commitment and better solutions. It’s the strongest predictor of acceptance and satisfaction in change.

4. MAKE IT PERSONAL AND CREATIVE: Design engagement from the employee’s perspective. Draw a line of sight from the “bigger picture” to each employee so they understand how they personally contribute and why they are important. Then amplify using creative and visual approaches, which are proven to increase retention of information (plus they are fun!).

5. GET ANALYTICAL TO SUPPORT THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST: Predictive modeling and tracking of business benefits will allow you to adjust your course. Some employees who perform today may not transition through change effectively. By identifying “at risk” employee groups, and additionally supporting them through change, you can reduce the risk of a “performance cliff,” which could damage the business.

BONUS TIP! It’s important to keep in mind that you can have the best strategy in the world, but without the culture to implement it, it doesn’t matter. All companies or systems have enabling and disabling patterns, which are often repeated at all levels. Identifying these patterns and designing interventions to shift culture is central to the work. These interventions can re-enforce a sense of identity and set the right tone for the transformation.

Andy is a Senior Principal and a member of the global leadership team at Daggerwing Group. In his role, Andy serves as a source of strategic counsel to Executives of many of the world’s largest companies facing major business transformation challenges – from mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs, to enterprise-level changes to culture, ways of working, and operating models. A specialist in the people side of change, Andy brings almost 20 years of experience helping drive Executive Alignment, leadership change readiness, and effective employee engagement to ensure change happens and sticks. Andy is an active speaker, thought leadership writer, and catalyst for service innovation within Daggerwing. In his spare time, he is on a quest to try every cheese the UK produces.