Deep organizational transformation is a combination of changed processes, procedures and behavior. While changing procedures may be relatively easy, transforming processes often stalls at missing consequential behavioral change.
How to steer organizational transformation?
A different dance
"If you want a different dance, change the music." This African proverb reminds us: If you want to stimulate different actions, find the driving factors behind the actions and tackle them – the behavior change will automatically follow.
When it comes to business transformation, however, organizations often seem to diligently try and change the dance, when they want to see a different dance. And so goals are formulated by management, rolled out by line leaders, HR and transition teams – at best accompanied with an extensive learning and development initiative. Often times, many things truly change through such change initiatives, but the question remains: Do these changes already make for a new dance?
Peter Drucker believed management to consist of leadership, entrepreneurship and business administration. In this three-fold meaning, management is ascribed a vital and fundamental social function that has not
only the chance but also the obligation to transform the way organizations act and interact. The outcome of such a transformation he thought to be an added value to the members of the organization, to the market, and the entire society, one that leads to prosperity and a noticeable ongoing vitality.
If we measure organizational transformation initiatives against Drucker's understanding of transformation, it becomes clear that the track record of transformed and transforming organizations is extremely poor. Most organizations are far from understanding or dealing with the increased interconnectedness and complexity of our time and practically all organizational change initiatives operate from a purely business administrative side. That an initiative conducted in an exclusively operational mode often does not add value nor produces the much needed vitality for the organization, the market or our society, becomes painfully apparent from that perspective, too. Instead, what is often called transformation, frequently produces unforeseen and undesired side effects that calls for the next transformation effort, and often times the next CEO, to fix it.
Music – as I'm sure we have all experienced more than once – is that factor that adds value to everything we do. Music energizes people and produces an almost inexplicable vitality. Music inspires an almost instantaneous specific individual or coordinated, but always creative and innovative, new behavior.
To find that motor that can stimulate such vitalized actions in people and organizations, is the outcome any transformation process truly desires – because it has the power to continually and naturally produce a new dance and revitalize organizations to make use of their space in our interconnected world and markets.
Changing the music in organizations
True organizational transformation does not come with a best practices prescription. Finding out what the music, the driving, revitalizing, and value adding factor is that helps transform the dance in your organization is a unique and collective process. This process will have to turn the entire organization into the orchestra of its own affairs and every member into an active part of the threefold management Drucker proposes.
5 Tips for initiating a healthy transformation process:
- Utilize the collective intelligence in your organization. Not only do your people know what drives them, they are also precisely in touch with the market and all other business affairs that truly matter.
- Find creative ways of collecting data and valuable ideas. No change process can do without the information of the true key stakeholders: your people, your customers, your suppliers and competitors, etc. Getting access to their valuable input does not have to be the typical one-way survey or analysis street. The more creative this part becomes, the more people will manage to exchange ideas, give input and drive the change or the innovation from the heart of the organization.
- Start from truly wishing to renew and revitalize the entire organization. Explore the question: How would we set up this change process if we wanted to add value to this organization as a collective? See how your thoughts around ways of doing this already start changing?
- Forget about linear approaches and thinking – at least for a while. Try to notice how often you employ linear thought processes when you think of leading your change and transformation initiative. Go out of your way to counter balance this very natural tendency. You will notice that this can be a very challenging task, but it is well worth while. Your organization functions in an extremely interconnected and complex world. Addressing your future from a complex and interconnected perspective does the situation justice.
- Tackle your initiatives and the thought processes around them as a group and in groups. Peter Senge once said: "Change is not a solitary job." And it is not only the task of the management. Strategize and innovate around your transformation initiative in varying groups of varying sizes and with varying people. Try to find out the issues and the solutions these groups see. Discover what energizes them, what adds value to their day and experience.
The beauty of these procedures lies in the energy and the rich data they produce. An organization that provides a safe environment for processes like this to take place, may soon discover that they may have already changed the music before they even started to work on the dance.
About the Author
Erika Jacobi is President and Head Innovation & Business Transformation Specialist at LC GLOBAL®, a consulting firm with presences in New York City and Munich, Germany. Her PhD research focuses on the role of narratives in organizational change.