Transformation has now become the new normal for businesses. Paul Meijer discusses how your organisation can achieve great success by following his six secrets to sustainable transformation

Is there still a sector that is not faced with a strong need for transformation by now? Let me know if you can think of one. Organisational transformation – moving towards a state where things are fundamentally no longer the way they were – is by now a reality for pretty much everybody.

Some are achieving great success through transformation and others are struggling with it. Having worked with leaders across the globe for many years in this space, I have found that the following six ‘secrets’ make the difference.

1. Sustainable transformation is leader led

Systems, processes or programs in themselves do not cause sustainable transformation. Only leaders –at the various organisational levels- can inflict and sustain transformation that both lasts and continues to evolve.

2. Bust the paradigm

True transformation requires the identification of beliefs within a sector and/or organisation that must be replaced. Successful transformation leaders must develop the ‘dangerous ideas’ to do so. This often involves challenging their own beliefs, which they may have held dearly for years.

3. Create the conditions

The energy in transformation tends to go to where leaders are most comfortable: the busy work of changing things. But this will only work if the right conditions are in place. For instance, have leaders realised and accepted what the consequences of organisational transformation might be for them personally? Are all the ducks – externally and internally – being lined up in time?

4. Make it so

This is where you make the visible organisational changes; operating model, structure, process, systems and decision making. Successful transformation leaders intertwine this work with customer focused initiatives, preventing ‘change myopia’. In the way they do this they unlock the existing intelligence across the organisation.

5. Get it to stick

For a transformation to work, people in the organisation need to develop new ways of working and the capabilities required. This demands enablement by the transformation leaders. In addition, leaders need to strike the right balance between allowing failures and at the same time a ruthlessly focusing on improvements.

6. Forget about ‘are we there yet?’

Many people still think about transformation as a linear process with a beginning and an end. So they yearn for a return to normalcy at some point. However, normal in the transformation context is a fata morgana. There is only journey, no destination. Leaders achieving sustainable transformation continuously juggle the need to bust paradigms, create the conditions, make it so and get it to stick. They accept that they do not have all the answers and that transformation is a learning process. For their organisations as much as for themselves.

I will be discussing these six secrets further, so stay tuned for more insights into this topic. In the meantime, I would like to hear your thoughts in the comments below. How are you leading your organisation through transformation, and how has it impacted you personally? To find out more, please get in touch.

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About the contributor

Gautam is a Senior Principal in Korn Ferry’s Organisational Strategy practice. He is based in Melbourne, Australia. Gautam’s passion is helping clients achieve their strategic business objectives and performance improvement through a more effective organisation. This includes engagements covering organisational design, operating model development, workforce capability & career architecture, strategic workforce planning, performance management & rewards and organisational capability uplift.

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