The Transformation Process: An Introduction

A Holistic Approach to Change

Technologies have promised companies faster and better services to help them gain new customers and stay ahead of the competition. In some cases, these promises have been fulfilled. In other cases, however, the promised gains have been elusive, and many organizations have found themselves caught in a frenzied game of technological catch-up with no end in sight and little time to catch their breath.

This continual rush to upgrade technologies has frequently obscured the chaos these constant changes are creating in the rest of the organization, hiding the underlying need these companies have to streamline and stabilize their structures, systems, and work processes to fit their rapidly changing strategies and technologies. Another problem is that during the past twenty five years, most major companies have experimented with different change methodologies, such as total quality management, just-in-time manufacturing, reengineering, kaizen, and self-directed work teams. Even though all of these popular technologies have added value to the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations, they have not lived up to their full promise either. For most businesses, they have resulted in short-lived or incremental bottom-line results. The fault is not in the approaches per se, but in the fragmented and narrow organizational context in which they have been applied.

As organizations and their surrounding business environments become more complex, it is getting harder to change a single, isolated business factor, and expect improved business performance without adjusting other inter-related aspects of the organization. What is needed, is a holistic change process which organizations can use to help them integrate and align changes throughout the organization. Three decades of organization design experience have taught us that significant change requires a comprehensive approach which can impact several levels and dimensions of the organization simultaneously. To create frame-breaking and sustainable long-term change, the organization must examine core value-added processes which span the entire organization. It must also address factors such as business strategy and results, core competencies, leadership, organization structure, process efficiency, technology, cultural attitudes, coordination systems, and employee development systems.

The organization change process outlined in the remainder of this article provides the holistic and integrated approach to change necessary to create significant and sustainable change over time. It incorporates the following elements essential to successful change initiatives:

Successful Change Elements
  • Senior leadership is committed and participates
  • Management works as a cohesive group
  • Business strategy is aligned to market demands
  • Changes cut across boundaries and hierarchy
  • Several change technologies are integrated
  • Both technical and social systems are improved
  • A clear and structured methodology is followed
  • Members’ hearts and minds are engaged
  • People are aligned to common vision & strategy
  • Current strengths are preserved and built upon
  • People at all levels are developed and involved
  • Change is owned and managed by people within
  • Processes and systems are streamlined and aligned to strategy and values

The following sections describe a comprehensive organization transformation process which, if followed, will produce outstanding results by creating a High Performance organization. The transformation process outlined below addresses various dimensions of business performance and initiates change at the organization, team, and individual level.

The High Performance Philosophy

We define a High Performance organization as an organization which achieves outstanding results by clarifying strategy, aligning results, processes, structures and systems to that strategy, and by making each person a contributing partner in the business. It is important to note that achieving High Performance requires simultaneous improvements in both technical and social dimensions of the organization. Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other will result in less than optimal organizational performance. Following is a summary of basic High Performance principles:

The strategy and direction of the organization are clear to every member, and guide day-to-day actions and decision making

People are viewed as the organization’s greatest asset. They understand the business, are committed to getting results, and are given the information, skills, resources, and authority to do their jobs. With these resources, they can make decisions, solve problems, and contribute to the business in significant ways.

People govern themselves by adherence to shared core ideology and guiding principles instead of rigid policies and procedures.

Work is designed around whole business processes rather than narrow job functions, and people are organized into teams responsible for managing a whole and meaningful segment of work.

Work processes and structures are streamlined and systems are aligned to support the strategy and core ideology of the business.

The management role changes from controlling workers and solving day-to-day problems to defining strategy, establishing boundaries, providing resources, and creating an environment in which teams and workers can be effective.

The organization consistently achieves outstanding results.

Research and experience show that companies organized by principles of High Performance consistently out-perform more traditional companies. In fact, a review of 100 companies who recently redesigned their work place using High Performance principles, showed an average productivity improvement of 37%.

The Transformation Process

The Transformation Process (see the model down below) is a change process which guides organizations toward High Performance. The methodology outlines a sequence of interventions and change activities designed to create frame-breaking and sustainable organization change. Participant work books and detailed training/consulting guides support each of the steps listed. The change process is organized around three major processes: the leadership process; the design process; and the development process.

As can be noted from the diagram, the leadership process leads and integrates the design and development processes. Design and development are seen as tools which help leaders manage the business and achieve better performance results. Change initiatives often fail because they are not integrated into the management of the business. Leaders and people throughout the organization often view change projects as simply “another program” separate from the primary work itself. If these projects lack sponsorship to become part of the real-time mindset and behavior of managers, they will fail to create sustainable change within the organization. When linked to the leadership process, however, the design and development processes are integral to good management of the business.

The leadership process is the way in which leaders (senior, middle, and first line) manage the business to accomplish their vision and achieve results. Leadership, more than any other factor, determines the success of a business. It follows then, that organizational change initiatives must be integrated with the leadership process if they are to be successful. The leadership process includes the vision of leaders, their attitudes, roles, and practices, the organization structure that links them to each other and the rest of the organization, their unity, the communication systems they use, and the resources they have to carry out their responsibilities. Effective change will, by design, include and improve the leadership process.

The design process is the methodology by which the internal elements of the organization (core processes, structure, systems, and culture) are streamlined and aligned to business strategy and core ideology. It is a structured process with specified events in which people from all levels of the organization participate. They first do a complete assessment of both technical and social aspects of the business. Often in-depth process analysis is required to fully understand how work processes fit together throughout the business. Following analysis, leaders and participants identify an “ideal organization design” and then develop plans for verifying, measuring, and implementing that new design. If completed, this design process will lead to a more effective organization design, significantly improved results, and employees who are empowered and committed to the business.

The development process is a series of structured events designed to create a learning organization and tap the energy, motivation, and capability of the organization’s human resources. Through the development process, individuals and teams at all levels of the organization are given the knowledge, authority, resources, and support they need to make decisions, solve problems, and accomplish the strategies and goals of the organization. Managers and supervisors are taught fundamental leadership principles and skills to help them manage people and teams effectively, and employees at all levels develop the technical, social, and business skills to work in teams, to take responsibility for business results, and to exercise initiative as partners in the business.

In summary, the transformation process is a comprehensive organization change methodology which includes the leadership process, the design process, and the development process. It outlines a framework for creating significant and sustainable change and provides hands-on tools for assessment, strategy development, redesign, leadership training, team training, individual development, and the implementation of change plans. Though every organization is different, the transformation process can be adapted to fit the unique change needs of any organization. Organizations which implement the entire process will invariably achieve superior results, develop committed employee, and find they have more satisfied customers.

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