Transformation: Conquering Inertia

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When introducing the concept of “transformation” into an organization, the biggest hurdle has consistently been one of inertia, and for good reason.  For the past twenty years, corporations having been introducing a rotating rotisserie of programs with different names, but all with the same overall objective to make the company better in some way.  And over the past twenty years, the carcasses of these programs can be seen littered along the company timeline and collective institutional memory as haunting reminders of good intentions gone awry. Management shakeups, economic malaise, mass lay-offs, off-shoring, reshuffling business units, the introduction of new technology or collaboration models, and even the changing of industry standards, requirements, and policies – the specific reasons don’t really matter as much as the consuming takeaway that it didn’t work or deliver the promised outcome. The net result of these initiatives is that employees have now been effectively and generationally inoculated from true transforming potential, as they’ve built up an immunity and risk-aversion to going “all in” and offering their support to see a new initiative launched, sustained, and ultimately succeed, benefiting all parties and participants, both now and in the future.

To overcome this challenge of generating sufficient inertia, leaders of transformational programs within companies must overcompensate in two specific ways to ensure they get sufficient traction to succeed.  First, they must commit to over-communicating with their internal (and external) stakeholders.  They must set expectations, and then repeatedly describe the process (and where they are in the process), set the bar, and then explain what the bar stands for, so that everyone understands the thresholds, timetables, and the exact time when measurable results will begin to be realized.  And second, they must over-deliver.  Setting an attainable bar gives sufficient opportunity to demonstrate success and achievement of stated milestones, thereby generating intrinsic momentum to achieve critical mass to get universal buy-in, keep the transformation going, and then continue to reset and advance performance in comparison to original baselines to accomplish even more.

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