Why transformational change efforts fail
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Why transformational change efforts fail

Understand that transformation isn't just about modifying daily actions but about adjusting long-term behaviours

We’re facing a combination of standstills and sudden changes in the world and the business landscape. Because of this, we are being forced to change. This in turn forces businesses to change and transform. We know full well that if we and our organisations remain the same, we put the survival of our businesses at risk.

Whichever route an organisation takes to keep up with change, we have seen that some initiatives work and some don’t. Many organisations, especially in today’s uncertain situation, are trying to carry out transformational change. While this a great way to drive business forward, it can lead to disaster if certain things are not considered.

The problem isn’t in our people, though. The problem begins with what we understand as leaders and what actions we take to achieve transformational change. Here are some reasons why transformational change won’t work for many organisations.

First, there is a lack of understanding of transformational change and what it entails. Often, we misunderstand transformational change as actions required to change the organisation. While this is true to some extent, it is not the whole story.

In a previous article, we discussed the differences between change and transformation. Briefly, change refers to our response to external influences that cause us to modify our daily actions. Meanwhile, transformation goes much deeper, as it involves modifying core beliefs and long-term behaviours.

Transformational change calls for both transformation and change — that is, we adjust daily actions while working in parallel on the more difficult adjustments in our long-term behaviours and core beliefs.

This brings us to the second point: When it comes to transformational change, many of us focus only on either long-term or short-term goals. Transformational change can only work when we engage in both.

Think about this scenario: if we focus only on long-term goals, results will not show immediately. We may be demotivated to continue, or assume our initiatives aren’t working at all. On the other hand, if we focus only on short-term goals, we will not see long-term or sustainable growth or success in the future. We will simply keep reacting to change rather than becoming pace-setters in our industry.

Third, there is a lack of vision paired with a lack of strategy. Often when we engage in transformational change, we jump into it with no direction in mind. We use a more passive and reactive approach. We cannot predict how change can determine the direction our world may take, and so reactive approaches are normal.

Fourth, we are not communicating and being transparent enough in the organisation. Change in general is difficult, not just for the business but for every individual in the organisation. This means that if individuals are not getting enough information, they will be cautious about making any moves as well.

No one likes to take a blind leap of faith and hope things get better. Business leaders’ responsibility is to our people, and our people drive the business. Today, we can no longer demand that our people jump on board with every change the organisation makes. We must be clear and concise about the next steps and support them as they work through it.

Finally, we are not considering the current company culture as part of transformational change. The organisation’s shared values, beliefs and characteristics are what make up its culture. But the culture can sometimes hinder change, especially when it includes a focus on rigid processes and structures.

Many organisations implement transformational changes that go against company culture. This causes dysfunction across the organisation because people are now being asked to do something out of character. For example, if a company has strict and rigid processes and timelines, suddenly adopting agility without prior planning can throw people off.

This ties in with the need for a solid vision and strategy, and effective communication and transparency. While it may seem difficult, it is not impossible if we carefully consider the other elements as well.

Transformational change can seem daunting, but there are many ways to approach it that can make it easier for organisations to make progress. Many such efforts often fail because we jump into it before considering all the important elements. It comes down to preparing your people and their willingness to move forward with the organisation.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC – Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com

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