We know that two-thirds of large scale transformation efforts fail. But that’s not a terribly helpful piece of information―unless we’re looking for confirmation that this is hard, really hard. What is useful is to understand what leaders can do to substantially increase the odds that their companies won’t be among the two-thirds of those that fail. From my research and work with companies around the world leading large-scale transformation initiatives, here are the four things I’ve found that virtually all successful change leaders do really well:
Recognize embedded tensions and paradoxes
Smart, capable, solid professionals most often perform well in their roles until they reach a level in their organizations at which they are confronted with a series of embedded tensions and paradoxes that make leading effectively much more complicated. The most common paradoxes leaders face when driving a transformation effort are:
Revitalization vs. Normalization. At the core of every change initiative is the desire to breathe new life into the organization―to revitalize ways of thinking, behaving and working. But one change initiative often morphs into many, and before long employees become “change weary.” Thus, we find ourselves in the conflicted situation of needing revitalization but desiring normalization.
Globalization vs. Simplification. Doing business today means doing business globally, but the complexities brought on by globalization are often in conflict with the need for organizations to make it simple for customers to do business with them. Leaders struggle with creating organizational responses that address the need to master globalization while offering customers and employees optimal simplification.
Innovation vs. Regulation. Many organizations, particularly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, are saddled with trying to do business, let along innovate, under increasingly crushing regulatory environments. This is a stifling tax on a company’s capacity to find creative approaches to solving unmet customers’ needs. As such we struggle with the tension between the desire to boost innovation and the need to operate under increasing regulation.
Why has implementing Enterprise-Wide Transformation proven to be troubling? When challenges persist it is often because there are embedded tensions or paradoxes that surface that seem unresolvable.
There are at least five embedded tensions that make the successful implementation of enterprise transformations persistently difficult. They are:
Revitalization ↔ Normalization
Globalization ↔ Simplification
Innovation ↔ Regulation
Optimization ↔ Rationalization
Digitization ↔ Humanization
At the core of many transformation efforts is the desire to breathe new life into the organization―to revitalize ways of thinking, behaving and working. A leader’s typical and, in fact, reasonable response is to introduce a change initiative into the organization. One of the problems that employees face is that a change initiative often morphs into multiple change initiatives, and seldom are these initiatives coordinated or provided the context required to make sense out of them. With so many “change programs” coming at people from so many directions, employees can easily become “change weary,” and yearn for some level of normalcy. Thus, we find ourselves in the conflicted situation of needing revitalization but desiring normalization.Let’s examine each of these tensions…
We heard the presidential candidates discuss their views again Tuesday night, and it is clear that they agree on at least one thing: jobs and job creation policies are critical to the future of the economy. Yet like many politicians, policy makers, and pundits, the candidates continue to gloss over what both men certainly know to be true: Not all jobs are created equal.
Based on our work at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, we see two clear and distinct routes to new job creation.
MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Bill Aulet
There are small- and medium-sized companies created to offer traditional goods and services to a local or regional market. Think “mom and pop” operations. They include your yoga studio and the pizza place down the street. While valuable to the economy in general, these companies are not large enough to serve as a growth engine for the entire economy. They do, however, offer important opportunities for employment and provide valuable services. Read More »