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Truths About Transformation – Part III Are We Transforming Yet?

With the fuller picture of the end transformed state tough to pin down, how does the organization get a bead on whether the efforts made to transform are or are not working? Having ascertained that your work is indeed transformation (the first article in this series), and come to a thumbnail understanding of the depth and nature of your transformation journey (the second article in this series), you are probably hungry for indicators that transformation is in fact taking place.

As the New Millennium Era dawned, most organizations were straddling Industrial Age and Information Age paradigms that have steadily drifted apart over the past 15 years. The irony is that what transformation aims for transcends the Information Age, rather using it as a fulcrum for reshaping the paradigm, culture, etc. to match the New Millennium Age characteristics:

  • Social- and Knowledge-Empowered Consumers
  • Value and Individual Meaning Driven Employees
  • Co-Creation of Products and Services to Meet Needs as They Emerge
  • Everything, All the Time, Along Many Dimensions via Multiple Channels
  • Contribution Valued Above Compensation and ‘Performance’
  • Speed of Adaptation at the Organization, Team and Individual Levels is Mission Critical
  • Processes Favor the Consumer Rather Than the Corporation
  • Cooperative Learning and Personal Fulfillment are Valued Above Material Gain
  • Self-Efficacy of the Consumer and the Employee are the Norm

Well, the great thing about having a set of characteristics of a paradigm to shoot for is that those characteristics can be used to remake the compass that the organization uses to make progress toward its transformation goals.  First, some key points should be kept in mind while transforming:

  1. Create fertile ground for transformation to take root before spending any capital dollars
  2. The most common error is managing transformation as if the organization is a machine – this will burn through money, time, and people in a hurry
  3. You can’t go too far in changing how your people see their work and each other
  4. Shifting from change management to achieving the characteristics of the New Millennium Era paradigm leverages success
  5. Treat the embedded Industrial Age mindset like an addiction
  6. Remember that Industrial Age and Information Age are drifting apart, if your organization is straddling these paradigms, crisis is imminent
  7. Once you land mostly in the Information Age mindset, you still have work to do to get to ‘flux’ New-Millennium Age, continuous transformation mindset
  8. Keep the primary shifts from and to that redefine ‘success’ in your back pocket at all times (the second article in this series)
  9. If it isn’t painful, it’s not transformative; if you’re not breaking down you’re not breaking through


Are we transforming?

Put a checkmark beside each statement that is true. If you have less than 1 checkmark in each category you are not yet transforming or are transforming slowly.

Breaks with the past…

  • People are highly emotional and things have gotten really ugly from time to time – relationships have completely broken down and/or our ability to deliver/operate has been in serious jeopardy from time to time
  • We affirm the transformative vision as it evolves over the course of the work at all levels and offer multiple interpretations of it according to the business function and audience we are addressing. People are starting to own the Vision and are lending their abilities in new ways to getting the work done
  • We say we don’t know, when we don’t know, and we fully acknowledge the scale and complexity of the work we need to do to transform at every level of the organization and this is reflected in initiative funding

Making leaps of faith into the future…

  • We reward our people for trying to succeed at change/projects even if they fail a few times
  • We don’t let errors in judgement stop us, rather we accept them as a natural consequence of working in an environment of unknowns
  • People are putting aside petty grievances and past ‘failures’ as a habit, turning conflict into a way to generate innovation more often
  • We backslide into command and control, or treating the organization like a machine when creating change, but we recover and get back on track
  • We are able to move faster and faster, not getting bogged down in fear states and ambivalence as often, regardless of the ambiguity and daunting complexity that surrounds our work
  • Although it is uncertain what roles people will have in the transformed state, generally speaking our people see the transformation as an opportunity

Synchronous Ingenuity …

  • Synchronous communication and ingenuity is rewarded and sustained
  • New ideas about how to succeed and previously unheard of ‘intel’ is surfacing from corners of the organization that is new and has valuable context to add to the work
  • Our cultural norm is transparency, interconnectedness, and collaboration
  • We focus on emergent needs rather than relying on historical trends as evidence for investment

Information Age methods are the pole-vault shortening the journey into New Millennium Age Continuous Transformation ‘flux’ end state.  But constant correction will be needed to reinforce the adapted corporate culture, way of working, and ways of relating. This transcends reinforcing behaviours, and takes on more of a doctrine in the same way as Industrial Age methods and mindset did.