I was talking to a senior executive from a global financial services organisation the other day and we got onto the subject of organisational transformation programmes, particularly around efforts to improve customer experience and/or achieve digital transformation.
He went on to tell me a story of his experience (and frustrations) within his own organisation when it came to their ‘transformation’ programmes. In general, he found that most of their programmes ‘skimp’ on the training and communications elements and, as a result, these tended to be two of the main reasons why most of their programmes failed or failed to deliver against expectations.
A recent piece of research from McKinsey supports the fact that most transformation programmes fail, with their research finding that only 26% of transformations have been “very or completely successful at both improving performance and equipping the organization to sustain improvements over time”. Their research goes on to suggest that odds of making a transformation successful can be dramatically improved if firms take on what they call ‘The 24 actions of transformation’.
Looking down their list of 24 actions, the large majority, and the most important ones, can be grouped broadly under three headings: Communication, Behaviour and Training, which go a long way to support the point that my financial services colleague was making.
However, one of the most interesting things that comes out of their research is that even if firms effectively implement all of the 24 actions then they are still not guaranteed to achieve a successful transformation. This would suggest that there could be a broader issue at play and is one that needs uncovering and exploring.
Behavioural economics offers a clue about what could be happening through the idea of status quo bias, which finds that people naturally prefer things to stay as they are and perceive any change as a threat or a loss.
This is not a new idea. But, if we take the word ‘transformation’ that is often appended to many new digital and customer experience initiatives, the word, in of itself, implies a big change.
Therefore, is there not a risk that the use of the word ‘transformation’ could cause our ‘status quo bias’ to kick in and this could slow or even scupper our ‘transformation’ objectives? If this is true, should we therefore not consider more broadly how we talk about, describe and frame the change initiatives that we want to undertake?
In this hyper competitive world that we live in where constant change is the new reality, should we not be changing the ‘transformation’ narrative to something that is more aligned to what is really happening and what organisations really want to achieve? Would it not be better to talk about evolution rather than transformation?
Surely ‘evolution’ would be a better word and approach to describe what we are trying to achieve….a continuous process and journey towards delivering a more competitive, more profitable and more digitally enabled business that delivers a better customer experience.
This might seem like semantics but, as we have established earlier, communication is one of the the most important, if not the most important, element in the implementation of any transformation programme or change initiative.
People understand that things change. But, how we talk about change and how we ‘frame’ it is an essential element in how people embrace it and implement any change.
Changing to a narrative that talks of evolution rather than transformation would help us tell better stories about the changes that we need to make and ensure that we maximise the level of understanding, involvement and engagement that we need from employees to help deliver the expected changes.
This post was originally published on my Forbes column here.