Your ‘big bang’ transformation won’t work


Everywhere we turn, another organisation is on a mission of ‘transformation’ To become more ‘digital’, more ‘agile’, more ‘customer centric’, etc.

Colleagues at large organisations have seen it all before — they’ve sat as a change programme gets launched, they’ve listened to speeches from senior people, whisked in with their briefing notes to talk about x and y, and they’ve participated in meetings where they’re briefed on the ‘new’ thing everyone is going to be trained to do.

It’s boring.

The ‘big bang’ organisational transformations have become BAU, and are more than a waste of money, they’re a waste of an opportunity.

Too many, too slow, too programmatic, top-down, and predictable. They rarely communicate a compelling enough case for ‘why’ that will get already busy people to put in the discretionary effort.

Large organisations have to be selective in what they try to implement, and strategic about how.

At &us we approach change like a cash-poor startup should go about building a business — identify the single most compelling problem, design, test and iterate, create envy, get your story straight, and get to the point where you can barely keep up with demand.

Want change? Get this stuff right:

Identify the good ‘trouble makers’

Don’t build programmes stuffed with senior people and the Change team. Instead, find those in the organisation, irrespective of seniority, that are viewed as legitimately influential. In school, these might have been the ones who stood up to the monotonous teacher, or the kids who didn’t have a ‘clique’ but instead happened to be friends with everybody. At work, they’re the ones in different teams that everybody knows, respects, and listens to.

Bring them together as a team and empower them to shape the direction and execution of the goal, with the air cover and support they need. They’ll have a much better read on what’s really going on in the organisation and obtain the information needed much faster than any committee or change team can.

They’ll know exactly what will work, what to avoid, how and why. But they must be given real remit to own stuff — they’re not just a corporate mouthpiece.

Create movements, not programmes

The moment we call it a ‘programme’, out come the senior stakeholders, the steering committees, rollouts, and inevitably additional and potentially “pointless” work for everyone.

Programmes are slow, they’re expensive, and they involve far too many people. The results are predictable.

Create movements. Get laser focused on the future you want to achieve and work back, with the right people and right inputs to create an attention-grabbing, bottom up movement that actually improve the lives of our colleagues and the experience of our customers.

Don’t know where to start? Look outside for inspiration. It’s a crude example, but what do Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump have in common? They understand what people want and make them believe they can be part of making it reality.

Be patient, change takes time

CEOs the world over find themselves in a catch-22. The market demands a quarterly uptick in results, but the strategy to make it happen doesn’t take hold in three months. However, if analysts find signs they’re heading in the right direction, the market rewards them.

Same goes for transformation, but unlike financial results, evidence is less tangible and harder to quantify. The key here is to be creative about what metrics you want to track, then measure and demonstrate what’s taking hold early and often.

The results may not always be positive, but remember that change really does take time, and just like that new start-up, it will go through rounds and rounds of careful iteration before your grandma ever hears of it.

Looking to create real valuable change? Get in touch with us.