We are living in an age of corporate transformation.
Every business wants to be more agile, customer-centric, digital, diverse, sustainable, inclusive, and more. In fact, some large companies are running so many change initiatives that merely mentioning the T-word makes people groan.
Still, most transformations are a waste of time.
Depending on your source, 70-84% of programmes fail. So every time organisations press the T-button, leaders gamble resources, pain and late nights for a lottery chance of success.
The main reason for failure is that too many leaders avoid the mindset monster.
I’ve done it more than once myself. We talk about transformation and translate this into KPIs, processes, and software. It’s safe. Intellectually stimulating. Makes us feel in control of our world.
And yes, mindset change is also on the to-do-list.
It may even feature in a leadership workshop. Get given as a task to HR. Even become an RFP for a fat consultancy and training contract. But, typically, these efforts cannot go the distance.
This is where things go wrong.
Because every corporate transformation is in fact a human transformation.
Think about it:
Successful transformation can require leaders, employees, shareholders and ecosystem partners to change the way they perceive reality. How they believe the world works. Perhaps even question parts of their own identity.
Looking at my own experience of living each of the above examples, and reading up on how psychologists see the relationship between work and identity, believe me when I say ... it's rough.
Which is why we need to transform the way we think about transformation.
Today, too many rational roadmaps move from a current to a future state by rewiring a process, introducing a software or adapting dashboards to a new KPI. As a ‘track’, mindset shifts - at best - get equal airtime.
But we need to realise that mindset shift is THE track.
Every process, KPI, software, measurement, dashboard, form, and innovation is created (or with AI, supervised) by a human. Only when this person changes their perspective, they will change the way they handle the tools at their disposal. Make the right decisions because they believe them to be so.
Or in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “if you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
So here is my request
If you are working on or planning a transformation, take a moment to specify the mindset shifts required to succeed.
Don’t let yourself off the hook with platitudes, but dig deep into the beliefs that need to change. Understand the values your people uphold today. Consider the old ones they need to let go of and the new ones they should embrace. The uncertain this will bring.
Once you identify them, write them down as FROM… TO… statements and discuss how to make them happen. Whether this is even realistic.
And yes, those questions also apply to your values and beliefs.
Think about it.
PS. In a future article, I’ll write more about how to make mindset shifts happen. And when you shouldn’t even try.
Are you ready to look at ‘real transformation’ ?
Then let’s have a virtual coffee ☕️. See how we break through the mental blocks of your business. I won't sugarcoat reality: it may be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done as a senior executive. But if you’re up to play for real, so am I.
And even if we decide the time isn’t right, I’m sure we’ll have an interesting conversation.
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.