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Let’s talk about old and new ways of Transformations!

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Summary of a meet-up with professionals

Fasten your Seatbelts! In the fast changing world what you did and how you did it yesterday is out-dated today. But there is hope! There are new ways to transform Organisations and we all can play a very important role in it.

This article is written to summarise the loudest thoughts of a meet-up about the topic. We have gathered with a small circle of HR professionals and Business leaders this week in Lucerne. We discussed how do we experience Transformations as individuals, how successful they are and whether there is hope about doing things differently in the near future.

An overview of the different transformation design we have discussed
Different mind-set drives different ways of transformations

1. Transformations have a huge effect on employee experience and company performance

Participants from big corporates felt victims of transformations and decisions made up above the clouds by top management in the ivory towers. Our case presenter shared with us three different transformation cases at the same company within the last 4 years, designed in three different ways:

- The first transformation went trough a classic top-down approach, driven and decisions made by the management, where she felt only subject to the change,

- The second transformation was showcasing involvement of internal experts, herself as well, that made her feel able to influence the outcome and her role in the new set-up. She got a better understanding of the need of the change, she felt much more engaged.

- And then the third transformation: external consultants making the suggestions and even the decisions, and a still lingering insecurity and prospects of downsizing almost a year into the transformation.

All participants joined in with their own experiences and all our stories resonated in their strong periods of insecurity, lack of understanding or communicating the real ‘Why’.

If we all know- and that we all agreed to also- that changes happen in companies a lot more often than some years ago- we are becoming subjects of almost constant survival strategies and numbness till the planning of the new version of the company is done and ready to be communicated.

2. When is a transformation ready?

We had a heated discussion about this, and what we have agreed upon was that by the Management Consultancy companies mostly when they are done with their project: suggestions presented and the decisions are taken. This is in most cases covering the design principles and a concept design, but rarely goes into the detailed design. A new Org Chart- usually follows this with names in it- and the rest is left for those names to fill in and figure out on the go. This is how even a year after a change employees might be still wondering, what is it that they should be doing differently when already the next change might be on their doorstep.

3. Organisations tend to loose sight of their customers in their transformation endavours.

While companies are relatively small, change and re-design happens more as a reaction to changing customer needs or in order to achieve better operations.

One of the participants, working for a food chain employing nearly a 1000 people, was sharing with us how they are immediately changing things as they expand or see a new challenge arising in their operations. The Focus of every change is the customer: how they can make the experience better for them.

So when do we loose sight of the customers and where does it happen that pure financial benefit rules over even our service level of product quality? The reality is mostly people loose sight of the company purpose and are busier with fulfilling what they think their position should do or stand for- we end up cutting costs in order to end up with a better balance sheet- at any price.

4. Top-down or bottom-up continuous work and business evolution?

Should all transformation effort start at the top of the organisations and be driven by CEOs and Management Boards? For too long we only looked at organisations as hierarchies- the power structure of the company and almost all the systems are there to reinforce this. So in the pyramid view of course we accept there are the people at the top, who should be cleverer, better educated, more experienced and witty to make the right strategic changes. Yet we forget, that they are the furthest away from the customers and understand least the changes in a customer segment or sense the popping-up potential. So we have a wide range of top-down ways to transform companies- with a linear A to B transformation mind-set.

But wait! What happens at those companies, where Management in a sense how we used to know it does not exist? Do they still run re-designs and transformations top down, upfront planned and then implemented?

Of course not! So what do they do?

5. Continuous calibration is the key to Business Evolution

What we see from the Holacracy, the Spotify or at the Haier model- they are continuously, often once a month are calibrating WHAT they are doing and HOW (their ways of working together)- on team and on company level they run mechanisms for this so there is no need for big Transformations. What we can learn from them, is that transformation can be initiated anywhere and anytime- and at any level in the organization, but especially by the customer facing units.

Teams are not to understand here in the classical terms of who is in one box in the org.chart but rather a group of people who work together to create value- the continuous work and business evolution.


A. Know your WHY:

- Watch out that the purpose of the company is still there and not lost

- And when you embark on a path of change be aware and transparent of the purpose of the change too

B. Treat adults like adults: be transparent and honest (we are tired of being treated like donkeys – and do not forget, if you treat people like donkeys, they will start acting like donkeys)- and we can make decisions for ourselves, weather we want to be part of your next chapter or not.

C. Start using besides the top-down approaches bottom-up initiatives and value them: Use the best practices of post-industrial company forms and create mechanisms for constant calibrationof what we do and how we do it.

D. Invest into continuous work and business evolution: The business argument is strong for continuous calibration instead of A to B big transformations: just take into consideration the Employee Experience, Employee commitment, speed of implementation, the expertise of the job/customers, the consultancy fees. To break the pattern of A to B transformations that leave employees numb and low performing for months and then for months to figure out what should they do differently- start building in Harmonizing Mechanisms- that can give space for bottom-up, outside-in driven initiatives, innovations in what your business does and how, it has no extra cost, your employees know the customers and their jobs best.

E. We have one more good news to you: You have everything for it!

You have all the knowledge, the people, the expertise, but it needs a new mind-set, a change of perspective.

We thank very much for all the stories, the openness, the interest, the heated discussions and the laughter we could have together with our meet-up participants.


If you would like to know more about how you can support your company’s continuous work and business evolution check out our Go Beyond Transformation two-day workshop and learn from our case-studies and best practices, how the Solution Focused Organisation Development and Design tools can support you to have a better Employee Experience, Business Growth and Evolution.

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