Seven Deadly Sins of Transformation


When a transformation is frail, it is not really transformative. It is considered an extension of the current way of doing business. The thinking behind the transformation has not been radical, but progressive. Alternatively, the thinking has been radical–but lacks a sense of reality, and has not undergone a rigorous risk analysis, assessment, and evaluation.

Transformations which are too timid fail to ignite the passions of those in the organisation who have a preference for big picture thinking. The organisation loses the drive and the passion those people provide to a far-sighted transformation.

Transformations which are unrealistic either bring forward the doubts of those who prefer to think about logical outcomes, or erode the engagement of those who prefer to work in detailed steps.


When a transformation is not clear or is simplistic in its nature–being tactical rather than strategic–it is myopic. Nobody paints a picture of a better time that is considered worth striving for. There is no believable assessment of why the place the organisation finds itself in today is not where it wants to be. There is no realistic and rigorous assessment of the expected return on investment of the transformation.

Organisations that begin a transformation without being able to articulate why the transformation is needed, and what will be better and why, are starting on a journey most likely to end in failure. Choices will be made without the criteria necessary for understanding what a good choice is.

Organisations that begin a transformation without the detailed understanding of what return on investment will accrue from the transformation falter in their resolve when hard financial decisions are made.

Organisations that begin a transformation without evaluating all the alternatives to reach their goal will have second-thoughts during the transformation and thus lose power in their ability to motivate their people to change their beliefs and attitudes.


In impotent transformations, the Executive Leaders do not have a strong view about the transformation. They give budget–but probably not enough to deliver the change the transformation demands of people’s behaviour and skills. They wait and see if the transformation looks like it will be successful before committing their hearts and minds to the transformation. They do not put in place the appropriate governance structures to control communication flow and actions required to make the transformation happen.

Organisations that hope to transform themselves must have executive leadership. It is not necessary that executive leadership is complete and resolute from the beginning. However, over time, if the executive leadership does not fully commit to the transformation, then the emotional energy and intellectual energy which should be reserved for the transformation are wasted on infighting and self-doubt. The transformation gradually grinds to a halt with little or no benefits to show for the effort expended and resources committed.


When the project team has people appointed to positions such as project manager, communications manager, change manager, process manager in name only, the transformation is incapable. For each position, there is no rigorous assessment of the skills the individuals require in order to deliver the outcomes necessary to achieve the transformation. The project team lacks the cohesion necessary to present a united front, or to quickly make decisions which reflect the criteria set by the agreed strategy to achieve the transformation goal. The team are not motivated to plan in detail.

Organisations that want to move from where they are to where they want to be, other than by accident, need a project team which is skilled in planning, communications, analysis and influencing others.


When procrastination creeps into transformation, the change is not managed. Stakeholder management is by chance or by informal processes. Performance of people is not managed to achieve the outcomes required of the transformation. Communications are not planned as an integral part of a strategy to engage the management of the organisation and change individual beliefs and attitudes with regard to the transformation and its personal impact on individuals.

Organisations that do not manage change during a transformation continually react to stimuli from internal and external stakeholders, resulting in unnecessary compromises, perceived changes in direction and stalling. Emotional and intellectual energy is siphoned from implementing the transformation project, to dealing with issues that should have been foreseen, planned for and mitigated. The transformation loses shape and energy–and eventually employee and executive support.


These transformations are treated as a project isolated to the project team and senior managers, or one or two business units. No concrete effort is made to integrate the transformation into the way business is done by understanding the competence required to work in the new environment, and how different parts of the organisation may be required to work with each other. Insufficient effort is made to incentivise business units and individuals to prioritise the changes required to implement the transformation.

Organisations that do not make a major effort to integrate the transformation into the way business is conducted in each and every business unit create pockets of resistance and inability that may well be terminal to the transformation. Organisations that involve, engage and provide the capability for all business units to participate in the transformation, maximising their level of empowerment without surrendering control of the strategy and the constraints it imposes, have a much higher degree of success.


When abdication occurs, the transformation does not support the skill-building of people or of the project team or managers. People are expected to cope with the change with their existing set of skills from both a technical/process and emotional perspective. Inadequate attention is paid to the need to provide skill-building support through an integrated solution using formal training, coaching, and on-the-job training. The outcomes of the skill-building are not measured, with no capability to understand what aspects of the skill-building processes and tools are required to achieve levels of success.

Organisations that do not build a skill-building programme integrated with change and communications activities–to help people both change their beliefs in their capability to operate well in the transformed environment, and their attitude to using their new skills and knowledge–have patchy transformations. People with a high perception of their ability to operate and a positive attitude do much better–much faster–than those who do not perceive they have the ability, or receive the support required.

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