Organisational Transformation is an Illusion

There is no more discussed topic in modern business and leadership than Organisational Change and Transformation. Leaders everywhere think their job is to create change and transformation across their team, organisation or industry.

But they’re wrong.

Organisations don’t change, people do.

Organisational transformation is an illusion. There is only personal transformation. Everything else is just a bunch of woo-woo mumbo jumbo. Either people are willing to transform and grow themselves, or the organisation will not transform.

Organisational transformation is the consequence of personal transformation. You can only achieve it, by helping individuals make the choice to change themselves.

Any organisation that wants to undertake a transformation will have to inspire people to think and act differently. Yet in most large-scale change programs, there is a disconnect: Companies focus mainly on designing new processes or technical systems, and far less on how to motivate their people to adopt the solution.

The fundamental truth about organisational change is that it occurs one person at a time. It’s about individuals breaking old habits and forming new ones, and we know how difficult that can be. The energy that fuels successful change comes through focusing on the desired behaviors expected of the team and showing people that the organisation is serious about supporting and reinforcing them as they make the shift.

I’ve found that people who cope best with change have a clear understanding of why the changes are necessary, the expectations of them as individuals (matched with the knowledge, skills & resources they need) and an understanding of how the changes can impact on them mentally, emotionally, physically and behaviourally.

The implications of this are important for leaders. I have seen too many leaders who expect their organisation or team to change, without them having to. The place that leaders need to begin is not their organisations: It’s themselves.

Unfortunately, too many leaders want transformation to happen at unrealistic speeds, with minimal effort, and everywhere but within themselves. If we, as leaders, expect the people in our team or organisation to change, we first need to demonstrate our own willingness to change ourselves.

Next time you are kicking off a change project, accept that you will have to transform yourself as much as you will have to transform the team or organisation.

Ben LanckenComment