Allowing too much complacency
Discuss about the Leading Change for Why Transformation Efforts Fail.
The rapid changes in the fundamental structures that support businesses create the need for frequent business transformations in order to keep up or lead the market. Many businesses often approach transformation with a lot of enthusiasm and end up being greatly disappointed when their efforts do not fully materialize into their expected results. As indicated in Kotter, (2012, pg. 3-4), major change efforts have enabled some organizations adapt significantly to changing conditions, have enhanced other companies’ the competitive standing, and have further positioned some for a far better future. For a successful transformation, the organization should adopt the strategic business transformation approach. Nair explains that strategic business transformation entails realizing, responding to and navigating through a major shift in market need, (Nair, 2011. Preface). This would mean developing a business design that is able to respond to and withstand the numerous market transformations thus attaining and keeping the business market leading position. However, making strategic business transformation is not easy, and businesses often fail in their transformation efforts. This paper identifies and discusses the major reasons and causes of failure in transformation efforts of businesses.
According to Kotter (2012. Pg. 4-15), some of the most significant errors associated with transformation efforts failure include; too much complacency allowance, failure to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition, underestimating the power of vision, inadequate communication of the vision, allowing obstacles to block the new vision, failure to create short-term wins, declaration of victory too soon, and neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture.
This refers to the transformation managers’ proceeding with the transformation process and failing to create a high sense of transformation urgency enough to enable fellow managers and employees to take or accept change actions. Rushing on the transformation process without establishing a high sense of urgency in managers and employees always lead to transformations failing to achieve their objectives, due to lack of effective communications. Sufficient urgency needs to be established at the beginning of business transformation. This failure to create enough urgency at the beginning of the business transformation could be attributed to overestimating the amount of change to be forced on an organization and underestimating the how difficult it is to drive people out of their normal working routines to facilitate the transformation, as seen in Remme, (2008. Pg. 135)
Most of the organizations today are associated with too high levels of complacency exhibited by high levels of past success, no visible crises, inadequate standards of performance, insufficient feedback from external constituencies and failure to recognize the potentially undesirable effects of the existing organizational problems, (Gilardoni, 2018. Pg. 292). Remme further elaborates that without a sense of urgency; there will be no extra effort for change by people and they will resist change initiatives from above. To elaborate on these causes, an example from a church parish setting could be used. In a case where the parish needs to undertake steps to change parish life. The parish priest could give an approval for a group to form and implement changes to parish life, but he fails to give his commitment to the changes put forward. According to Reed, (2018. Pg 393), this group could quickly find themselves isolated and battling complacency and a lack of any urgency from the leader of the organization. Moreover, the case of the fact that General Motors enjoyed great returns and huge success since its formation made it lack a powerful enough the sense of urgency to be able to sense the need to work on their vision towards matching the new conditions and meet the stiff competition in the market. This led to its’ falling into crisis in 2008/2009.
Lack of sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
This entails failing to establish a strong and effective coalition in the form of transformation committee that may constitute of the senior management, departmental heads, chain or line managers as well as designated employees that would strongly advocate for and work towards achieving the successful transformation desired. Kotter, (2012. Pg 6) highlights that most successful transformation cases are characterized by powerful coalition in terms of formal titles, information and expertise, reputations and relationships, and the capacity for leadership. An individual alone does not have all the necessary assets and capabilities to create the required transformation in the organization, thus the need for a coalition. For instance, in the church parish setting case where the parish priest gives approval for a group to implement changes to parish life, lack of sufficiently powerful guiding coalition could be seen when the priest himself is passionate about making changes to parish life but he is unable to form a sufficiently expert and respected group with whom to work. This could be seen in the formation of well-meaning parish committees composed of ill-prepared and inexperienced committee members, resulting in the failure of any change to parish life, (Reed, 2018. Pg 393).
Therefore, as explained by Gilardoni, successful transformations require all the people concerned, ranging from the president or the general manager, the department heads, to the other employees involved to come together and develop a shared commitment in order to improve performance, along with the teamwork needed to realize that commitment, (Gilardoni, 2018. Pg 292).
Vision assists in directing, aligning as well as inspiring actions on the part of many people. Kotter explains that inappropriate vision may lead to a transformation effort turning into unworthy projects that are confusing, incompatible and time-consuming, taking the wiling to progress at all, (Kotter, 2012. Pg 8). In many failed transformations plans and programs are often found playing the role of vision. Moreover, a vision guides decision making of the managers and the employees; thus easy decision making and avoiding conflict that may result from even the smallest decisions, with the potential to sap energy and destroy morale. The interests of the different stakeholders in the transformation process are united and brought together through the set vision. For instance, when the parish priest gives approval for a group to implement change to parish life, it would only be successful if the group first sets out the vision for their purpose. This vision would lead to setting direction towards the activities to implement the change, and the other church members and parishioners accepting the change thus its success. This would further help avoid the unending debates that may have resulted from different opinions towards the group, its composition, and agenda. As viewed in Reed, (2018. Pg 393), the transformation of an organization fails when the power of vision is underestimated. Moreover, a sense of urgency and creation of power guiding collation will not be sufficient if there is not a sensible vision guiding change. Therefore, without a clear vision, it would be difficult to develop the strategies for achieving the vision, which drives the change, (Kotter & Gabarro, 2015. Pg 23). Thus the company’s vision, as well as the vision for the transformation, should never be ignored when undertaking the transformation process.
Failing to Recognize the Power of Vision
People will only make sacrifices if they perceive the transformation to be possible. Communication is important towards ensuring that the employees’ opinions are captured in the vision. Further communication ensures faster decision-making process and provides support for the transformation process and efforts, (Kotter, 2012. Pg 10)
To create a powerful vision that can drive transformation, as viewed in Bongiorno et al., (2018. Pg 218), it must be properly communicated, using all possible available communication channels. Therefore, a credible communication plan should be established to enable employees understand the reasons for considering taking sacrifices and committing to change. In the case of a change in parish life, proper communication between the parish priest and the transformation group members is important towards attaining success. Further, communication between the formed group and the other church members would also ensure that the change vision is well understood and therefore supported. Furthermore, the case of General Motors in most cases relying on a vision provided by managers and not a leader capable of showing people how changes can transform the whole company community also reflected under-communication of vision.
Correct communication of the vision alone is not enough to guarantee the desired results. According to Cobb, (2015. Pg. 239), new initiatives often fail too early when employees, even after embracing a new vision, feel disempowered by huge obstacles in their processes. Therefore, removing the hindrances to the realization of the new vision is mandatory if success is to be attained. These barriers may include organizational structures, managers failing to commit to change, compensation and appraisal systems, supervisors refusing to adapt to new circumstances and making demands that are inconsistent with the transformation and unsuitable or fixed organizational plans that do not allow for change, (Bongiorno et al., 2018. Pg. 218-2019). Such activities as removing the obstacles, changing systems or structures that hinder the change vision and encouraging risk taking ideas, activities and actions, (Kotter and Gabarro, 2015. Pg 15) is necessary when dealing with obstacles to change vision. For instance, in the case where the obstacle is organizational structure, an organization’s efforts towards increasing its productivity or improving customer service may be undermined by narrow job categories. Kotter further elaborates that compensation or performance appraisal systems can put people in dilemma of choosing between the new vision and their self-interests, (Kotter, 2012. Pg 11).
Transformation processes always take long times. Most people will make sacrifice on a long process unless they see results of their efforts within a short time, for example, within six to eighteen months, that the journey is producing expected results,” (Cobb, 2015. Pg 239). Momentum should be maintained throughout the whole process, by the employees and all the concerned in the organization undergoing a transformation, so as to enhance success. Short term goals are met and celebrated to help reduce the risk of losing momentum due to the complex and lengthy durations associated with such transformations as business restructuring or changing strategies, (Cobb, 2015. Pg 239).
Under-communicating the vision
Momentum is maintained by allowing for periodic celebration of results in the organization. In addition, accomplishment of short-term and intermediate goals can be strongly motivate people leading to more success and more positive change, as elaborated in Leonard et al., (2007. Pg 49). This may call for step by step transformation process with every step entailing short-term goals that are celebrated upon completion or attainment. In addition, every step should be followed systematically according to their laid down orders. By this, the chance of failure would be reduced significantly by preventing many employees from giving up in the process or joining the resistance against the change.
There is always a temptation among people to declare victory in major change effort after only a few years of hard work. A celebration of the short term should be done carefully so as to avoid any implication or suggestion that the work is complete, lest people’s attention or interest get drawn away, and it becomes difficult to create momentum to complete the work after the short wins celebrations. In addition, victory should only be declared after the changes sink down deeply into the organizational culture, (Cobb, 2015. Pg 239). This can take three to ten years for an entire organization, as further suggested by Cobb. Declaring victory too soon leads to incomplete transformations which are unsustainable and likely to return to the original organization situation before the change, thus leading to wastage of organizational time and resources.
Change only holds for longer periods when they become the ways of doing things in the organization. As viewed in Cobb, (2015. Pg 240), new behaviors are always subject to degradation as soon as the pressure associated with the change efforts are eliminated unless they are rooted in social norms and shared values. This could be done through such activities as creation of better performance in terms of customer and productivity oriented behavior, better leadership and more effective management; enhancing the connections between new behaviors and organizational success; and establishing means to ensure leadership development and succession, (Rudd, 2010. Pg 56). These activities vary depending on the transformation types undertaken by the respective organizations. As indicated on the website (www.linkedin.com/pulse/organizational-change-emergency-calls-inside-general-motors-alem). General Motors committed a mistake of not reshaping the change to be transformed to the next generations even though they tried to fix their errors after 2009.
Organizational transformation is not an easy task. It involves step by step activities that are complex and time-consuming. Transformation efforts are not only the duties of senior management but also a coordinated momentum of all other level managers and employees within the organization. Observation of all of the errors or mistakes highlighted above could help reduce failures of transformation efforts.
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