Transformation or death: A huge challenge for organizations!

By Sylvie Charbonneau

For some time now, I’ve been surprised to see so many TV-reality shows like Extreme Makeover, Extreme Weight Loss, and The Biggest Loser.

Why is it that nobody is interested in people who lose 5 to 10 kilos, while those who drop 50 or 60 kilos draw hundreds of thousands of viewers? People who lose a few kilos will watch what they eat and do a bit more exercise over a period of time. Conversely, people who lose 50 or 60 kilos will need to change their lifestyle completely. I’ve since come to the conclusion that the interest stems from the supreme effort made by these people to reach their goal. The interest also arises from seeing a team (trainers, health professionals, etc.) work hard to guide, support, and encourage these people throughout their journey. Finally, interest is further generated by watching people overcome enormous challenges, make drastic changes to their lifestyle, and SUCCEED.

We are all drawn to success stories, even more so when these require so much energy, effort, and commitment, and end happily. The heroes of these stories not only made changes to their life: They literally transformed their lifestyle.

If these stories are so interesting, how come we hear so little or nothing at all about “extreme” transformations carried out by organizations? Is it due to a lack of interest or rather because these success stories are rather rare? Let’s take a few moments to compare these two phenomena.

We know and hear about organizations that bring about changes every day. These organizations enforce discipline. They temporarily adjust their “lifestyle”—their organizational mode. In most cases, they reach their goal. But, in many cases, over the medium or long term, they shed their new “lifestyle” and lose track of their goal.
Organizations don’t often undertake large-scale transformations during their existence. And so, it’s easy to play down what’s needed to succeed: firm discipline, commitment across all levels of the organization, and unwavering support from senior management. We embark on an extreme transformation, but only give ourselves the means to lose a few pounds.

Maybe there’s something to learn from the extreme transformations achieved by individuals. As for these individuals, it’s often a matter of life or death that leads organizations to undergo a transformation. It therefore becomes essential to be firmly disciplined, and to have a vision and clear guidelines. The absolute commitment of senior management and all managers is also imperative. We’re talking here about commitment, not support. Managers must be part of the solution. Senior management must put forward a plan, do careful monitoring, and maintain efficient operations during the transformation process. These are both medium- and long-term goals: identifying quick wins, highlighting progress to create the momentum needed to pursue the transformation, and assessing the achievements to adequately refocus the strategy. Finally, organizations must sometimes call on transformation professionals to set the transformation target and its architecture, as well as carry out its implementation. The road ahead will only be clearer.

Perhaps we will then see successful organizational transformations. Coming soon to the small screen? Let’s hope so.

By Sylvie Charbonneau



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