On Transformation


“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” (Jack Welch). Think about it for a moment: if your organization cannot cope with making the internal changes required for it to adapt to the external (market-driven) speed of change, then you will soon lose to the competition and in the long run you may be out of business.

Take a delivery company for example. Currently the market is asking for express delivery. In most cases, these are either deliveries within 60 minutes from placing an order or sometimes overnight deliveries by 7am the next day, for orders received up until the night before. This is the kind of external change (e.g. market driven) that requires the delivery firm in our example to re-adapt its operating model to provide such a service – and to provide it at a competitive price in relation to competitors; lest you will lose that market segment. This is when the rate of change on the inside needs to match or ideally be better than the rate of change on the outside.

If your organization is flexible, agile and adaptable, then you will thrive in such set of changing circumstances. Alternatively, if the opposite is true, then you will not be able to offer this express delivery service (read: this new product) at all, or at best if you do make an attempt at offering it, it may not sustain the test of time, causing reputational damage to your brand.

The example of express delivery as a new product to be launched is a simple case of the entire organization having to adapt. How? The design and introduction of a new operating model first and foremost; but most importantly your people must adapt: starting from middle and senior management down to your drivers and shop-floor operators, employees need to embrace the change and design and implement new ways of working to match the new operating model.  Your costs are likely to go up as a result of the introduction of this new express delivery service: this is due to the higher number of working hours (overtime and non) needed and perhaps to the introduction of new technology or the leasing of additional vehicles to name just three factors.  Yet, you cannot afford to raise the price to customer, lest your customer will opt for the competition – or unless your USP is so much better than your competitors’ that you can risk to charge a higher premium rate and still maintain market share.  Still not recommendable.

If you don’t have an existing culture of continuous improvement embedded in your organization, you will find it difficult to “do more with less”.  People will resist and resent this internal change and will even sabotage it in an effort to return to the status quo. They will find excuses as to why it cannot work. They will use organizational politics and lobbying to make it fail. In other words, your internal culture will either function as an accelerator or become a head wind of change.

Yet, you cannot afford to wait until your organizational culture changes, before you can really take advantage of the market demand for (say) express deliveries. These are external changes that are happening now.

As I mentioned, the introduction of express deliveries is simply an example. Similarities can be found in Manufacturing, Food & Beverage, Hospitality, Banking & Insurance fields and many others. Disruptors are at work in every business sector.

So, don’t wait for an outside (external) factor before embarking on a transformational journey. In the first instance, your Strategy Office should have created a set of strategy scenarios based on the “job-to-be-done” or customer requirements. The strategic hypothesis that follow should in most cases have already zeroed-in on the customer requirements for (again) the introduction of an express delivery service. Consequently, strategic initiatives and business capabilities should have been put in place to be able to test this hypothesis. Don’t be caught out unprepared. If you know your business, you should also know that express delivery is “the thing”, the differentiator.

So, how do we stay alert to the need for Transformation?  The following four laws of transformation may help Leaders keep organizations on their toes:


One Mission, One Vision, One Team, ONE Goal.

In Steve Jobs’ words: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”


In the case of a start-up, the founder of the firm has clearly put all of his/her effort into creating the organization. Mind, heart and guts have all been poured into making this new entity and ensuring various degrees of success during the first months of existence. In larger organizations, instead, the commitment of a strategic leader, the person that sees beyond the daily routine of turning up for work; this commitment…? It’s personal. It is both a mission and the purpose for the leader who typically acts as if the firm was actually his/hers. However, there inevitably comes a time when the firm is larger than a single person.

The leader’s team must therefore embrace their own individual commitment and deliver results pertinent to their job role. This is also where the leader’s management style needs to change from a commanding style to a coaching style. Tapping into and unleashing the potentials of each team member will yield greater results in the long run than if the leader tells people what to do. Again in Steve Jobs’ words: “we don’t hire talented people to tell them what to do. We hire them so that they can tell us what to do”.

We need to explain and communicate to our people the purpose of the Department and that of the wider company, the “why” of the Team and how this aligns with the wider Company’s goal; thus encouraging people to set their own path, projects, initiatives and delivering outcomes. Which leads me to the third law of transformation: empowerment.


Team members can achieve up to 10 times more if they are empowered to develop their own targets and deliverables; if they can be left to drive their own projects and publicly recognized for a job well done. However, not all team members will be capable of kicking their “penalties kicks” and scoring a goal each time. As leaders, it is our duty to act as coaches. Empowerment and coaching therefore go hand in hand.  One is ineffective without the other. But both together are an incredible force.

Empowering people to deploy previously-coached tools and techniques for problem solving and root cause analysis is essential and incredibly effective to deal with organizational challenges. In the medium to long run, a consistent approach to continuous improvement and Kaizen in the workplace can really make a massive difference in flexing the organizations, making your workforce involved and engaged at all times.


Those putting in the extra effort to drive transformation should be held up as heroes. Those who act as “corporate terrorists” should be removed at the earliest round of appraisals. Blue sky would have it that the typical bell curve employees’ distribution of 20-60-20 where the first 20% is underperforming, the last 20% is above average and over-performing and the 60% in the middle are the bedrock of the business…? Recognize this distribution…? Well…now try to use coaching, empowering and recognition tools and techniques to move even 10% of the 60% up into the higher 20%, turning this section into 30% of your population overachieving . Imagine how these efforts would trigger a movement towards a transformational culture.

Transformation is not easy. It is not a single act nor is it a destination. Transformation is a journey of a continuous metamorphosis, an inescapable truth in the face of recurrent disruption in the world of business. You cannot afford to run a slower pace of change inside your organization than the speed of change on the outside of the organization. Focus, Personal Commitment, Empowerment and Recognition are the 4 incredible laws of transformation, jelled together by a culture of continuous improvement.

These are the must-have organizational elements, the winning formula that will fuel your business and propel it forward to greater heights.

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