Leading Transformation: Timing the Launch

February 7th





A common theme among would-be leaders of successful transformations is the need for crisis to spur action. And veterans of managing change initiatives will concede that indeed it is sometimes useful to have a larger compelling event to encourage acceptance of change. But what is even more important to successful transformation than having the stimulus of crisis-driven urgency is the need to understand context.

The need for transforming both public and private organizations often begins with recognizing that there is a decline coming, a place where the traditional growth path that has sustained the institution turns downward. But it’s too easy to assume that every case that requires transformation should be treated as if it were a crisis, or that every transformation requires immediate action. In some cases immediate action would come none too soon. In others there may be time to build capabilities, to develop new programs and introduce orderly change.

The problem with jumping the gun is that it creates confusion. Especially in an age of activist stakeholder constituencies, the perception of the timing of a coming downturn in finances and the prospects for the future will have a different meaning for different groups. You need to start by understanding where you are or stakeholder reactions will confound even the best-crafted plan of action.

You should ask a number of basic questions:

➢ Is there a turning point coming?

➢ Is change necessary?

➢ Do you know how much time you have?

➢ Do the key actors in a transformation understand and support the need for change?

In the end, the leader will still have to decide that the time to launch new initiatives has come; but now, in the age of activist stakeholders and transparent enterprise, you will have to build consensus and bring the crowd along.


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