For those of you interested in how to quickly plan and implement a successful major change in your organization, imagine having a detailed step-by-step cookbook that guides you and your firm through it.
That book is
Rapid Transformation: A 90-day Plan for Fast and Effective Change
. It is based on 10 years of research into more than 500 leading companies, including
Proctor & Gamble
At the heart of
is a chapter on how each of these successful companies employed an all-encompassing, cross-functional, rapid-response team as an impetus for their successful transformation efforts, and a clear step-by-step roadmap on how to successfully employ these teams in your organization.
Piecemeal Transformation Doesn't Work
Historically, leaders who have tried to revolutionize, or transform, their companies have tried to do so through re-engineering, meaning, in practice, they attack one key section at a time. Some of these sections of the organization typically addressed in re-engineering are finances via cost-cutting, culture, services or products, strategy and processes (usually one, or at most several, at a time).
Such piecemeal, serial efforts, however, have not proven to be very effective in improving the company's overall performance. A study conducted in the mid-1990s found that approximately 70% of re-engineering efforts are considered failures within five years after they were undertaken.
Why are these popular re-engineering efforts ineffective? Below, is the interplay between some characteristics of re-engineering efforts that cause its ineffectiveness.
They're piecemeal: The piecemeal nature of re-engineering efforts is often their core problem and a root cause, leading to the manifestation of other symptoms, such as being lengthy and tactical. They're lengthy: Re-engineering is lengthy not only because it's piecemeal, but also because companies undertake these piecemeal changes serially. They're tactical: Tactical changes, as opposed to long-term changes, are more focused on the immediate and short-term future. Re-engineering efforts are tactical mainly because they are lengthy and piecemeal. The lengthy nature means that quite often, the cycle of internal change becomes lengthier than the cycle of external change.
veteran Dennis Donovan hints at some of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of re-engineering in today's society:
From 1981 through the 1990s, Jack Welch former CEO of General Electric focused on one area of business at a time: structural revolution in the early 80s, followed by cultural revolution, such as the workout. Next, it was the process revolution such as six sigma, followed by the digitalization revolution in the '90s. Today, we don't have that luxury. If you have an eight-cylinder engine, you have to run on all cylinders; you have to have an integral model that would focus on all aspects of business in parallel and quickly.
In the '90s, the entire landscape shifted from an industrial, international economy to an informational, truly global economy, a shift that was facilitated and accelerated by the advent of the World Wide Web and rapid globalization.
In particular, the rigorous research of companies' transformations since 1995 in this book shows that successful transformations had the following characteristics: 1) all-encompassing, 2) integrative, 3) fast, and 4) had full, passionate commitment and buy-in, especially at the top layers of the organization (see the figure below).
: In their transformation efforts, successful companies first and foremost looked at and analyzed all aspects of the company, looking under all of the rocks and leaving no stones unturned. As Donovan mentioned, all eight cylinders of an eight-cylinder engine must be used -- no longer can companies afford to only use one cylinder at a time.
: By using all eight cylinders at a time, companies are reducing down time and hand-off periods. Successful companies engaged in all of their efforts in parallel, meaning they were looking at everything at once.
: Successful transformation efforts also integrated the various functions of the company to take advantage of the cross-functional synergies.
Had full, passionate commitment and buy-in
: While complete buy-in is important at all levels of the organization, it is especially critical from the top. Lack of buy-in at the top level may, in fact, impede the transformation effort by stalling the effort and creating, rather than removing, obstacles.
To illustrate the above findings, the book compares several successful and unsuccessful transformation efforts of companies in the same industry during nearly the same time period, such as Apple vs.
; and HP under Carly Fiorina vs. HP under Mark Hurd.
Guidebook for Current and Future Leaders
If you are a manager, an executive, a CEO or a divisional manager of a for-profit or non-profit firm,
will serve as a guidebook for implementing a successful transformation effort, by introducing you to a set of best practices that can be applied on any scale.
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