During my consulting career I’ve coached leaders through successful and sustainable transformations that required culture change. I’d like to share the following critical success factors I’ve identified that are essential to every successful transformation.

Leaders Must Be Committed And Patient

When leading an organization through cultural change, through true transformation, we shouldn’t expect radical, quick change, no matter how logical it seems.

One of the basic tenets of the discipline dealing with change is that every individual must go through their own change or grieving curve.  Some go quickly, some never make it, and most take time – their own time. Leaders must celebrate the little things that indicate a positive trend in behavior.  But here is the hope … the reward for the leader who is committed and patient: after months and sometimes years of slow, positive growth with more than enough temporary regression, the positive indicators start to appear rapidly.  A healthy feeling starts to emerge in the organization reflecting more hope.  At this point I’ve observed that the organization has reached a turning point and the effective progress of change moves forward exponentially.

80 Percent Isn’t Good Enough For Transformation

If the goal of transformation is alignment and sustained execution in a new culture, then you can’t stop at 80 percent. 

Stopping the process or pulling resources after an initial positive response from those affected will result in complete regression 100 percent of the time.  Similarly, stopping the process or pulling key resources prior to the turning point will more than likely result in regression to the original state.  Pulling resources or stopping the process at the turning point results in a 50 – 50 chance of success depending on the skill and commitment of the informal and formal leaders.  In my experience, for those who stayed the course, 100 percent of the transformations were sustainable.

The Trusted Outsider

A catalyst can often do what leaders are not able to do themselves. 

Effective change agents gain the trust of the leaders and those affected by change.  They provide impacted groups and individuals a “safe place” to vent, to work through their emotions, and to test their own thoughts and ideas without being labeled or judged.  While helping to craft communications for the leaders, change agents also consistently reinforce those messages and provide positive feedback on the value of the change to those affected.  While helping inside the organization, the greatest value comes from working with the leadership to build a healthy and effective team.

Final Thoughts

If you have had difficulty transforming your organization to a new state, don’t feel alone; most people have never seen a true transformation. 

The terms “transformation” and “human performance” represent the buzz words of consulting companies today. Expressworks’ experience has been,  for change to be truly transformative and sustainable, it must be internalized by the organization.   As a leader, your goal is to lead the organization through this change, not manage them through the change.  You must be out front, 100 percent committed, and patient enough to go the distance required.  When your organization needs help you should seek out an experienced change agent, one that has the empathy, skill, and experience that will help you anticipate challenges, and lead your team to a successful outcome.