In our last installment, we explored the challenge of achieving true transformation (defined as a way of working on a daily basis that results in lasting change) through organizational health and some of the ways we see clients skirting the edges of real growth. It’s tough because there is friction between all the hard work we put in and the (often qualitative) results we see, which can make accepting transformation a challenge.
Here are a few things we wrote about last newsletter that serve as diversions and don’t lead to true transformation:
Crisis Management and Resolution: once “the crisis” passes, leaders revert to old behaviors.Book-of-the-Month Club: leaders are attracted to the idea of organizational health as a cool new thing, but not inclined to actually do the work. Organizational Health Cortisone Shot: the link between the “why” and the “what” of organizational health are lost so the effort peters out.
Everyone desires transformation, but not everyone realizes the cost of getting there. Transformation does not only occur over time, but also over a series of breakthroughs. Here’s how one of my healthiest clients transformed:
When we started on the path to organizational health, revenue had been flat for four years and two senior leaders were planning to resign. Lucy, the CEO of this large manufacturing company had tried most of the paths above and more. In a moment of courage and humility she cracked open The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, called The Table Group, and the next thing you know we were at their first offsite. Her team had a mix of reactions.
The first brilliant move Lucy made was to apply what we call the Law of Thirds. She carefully watched for people in the organization who “got it” and quickly rewarded and leveraged those champions. For the naysayers and skeptics, she gave only minimal attention and let them feel the heat. Breakthrough after breakthrough happened and the undecideds in the company began to see the benefits and started to come on board.
From the beginning, Lucy told everyone that her commitment to organizational health was 100 percent. She vulnerably confronted unwritten rules and sacred cows. She didn’t force change, but she did constantly remind everyone she came into contact with that there was no turning back.
Commitment at All Levels
This organization was no stranger to efficiency, productivity, and the bottom line. But, Lucy drove her team to get very clear on Question 1: Why do we exist? to come up with something beyond making money. And more than just posting that core purpose on the wall like a marketing slogan, their purpose was shared, discussed, and applied to critical decisions on a regular basis. Everyone started coming to work knowing how their company was making an impact and what their role meant to that impact.
The real test? Constantly reinforcing these same principals over time. Now, many years later, you can walk into their office and see the transformation. They have doubled revenue in four years and maintained their profitability and NPS scores along the way. They have refined and infused new talent into their leadership team and made hard choices about who to let go. They have completed four major company-wide initiatives (aka thematic goals) and have them posted in the office to celebrate the success. The newest employee can discuss Question 2: How do we behave? because they learned directly from the CEO during the interview process.
I could go on, but you get the idea. There’s no turning back. They are a different organization.
To recap, here are the key markers that led to transformation:
The CEO was 100 percent committed to the idea and the discipline of organizational health and willing to confront issues no matter the reaction. Over time, there was buy-in all the way up and down the organization. They kept things simple and didn’t over-complicate the process. It’s easy to understand, hard to do.
We firmly believe the return is greatest when leaders and teams embrace organizational health. They make faster, better decisions. They differentiate themselves in the market. They attract and retain the best talent. And their success on the bottom line leads to a great impact in many people’s lives. Now, that’s transformation!