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Great Questions at The Heart of Transformation

A woman holding a leaf in the shape of a heart

Change must become a competency, not a pipedream.

When you opine on a topic as big and broad as change and transformation, you are going to get a lot of questions (and skepticism, given people’s experiences with transformation being not so transformative in most situations).

Here are two great questions I have received from early adopters of my book, The Heart of Transformation.

Q: Has anyone ever criticized that implementing the six capabilities in your book would take too long and possibly delay the results which companies had often achieved in a rote way? What advice do you have for leaders who may be in a similar situation?

A: No one has made that criticism yet, but it is a great question; Do we really have time to mess about building transformation capabilities person by person? We’ve got a lot to get done! Yes, yes, we do have a lot to get done. But that’s the problem… we are certainly doing a lot, but what is getting done—are we truly achieving the outcomes we need or are we just 'getting a lot done' in regard to resources utilized? 

I don’t even need to cite the studies here to make the claim that most change efforts fail - we all instinctively know that by now. But we run back to it anyway.

I was on a call with a Fortune 50 company recently where the team, being asked to implement a real change in how they operated, said their biggest need was “good change management.” Talking to that team later, in a private environment, they admitted that they asked for change management because they just don’t believe that the change can happen in their organization. It’s counter-cultural and the culture is something they all feel helpless to impact. 

So, when I am asked if learning how to recognize the need to change and then make change happen, person by person, is too time-consuming and might delay the results a company is getting, the sarcastic response I want to share is, what results are you actually getting now? But I try to be a little more diplomatic. 

What we fail to realize is that you cannot do systemic change systematically. It is not a rollout of a program. It is something that must start local, be achievable, and in context for individuals and groups. 

We have failed to 'do change'. We need to learn how to change first!

If you said to your team, “Ok, do mountain climbing,” and most of them just headed for the mountain, you’d have a lot of problems. But if you teach some of them climbing skills and they learn to climb smaller hills then they will gain confidence and inevitably climb higher. Then you can combine advanced climbers with new climbers and all of a sudden, the mountain is a molehill as we are all climbers.

Change is like that; it happens in more of a viral way than a systematized, structured way. But, of course, that feels a bit out of control. We often sacrifice outcomes for control of the process. Why we do that is a whole other article (or book maybe, but start with looking at what you use to measure success).

My advice to leaders who ask me this question is that they need to create a transform-able organization, not transform an organization. Creating the ability allows transformation, trying to transform without the ability creates frustration and cynicism… and a pronounced lack of results.

Q: Is The Heart of Transformation meant for people in leadership positions to read before they work on change management, or is it something that both managers and their individual contributors can work on at the same time?

A: First of all, thank you! I love this question. And, as I am a consultant at heart, the answer is…yes! This book is primarily aimed at leaders, the audience I address most often. In my work, I talk to senior leaders daily about their struggles with change and I wanted to give all leaders a useful, pragmatic and simple tool to help with a very complex topic.

But it is also for individual contributors, for sure. In fact, if you read the dedication, this is what you will find:

Dedicated to those leaders who strive
to make the world of work a better place
for those who work for them.
To lead is a privilege, not a right.

This was not a frivolous dedication to me. I wrote this book for leaders and those they lead because change cannot happen without both of them. This is so simple, yet also so overlooked. We sit in leadership meetings and plan “the change” and then plop our big plan into the lives of people that work for us like… well… something that goes “plop!” And the results we deserve follow. 

Change is an individual sport, played in groups, and can only be led by the best players. And not the best players at their function, but the best players at change. I am often telling leaders, much to their dismay at times, that what they know and do (finance, HR, operations, etc.) is no longer what matters most. What matters most is how well they can change themselves, how well they role model that change, and how willing they are to continue to learn and change. 

The Heart of Transformation is written for those leaders willing to do the hard work to learn and change, and to provide a blueprint for their teams to learn from as well so that change becomes a competency, not a pipedream.