Leaders help an organizational transformation succeed by putting into action a new direction, creating a model that others can follow to implement the desired changes, building stronger team cohesion, and owning the process. 

Today’s business environment present companies with unique challenges on how to drive change. They can’t settle for incremental or periodic improvement because that’s not enough to produce desired transformational results. Within all of the articles and blogs that have been written on the subject of organizational transformation, surprisingly little addresses the critical role corporate structure plays. What precisely an organization does is directly proportionate to its organizational structure. So what’s the best structure today?

Based on a substantial set of organizational assessments and research we have conducted with a dozen organizations over the recent years— as well as our own experience working with organizations— we have concluded there is no single organizational structure or strategy for all. Also, the organization’s leadership shapes the culture and thereby the results their organization produces, and either constrains or accelerates its capabilities. Often, the personal style of the senior leader has the most significant influence on the success or lack thereof.

These dynamics have been analyzed by us using thousands of data points we have gathered during organizational transformation efforts over the past decade, and we have found there are four key insights that create success for an organization in a transformation:

  1. Make the transformation meaningful to everyone within your organization. People will go to great lengths to achieve extraordinary results when they believe the transformation aligns with a cause they personally believe in. If the change is based on a compelling story, this creates and reinforces their commitment. The ultimate success of the organization’s story largely depends on the leadership team’s alignment and personal commitment to it. This engages everyone when they openly show what needs to be done, versus telling others what they need to do.
  2. Change your mindset before asking others to change theirs. Leaders shape an organization’s culture. When an organization’s health and growth are stalled, it takes a transformation to reignite its brilliance. Successful transformations are led by a leadership team that is willing to make it personal. The actions they take need to be visible to their teams to encourage everyone to support and put into action the new journey.
  3. Pick strong and committed leaders who will take up the charge and move aside leaders who resist the change. Sometimes, tough decisions need to be made about who has the necessary interest and talent to lead the team, and who are comfortable in engaging in constructive, open conflict with team members, and who can make the journey.
  4. Don’t give up even if the transformation doesn’t immediately catch on. Making change happen is analogous to losing weight. It takes time to become overweight, and it takes as long or longer to lose those extra pounds. Organizational change is often quite similar. The number of years the organization has been in a “Stalled Health and Growth” position is a good indicator of the time it will take to create real change throughout an organization.

Successful organizations don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal they are pursuing, and they don’t change direction in light of difficulties or challenges. They stay the course and drive the desired success by holding themselves accountable first, and others second. They don’t ask others to do things they are unwilling to do themselves. They live and breathe the actions necessary, and this increases their chances of success. Taken together, leaders and team members can generate the energy needed to achieve a successful transformation when they are fully aligned.