A recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly, Corporate Transformation Under Pressure, starts out reminding us that the success rate of major corporate transformation programs is less than 40 per cent.
That's not new. We know it's extremely hard to change a big organization. What's interesting is that "defensive transformations" -- those initiated to get a company out of trouble -- are less successful than "progressive" ones launched to generate growth or improve already good performance.
So much for the burning platform! It turns out that waiting until you have a crisis doesn't work as well as having a positive vision and seizing an opportunity to change things for the better.
The McKinsey article, based on a recent survey of executives around the world, also found that "companies under pressure do not make use of proven tactics for implementing change. Instead, they tend toward secrecy and may have small groups of troubleshooters plan the transformation rather than involve the whole organization and set clear, widely communicated aspirations and targets."
The good news is that companies that use proven tactics have a far higher success rate of 80 per cent.
The authors lay out those tactics, in all their elegant simplicity:
- Set clear aspirations and targets;
- Exercise strong leadership from the top;
- Create an unambiguous structure for the transformation; and
- Maintain energy and involvement throughout the organization.
Are you seeing what I'm seeing?
Every one of those tactics can be executed well, or screwed up badly, based on how well an organization communicates.
Communication makes a difference, especially when the stakes are high. And what's more, as the authors observe in their conclusion, "Taking shortcuts -- for instance, putting insufficient effort into communicating or focusing on small, short-term changes -- only deepens the problems."
There has never been a better time to make a business case for better internal communication.