How to Transform

Recently I’ve been interviewing many organizations about the changes that they are undergoing and the transformations they are planning.

Without fail, many organizations state that they are unable to make people care. Unable to transform because the corporate culture is “holding them back”.

Without fail, every organization claims “Culture” change is one of their primary pillars of “Transformation” yet no organization I spoke to had a clear plan for addressing the “Culture Gap”. Some speak about monumental failures of Corporate Sports Days and off-Site paintball events.

This seems to be primarily due to the fact that no organization has accurately described what the “New Culture” should be and mistake behavioural-change for team-building. They are not the same thing.


Looking at how you see your own role

I asked my colleagues, some tangentially related to my job, some directly, to tell me what they thought I do.

i.e. “Andrew is ………”, or “Andrew’s job is to ………”

Some of the answers are below;

  • Andrew innovates, thinks outside the box.
  • Andrew manages lots of things simultaneously for the benefit of the organization.
  • Andrew brings people together.
  • Andrew brings Services cross-department.
  • Andrew is a Project Manager.
  • …etc.

However none were so surprising as;

“Andrew is an Organizational Therapist and Counsellor”.

As you can imagine, coming from an IT background as an Oracle Functional Consultant, moving on to Project and then Program Management in IT, it came as quite a shock that not one of the answers related to IT. No one thinks I work in IT!

I’ve theorized for sometime, and some of my previous articles show, that the pure operational side of IT will remain in IT (networks, servers and other infrastructure) and the “change” portion of IT will be absorbed back into the business functions as they mature, however I did not realize that my own colleagues see me more of a “Change Psychologist” and “Change Coach” rather than a pure “IT person”.

And that gives rise to the topic of Organizational Transformation, and that Transformation being a transformation of behaviours.

The Transformation Department

Many organizations these days have “Transformation Departments”.

If you ask members of the Transformation Department what is is that they do, they will say simply that they “Facilitate Change”.

Many in the “Transformation Team” are relying on “Change Contents” that have been already determined by others and that concrete actions already have been laid out and simply need a project manager to execute.

However there is a big difference between leading an organization into change, proposing Transformational and Innovative ideas, and simply executing them.

Every idea is a potential career ending action. A landmine where there is no right or wrong answer. A key misunderstanding is that like Innovation, Transformation will come as a singular spark of genius, from a small group of PhD students eating pizza in the basement.

As we saw in the last post, innovation is the result of a huge amount of hard work, refining and honing ideas, together with many others, until those ideas become usable and contain benefits that can be measured.

So the key questions are;

  • How does an organization transform?
  • Why is transformation even necessary?
  • What are we transforming from and to?
  • Why do we need a whole department to manage transformation?
  • What’s wrong with Change Management disciplines?

And the answer lies in the overall realization that change is no longer an uncoordinated individual objective or even a “Project”.

The Organization itself has understood that changing a few individuals independently or delivering a single large capital item does not add up to a realization of the potential benefits of the proposed change. Only sustained, institutional level initiatives will have real impact and lead to Benefit Realization. Few organizations are capable of change, and transformation, on that level with any measure of success.

So the organization has taken an interest in Transformation. But what does this mean and how do we affect that?

Every organization I talk to is tired of IT dictating how their business should run. IT was seen as a business leader, but now, major complexity in IT means that business teams are building their own IT skills in each department, and bypassing the mammoth IT beast, simply out of frustration. The pace of dissatisfaction has outrun the capability of IT to respond.

“We have created a monster”.

And Front Office Departments are in danger of making it worse. How many BI tools are running in your organization. I wager you don’t even know. Business managers are spending money left and right, adding complexity because the pace of their questions is faster than the organization’s capability to respond.

Pop-Up Services, Ramp Up Ramp Down IT Systems, pay-for-play applications, cost per transaction, and consistent platforms, variable capabilities are the demand of the customer. We know this to be true, yet we are unable to respond quick enough.

We are on the verge of realising that fixed solutions to variable problems is hurting our organization. Unless it is adaptable, everything you do today will take time and money to unwind in the future. Time and money to maintain. Sacrificing functionality for efficiency and simplicity is not a bad thing.

The unavoidable necessity of Change

In a previous post we saw “the unavoidable necessity of change” and that change is both proactive and reactive. Change is often a result of increasing dissatisfaction brought about by entropy.

We saw that change can be achieved by;

a) pro-actively seeking out areas that need change and instituting that change as “continuous improvement” (Kaizen) and/or

b) reactively having the capability and capacity to deal with change as a “flexible evolution” (Agile).

And that both a) and b) can coexist and complement each other in “Services”.

So it would seem that “Transformation” as a term is quite limited as it implies that there is an end. It implies that once we get from A to B, we can stop. Yet we know that there is no such thing.

Our customers change, our management changes, people evolve, regulations change, and it never ends.

Transformation implies a big-bang. Once we do A, then B will be totally awesome. Movies have sharp endings, multi-functional consumer services do not.

In a Service-Oriented organization, change is small, averaged, safe and consistent. Similar to the model by which application platforms like Instagram and Facebook operate. The look and feel is constant, the changes are often, but you simply absorb them without training materials, support hotlines or any other interaction, you don’t even test it any more, that has been done for you.

So how do we reconcile these two models? How can we say that we need to “Transform”, but also that “Change is Inevitable”?

The answer is perhaps that we are so far from a smooth service-oriented model that we need a Transformation Kick to get there. In the next post I will deal with the operation of the “Service-Oriented Organization” but for now, let’s deal with how to affect transformation itself, with the implication that Transformation will bring an expected singular benefit, even though we know this to be false.

Due to the unavoidable necessity of ongoing change, I see that in the future, such “Transformation Departments” will evolve into “Service Enablers” reducing Drift and driving high quality service delivery more than facilitating behavioural changes.

A Transformation Department cannot remain as it implies that there is an end.

Change is an unavoidable product of any system. We must constantly maintain the capability to change and have the capacity to change lest we fall foul of increasing dissatisfaction.

The use of the word “Culture”.

We are all guilty of it. We’ve all said “the corporate culture needs to change”. It’s in management presentations, it’s in documents and research papers. But let’s take a look at the word.

Our esteemed Cambridge Dictionary defines “culture” as;

the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time

The word itself implies, sameness, alignment, grouping, consistency etc.

If I take a group of colleagues and ask them 2 questions;

  1. Do you think you uphold the corporate culture?
    The answer would most likely be a biased “yes”.
  2. Do you think others uphold the corporate culture?
    The answer would likely be “no” or “maybe”.

How is it that everyone believes that they hold corporate culture dear, yet others around them do not?

It is because we truly believe that we are operating in the “right” that our general customs and beliefs, yes, our way of life is correct. (Confirmation Bias)

Unfortunately, the first stop for Transformation Teams is usually the “culture” of the organization.

The use of the word “culture” could be a mistake as it implies that commonality and consistency exist where in fact it does not. Even more frustrating is the fact that everyone believes they already uphold the perfect corporate culture, that they are in line with the corporate message.

You have organizational members from different countries, cultures, religions with different languages, time zones, backgrounds with different complexities and complexes. The mere fact that we believe we can imbue a common cultural layer that dictates behaviours is a special kind of delusion.

By communicating a “culture” message, you are indicating that something, on a personal level is insufficient and the corporate culture is better.

It is the mission of the Transformation Team to positively impact behaviours and reinforce them without the use, at any time, of the word “culture”. Without the use of the word “you”.

We are aiming to have our people look at the way we propose to operate and say “that’s right! I want to be like that too.”

Threatening the Self

Many people and organizations talk about “Change” and “Transformation” as an external mechanism. A tool or toolkit that has been developed by smart people to be forced onto the unsuspecting workforce.

By telling someone to change the way they do something, you are essentially saying “you are wrong and I am right and this is the best way do to it”.

We can all see how that is going to work out.

You are impacting the individual’s sense of self. You are asking for a level of introspection that is rarely done, even in private. You are asking for an individual to change their values, their beliefs, their habits, to align to yours.

You are asking an individual to evaluate their sense of self, their sense of worth and this is not done lightly, even in private, especially not in front of others.

You are implying that something needs fixing. You are implying the way they have been working for many years was wrong and that the current state of the organization is a result of their poor efforts.

This is a threat to the self, a threat to the sense of value and pride that each individual has and the core reason why so many change and transformation initiatives fail.


When my colleague classed my job as “Organizational Therapist and Counsellor” he may have been right after all. My job as Program Manager, Project Manager, Innovator etc, all boils down to moving and motivating people, without threatening their sense of self.

You need to impact the culture of the individual without negatively impacting the individual’s sense of self and worth. You need to change the habits without breaking the will.


Psychologists and Therapists are very successful every day at affecting change. At a personal level, for lasting results.

An organization is no more than the sum of its mind-set,
thus the Organizational Therapist is born.

You can influence the direction of a career, you cannot force someone to change.

You can influence the analytical process, you cannot force someone to think.

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink.

The key to transformation therefore lies in the influencing of behaviours. The supplementation of the sense of self with additional and repeatable behaviours. Not the replacement of behaviours with others.

The following process need not take much time each day/week. But some time does need to be dedicated. After all, we are looking to influence positive behaviours and that will not come without consistency.

Transformation is not telling someone that we are now doing B and forcing it down their throat.

The Model

Transformation is little-by-little, day by day, influencing the minds and hearts of others and merging your goals with their own.

What is schooling but the gradual supplement of society’s proven processes and patterns into the individual? Did University attempt to erase you and replace your psyche with something else? No, it gave you the freedom to assess those methods and absorb them.

The model below attempts to merge, without damaging the sense of self, an individual’s goals with the organization’s goals. Attempting a shift in the mind-set. Reaching into the psyche and pulling forward collaboration, innovation, transformation all through the process of reflection with peers.

Review without Judgement.

Reflect – Analyse – Diagnose – Image – State – Align – Repeat – Reinforce – Realise – Reflect

Reflection

How many times have you heard a colleague say “that’s a stupid decision”, or, “what the hell was management thinking”? Probably a lot.

Reflection seems like a yoga meditation word, but can just as well be used in a business setting to look at and review decisions that were taken actions that led to good results and behaviours that should be rewarded.

Therapists start with reflection. Reflection is “review without judgement”. You talk about yourself, what you do, how you see yourself in a setting where it is OK to do so.

Set Group Review sessions regularly, cross discipline, senior and junior mix to talk about decisions taken, new approaches, best behaviours, objectives and goals. Ask participants to provide a critical self-review of a recent activity without bias.

Participants are not permitted to use words like “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong” or “should have”. Only “it seems like”, “it sounds like”.

Reflection without Criticism.

This opens up a setting where communication channels are open, peer collaboration occurs, behaviours and decisions are reviewed. This removes Noise and Bias and prevents Drift without damaging the sense of “self” in addition to reinforcing positive behaviours.

Don’t be afraid to invite customers and consumers to some of these sessions.

Example

Every week the PMO hosts a round-table where Project Managers, Executives, and Junior Team Members attend to listen to and present on decisions being made, approaches being used, challenges being faced and lessons learnt.

Benefit

The PMO benefits from the information to improve their approaches, processes and tools. The Project Managers benefit from the experiences of others and find new ways of working, share experiences both tough and useful. Project Managers can also trust each other in the Program and even trade resources as needed. Executives understand some of what is happening on the coal-face and also provide their guidance to the teams with their knowledge of policy and strategy. Trust is gained and behaviours are understood. Often many misunderstandings are cleared up here and many relationships are strengthened.

Key

Reflection without Criticism.

Analysis

Often group analysis and self-analysis is already a staple of organizations used in annual performance reviews. However I have never seen anyone criticise themselves or be unbiased in an annual review.

Often at the close of a project we have a “self review” or “lessons learnt” by the project manager, however again, I have never seen anyone criticise themselves or be unbiased.

The next step in Transformation after Reflection is Self and Group Analysis. Analysis should follow an algorithm based approach to reach analytical assessment of individuals, teams and departments that do not aim to lay blame or reach “good” or “bad” but rather bring out characteristics and behaviours as a result of the reflection sessions and additional algorithm-oriented self-analysis. These “observations” promote a realization of current behaviours and an acceptance of their existence without Noise or Bias.

Use Service Delivery Metrics in these reviews. Those are additional, logical facts that contribute to the Analysis. Try not to draw conclusions and make decisions at this point, simply create the observations.

Create Self-Awareness and Self-Analysis algorithms, processes, tools and methods. Keep track of results and trends. Provide rewarding feedback and positive outcomes.

Example

The PMO can create project dashboards that objectively outline project assessment metrics across the program.

Benefit

The project review cycle can be shortened, focusing on those metrics that fall into “review” and saving time in review meetings.

Key

Low Noise, Low Bias, Reduced Drift, logical analysis.

Diagnosis

The next step is the introspective process whereby the summary of the Reflection and Analysis phases is used for the individuals and teams to identify actions, decisions, behaviours and bias.

This is very similar to the Agile Continuous Improvement philosophy of removing waste through continuous improvement. This process promotes an analytical understanding of where waste or improvement points exist.

During the diagnosis process, managers and executives can understand, without Bias, how decisions are made, what is wasted and where inefficiencies lie.

Again the point is not to use words like “good” and “bad” but rather to identify trends that are occurring, not state what we would like to happen.

Example

Logical analysis of risks across the program led to an understanding that two high value projects were being led by a Junior Project Manager.

Benefit

Teams and individuals come to a realization of how decisions are made, where they may be wasting effort and areas where they need help from management.

Key

Areas of Self, and Team improvement are brought forward by the individuals.

Imaging

With a clear understanding through the Diagnosis process, Review Groups can re-form to “image” changes in themselves, changes in process, changes in teams and changes in systems.

Hard facts from the Diagnosis process lead us to imagine how it could be. Everyone wants to be the innovator and with the top-to-bottom link in these groups, individuals see that their effort will not be wasted.

“When we see something new, we see it has a potential for rewarding us in some way. This potential that lies in new things motivates us to explore our environment for rewards. The brain learns that the stimulus, once familiar, has no reward associated with it and so it loses its potential. For this reason, only completely new objects activate the mid-brain area and increase our levels of dopamine.”

Pure Novelty Spurs The Brain, Science Daily, August 27, 2006

Example

A weekly report created by Finance and sent to Sales was taking a huge amount of manpower to produce. The teams (including representatives from sales and Finance) imagined a process where the information was available without human intervention and agreed to collaborate on doing away with the manual process.

Benefit

Imaging is the process where the frustrations built up and accepted in the Diagnosis process are released with imaging how the ideal process would be and those dynamic, agile teams are empowered to do something about it.

Consumers and Customers are involved and can see the dynamics of Service Change, contributing to its acceptance.

Senior Managers and PMOs can influence the behaviours and methods, not forcing change but able to influence it.

Statement

When I was in my teens, I went to a sports psychologist and she told me that I didn’t really believe that I was worthy to be on the Australian National Team. She told me that I had a “Statement” problem.

Statements are simple “I am … “, “We are … ” etc.

Statements are those posters you see stuck up around the office on the corporate “mission statement”. The problem with those is you think “yeah, whatever”.

A statement has to be personal, it has to come from within and it has to be daily. You need to be capable to merge the statement in with your 24 hour clock.

Example. “I am an Olympic Gymnast. I train 5 hours minimum per day and I get out of bed at 5am. This is my passion”.

Or perhaps “I am a Top Project Manager. I manage projects effectively, I highlight risks early and I communicate closely with others by always letting them talk first”.

Beware however of statements that are too vague and cannot practically be absorbed by individuals. e.g. “We are a team of professionals who manage an important portfolio of projects for the organization and we always deliver”. This is unlikely to work.

Each individual should craft such a statement using inputs from Reflection sessions, Analysis tools, Diagnosis sessions and Imaging.

Example

“I am an innovator, I think about my decisions from all angles, I always keep my staff informed and I keep a close eye on my project management metrics”.

Benefit

This is the key to Transformation. Making it personal, coming from within, influencing the individual. This will lead to more success that any money incentive. As we saw, humans are motivated by brain chemistry to seek reward.

By reinforcing the self, with behaviours that come from self-realization, there is no change or transformation that cannot succeed.

Alignment

I like to call this process “fine-tuning”. Having your individuals and teams self motivated, aligned and clear on their “statements” is great. However if every team member has a different goal and different idea of success, that can pull teams in different directions.

In the Alignment process we take our “Statements” and regroup. We speak about individual self-statements and goals, as well as team-statements and corporate statements.

This is our opportunity to, without impacting our sense of self-worth, determine what statements and behaviours are not aligned with corporate and team level statements.

It is an opportunity for managers to look at leveraging individuals based on their goals and statements, fine tuning their work and understanding their career aspirations.

Example

Teams and individuals are able to appreciate directions and goals of others. Individuals can observe corporate messages and goals and fine-tune their personal and team goals as they need to.

This activity will undoubtedly involve re-statement as individuals understand where they fit in and how they can contribute as well as teams and the organization as a whole coming to an understanding of the mind and motivations of the individual.

Benefit

We operate day-to-day, often totally oblivious to the goals of the person sitting next to us. We operate totally disconnected from the directions of the organization as we can’t see how we can be effective and the organization doesn’t understand why people are not working toward the corporate goals.

Goals are often things we dust off at year-end appraisal time. This is an opportunity to align and re-state.

Key

Understand the goals of those around you and have them understand your goals. Understand the goals of the organization and how your goals are, or are not, aligned with those.

Repetition

It takes a muscle approximately 63 repetitions to remember an action to the point where is can be moved into the sub-conscious and acting on statements is a perishable skill, requiring this repetitive learning.

The statements that we determined, that are now aligned with where we and the organization want to be, need to be repeated regularly. Not put in the drawer for year-end review.

The key to Transformation is the repetition of skills and behaviours that are accepted without impacting the self.

Example

Image: “Reviewing risks is a positive behaviour that helps me be successful and saves money”.

Statement: “I am a project manager that reviews my project risk register”.

Alignment: “Each project manager is reviewing risks regularly”.

Re-Statement: “I am a project manager that reviews my project risk register on the first Monday of each month”.

Repetition: “I did an initial review and found that I actually need additional information from others. I put in place a new process for obtaining that information on-demand”.

Benefit

The mindset of the individual is changed, the process is of benefit, the organization has transformed.

Key

Repetition and Reinforcement of positive behaviours will quickly lead to change outcomes. Change without repetition will not be sustainable.

Reinforcement

After Repetition, it is important to reinforce that the “change” has been successful and the individual is contributing in a way that is positive. Change that is left un-assessed leads to doubt that could quickly lead to Drift and Doubt.

Positive reinforcement is necessary from the individual, team and organization. This leads to the necessity for transformation metrics. Measuring the success of transformation can be difficult as often that transformation is of intangible objects such as “satisfaction”.

When defining the transformation objectives, ensure to define corresponding metrics that avoid Noise and Bias. Soon after repetition starts, your metrics will see an upturn.

Example

My manager tells the group that as a direct result of putting in place project risk assessment metrics and decision reviews, the majority of projects have turned from Red/Amber to Green. Clear and accurate, logic based Analysis has led to positive management practices that are used by all consistently and we are now being “successful”.

Benefit

Everyone wants to be seen and assessed as being successful. Individual metrics, based on logical models will be seen as impartial confirmation that the Statements are having a positive impact on the environment around the individual, team and organization.

Key

Use feedback teams to show individuals how their statements are positively impacting their environment.

Realisation

Statistics are one thing, however it is important that the individual to realise the impact that the changes they have undergone have positively impacted them, their own situation, their team and their organization, on a personal level.

Realisation is a form of acceptance that influences future behaviours.

Knowing, deep down that your own changes have made you successful is a powerful tool and the secret to Transformation.

Change and only be engendered by those who are motivated by the benefits that change can bring. There are many however that see safety in attempting not to change. Realisation that your organization supports you, your peers support you and the changes you have made have turned into benefits is a victory in itself.

The Realisation Process is an input into the Reflection Process we discussed as the first step. Highly motivated individuals can begin the Transformation Process with and understanding that change and transformation is a positive process that will bring them benefit, however many have not been historically encouraged to reflect and propose change. These people will need to be partnered with peers that they respect. Everyone has good ideas, however most lack the courage or will to embrace that process simply because they have not been shown how to go about it.

Realisation is a personal outcome and not a session that can be hosted or a document that can be produced. Often newsletters that point out our successes are good tools that input in to the Realisation Process.

Reflection

Success breeds success. Start the reflective process again, frequently, refining the tools, methods and processes, change-up the reflection teams, add members, include customers.

Cautions

  • Too frequently asking individuals to re-state their goals.
    This has the negative impact of diluting the personal side of the process.
  • Forcing the goals onto individuals without acceptance and understanding.
  • Lack of Teams that communicate top to bottom.
  • Lack of Reinforcement to reassure individuals that they are successful.

More Information

What would it mean for AI to have a soul? http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180615-can-artificial-intelligence-have-a-soul-and-religion