Organization Transformation: More than Just Communications

Good communication is absolutely essential to achieving success in any organization transformation. But is it all that’s needed? To answer this question, let’s consider the story of one organization with which we worked a few years ago.

The leaders of this organization had been struggling for nearly five years trying to facilitate a change in one of their key functions. Unfortunately, their efforts always seemed to fall flat. Finally, they asked us to come in and help them navigate this change.

When we assessed their situation, we quickly discovered that while they had done a good job architecting and communicating the change, there were certain key elements missing from their organization transformation plan. As a result, people in the organization ended up having to figure things out on their own—even though technically there was nothing amiss with the organization’s communications efforts.

What were these missing elements?

3 Key Elements to Effecting Organization Transformation

There are three additional things a transformation entails beyond just good communications. These are:

  1. Position people properly in their new roles. Everyone in the organization who is affected by a change should be able to say “I know what my new role is.” At first glance, it may seem like communicating to people what their new roles are should be sufficient to getting them to understand it. However, that is not always the case. Some people may understand their new role right away as soon as they hear or read it. More often, though, people gain understanding of their roles through training or hands-on experience. In addition to telling them, you can help people understand their roles by ensuring that someone shows them the work to be done, gives them access to the systems they need, and so on.  A well-crafted communications email won’t grant systems access to an employee trying to assume their new role.
  2. Make sure people understand changes in the work to be done. Rarely is a reporting relationship sufficient to facilitate change. Rather, it has to come through a new way of doing work. If people continue to do work in the same way, the organization won’t experience much change. Make sure that work processes and interdependencies are well designed so that as people assume new roles, they can perform the work that will really deliver strategic value. 
  3. Provide the proper tools and technology. Changes in work may require different tools and/or technology. Making sure people have the right tools to effectively do their work will ensure that their efforts are effective and impactful.

Putting All the Elements in Place

Communication is without a doubt vitally important along the transformation journey. However, what happens sometimes in organizations is that we communicate people to death without really telling them how we want the work to change, without giving them the tools they need to change, and without properly redefining their roles. We just hope they’ll figure all those details out by themselves.

This is what happened in the organization mentioned above. Before we met with them, they had never really put together a cohesive plan that brought together the communications, the role changes, the work changes and the tools and technology changes. As a result, people were unable to move naturally into the new way of working. They never really got traction until they built an organization transformation plan that touched on all of the practical aspects of what it takes to change. 

Only once they started to see how all of these elements needed to happen in their organization, and began to implement these things, did the organization start to actually change. After having been at a virtual standstill for five years, it only took them about six months to make material progress in their organization transformation effort—thus demonstrating that effective organization transformation comes when we incorporate all of the elements described above. When we communicate and redefine roles and change how work is done and give people the technologies to succeed in their work, we set the organization up for success.   

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