How to Make Transformation Work

A few years ago I got married, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. There was a problem, though. About six months before our wedding I promised my fiancée that I would get in shape for the wedding. In fact, I went one step further — not just fit and healthy, I said. I believe I used the word ‘ripped’!

In the lead-up to the wedding I made multiple attempts to exercise and eat well, but never managed to fulfil that promise. Four years have passed since that fateful day. Since then, sadly, my pursuit of fitness has been inconsistent. Not surprisingly, this morning I didn’t see a Thor-like physique when I looked in the mirror!

Moral of the story, you ask? Don’t make stupid wedding promises! Just kidding. I learnt a really important lesson in the process, which has profound implications for business:

Change is one thing. Transformation is another, and needs to be approached differently.

Years ago, a mentor told me that transformation requires fundamental changes in two areas:

  1. Heart attitude
  2. Structure

‘Heart attitude’ is an interesting phrase. The word ‘heart’ invokes other terms (mostly related to emotion), like passion, desire, or desperation. It refers to the underlying reasons why we do what we do.

Structure I think all of us understand already. The key here is to have the appropriate structure for the task at hand, rather than using ‘my favourite method’ for everything just because I like it.

Here is where I think transformation and change differ significantly: a change can be a minor thing, and sometimes all that’s required to make it happen smoothly is structure or desire, rather than both. Transformation happens at a much deeper level, and therefore it must take into account both heart attitude and structure. This is true at a personal level (e.g. physical fitness, fighting addiction, etc), but it also holds true in business, cultural, and digital contexts.

On the note of my own example — I’ve realised a couple of things recently. My heart attitude was in the right place. I made the promise because I knew that physical fitness was important to my wife, and for her sake (and my own too, but that was secondary) I really wanted to get fit. The key thing that I neglected was structure. It wasn’t enough for me to want it — my weakness was consistency, so I needed the right structure, with accountability.

In short — I tried to make a change, when what I needed was transformation.

The key to transformation in a business context is incredibly simple, yet somehow difficult to achieve. If your business needs a transformation, don’t just think of the structure and fall back on your tried and tested change processes. Consider the people who need to change — is there a strong desire (a ‘heart attitude’) to create a transformed workplace, a new culture, or different lines of business? Likewise, creating a ‘buzz’ and the willingness to change is only part of the challenge; it falls apart without structure.

Next time you attend training or send a colleague to one of our courses, remember to consider both sides of the coin. Don’t send someone who doesn’t want to learn; work on building that desire first. Also, don’t just send someone on a course and do nothing about it afterwards — have a structure in place to make sure knowledge turns into expertise.

Lastly, very often this kind of transformation is impossible to do on your own. It’s ok to get help, both in life and in business.

Back to my rash promise — I’m joining a weekly squash competition on Monday, feel free to stay on my case about it, or come and join me :)