Why your organization is not transforming quickly enough… And what you can do about it

The number of disruptors and threats in every major industry to the established players has been very well documented in the last few years. If anything the acceleration, disruptions and urgency to respond has only increased.

It used to be a given that making it to the fortune 500 list was a good guarantee you were big enough to withstand market up’s and downs and were likely to withstand the test of time. Statistically that is no longer true…a recent Inc. Magazine article summarized it well with its title why half the S&P 500 will not survive the decade.

Digest that for a moment, the Blackberry, Blockbuster, Kodak stories are no longer the outliers, they will be half of all the largest companies you know today. All that brand recognition, goodwill, legacy, historical and corporate level market knowledge will not be enough, and majority will cease to exist in the next 10 years because a small team or company (with way less resources than them statistically will literally wipe them out).

Now statistically 99% of all startups fail within 5 years, so the odds are not in favour of any one upstart, but the David and Goliath story is impactful because of just that, you only need that 1%, that one David to beat Goliath.

Trying to apply best practices from your smaller competition will not work, nor will emulating a startup culture. Free catered lunches will not save you from the statiscal eventuality.

What I have learned and seen being both a consultant, and leader in large organizations is that majority of what you apply (80% of your actions and strategies) will not produce any significant or lasting change.

In fact the only thing that matters is the context in which your people operate. There have been so many leaders jump to the next shiny thing, process, best practice, tool, framework… the ones that have been largely discredited through the test of time, my favorites being SIX sigma and the hybrid LEAN/SIX sigma)… Which believe that applying advanced statistical modelling on a process to define the bottlenecks and inefficiencies… deprioritizing the root cause of the inefficiencies in the first place, and ignoring that processes should and cannot be static stable flows over time, if you have any desire to truly eliminate waste.

The challenge is not with these frameworks that have been objectively discredited, for example of 58 large companies that have announced Six Sigma programs, 91 percent have trailed the S&P 500 since, according to fortune magazine here.

The challenge is that the interpretation of even light weight, scalable and adaptable competing value systems like Agile and Lean are not being truly absorbed as the value systems they are, and are therefore being relegated to nothing more than a set of tools and processes themselves.

Agile is a mindset, when a company moves to certifications, applications of structured and complex `scaling best practices` such as LeSS, DAD, Rapid, SAFe, etc. You are unlikely to see meaningful transformational shifts in value output.

When working at a large telco a few years ago, I had a very interesting conversation with a LEAN coach from Toyota… the managers from our company had visited alot of production plants and had eagerly taken the structure of the various visual management artifacts they saw on the floor, only to be frustrated weeks later when they didn’t achieve the same level of effectiveness with their teams implementing it. When the coach was challenged on it, his answer was concise but so profound:

Have you ever wondered why we never forced a standardized method of visualizing the work, or forced processes on our plants? Because the value is not in the artifact, in the board, or the diagram, or the process, but the collaboration, the discovery, who the team needed to become to create thst board.

That to me is the crux of it, it’s effectively the human condition, we all want change but we don’t want to change.

Change is hard, change is messy, and change is risky. Change also needs to be authentic, and leaders at all levels need to embody the transformation. They need to think, talk and walk the walk.

There is no better Transformation platform than agile to make that lack of change visible in people. A one page manifesto that is purposely left incomplete, and defies having a single one size fits all solution. Forcing people to think for the answer.

You need to change your paradigm to think Agile, to be Agile, otherwise you won’t achieve the value. There are no certifications or frameworks or best practices to be able to just mindlessly apply and when you do you should expect X results. When you understand the values and live them as an organization, you will find the answers are all context specific and that will give you the results you want. Beauty in simplicity.