Transformations, by nature, have significant change impacts on an organisation as they are not so much an evolution, but a revolution. The people in the organisation need more to get behind a revolution.

It’s often said that if you’re in the transformation business, you’re also in the sales business. There may not be budgets or sales targets to hit, but as a transformation ‘agent’, you need to be obsessed with communicating and marketing the need for change and transformation.

Genuine transformation for most organisations can be all-encompassing, with complex changes that must be driven and adopted across multiple teams. However, we often see projects sold as transformation when they are TINOs … Transformative in Name Only. From our point of view, if it isn’t driving genuine change, it’s not truly transformative.

This is where being clear about what you’re selling is critical. One of the more common mistakes is selling the solution.

As project professionals, we’re action-oriented and outcome-focused. It’s tempting to focus on selling the solution’s benefits so that the real work of delivering and tracking progress can begin. When there have been too many experiences of TINOs, this can lead to real transformation stalling or, worse, being watered down to the point that it loses the value that a no-holds-barred transformation may be targeting.

Change management distinction of transformation

As mentioned above, this is where it is important to make the distinction between transformation initiatives versus other projects.  Sales 101 is to know your audience and make your pitch accordingly.

This is because most project delivery is making a discrete logical change, an evolution of what exists, that is normally adding or building on the current state, such as delivering a new feature on an existing product or replacing a technology for improved performance and function that ultimately serves the same purpose.

For the audience, the change message is logical  and contains all the core elements, such as,

  • The Why: We are adding the new feature to expand our product into a new market
  • The What: By expanding into the new markets, we grow
  • The How: Our teams will build the new feature on the product as we also do
  • The When: We will launch in 12 months

For most people in an organisation, it is easy to see the logic and the link between the why, what, how and when and change management strategy is used to engage and communicate to each segment and talk to their specific needs and roles.

Organisational change is much deeper and more difficult to implement than a ‘standard’ project.   Transformation breaks the status quo; it brings a revolution and changes the purpose of the business.  If change is used, as described above, to engage and communicate that message will face intense resistance because the core ways and working, purpose, and perceived value is being challenged.

The critical points of driving the idea of transformative change

So how can you approach transformative change differently? Sell the idea. To do that, there are several critical points in how you engage, communicate, and sell.

Critical Point: Strategy and Initiation

Executive sponsorship is required to garner the support and permission to develop a transformation strategy and initiate transformative projects.  Whilst it’s common to hear ‘don’t come to me with the problem, come to me with solutions’ from senior leaders, this is not time to sell solutions.

A transformative solution can get shot down too easily if it may be seen as too high risk to achieve or might break the working system, not achievable or, worst case, not needed.

The first step is to sell leads on the need to transform, where the opportunity and risk/reward is, and – sometimes – what the consequences are for failing to transform. It’s about selling the idea first and assessing whether there is a desire and commitment to transformation.   It’s only when someone is sold on the idea for transforming that they are ready to hear about the changes and solutions.

Expect pushback, deeper questioning, and some reasonable scepticism. Leaders need to believe in the transformation before they will commit time and resources to developing strategies and initiating projects on the scale that transformation requires.

Critical Point: Change strategy and engage stakeholders

Selling the idea doesn’t stop with the leadership team. In fact, to garner momentum, you need engaged stakeholders who need to believe in the idea too. Without stakeholder buy-in or engagement, this is where transformation can really stall because there isn’t the motivation to significantly and wholeheartedly commit to acting.

Just as leaders need to be sold on the idea of why transformation matters, stakeholders and project teams need the time to understand why significant transformation is needed and why the status quo is no longer a haven. It is unrealistic to expect or want them to blindly follow – they are intelligent people who will want to understand what the transformation aims to really deliver.

Critical Point: Change execution and implementation

If you’ve made it through actively engaging with leaders, stakeholders, and project teams early, it’s time to take the lessons, feedback, and concerns into consideration as part of developing change management plans, particularly to ensure that there are activities that will continue to engage and foster belief and a commitment to transformational change.

The more common approach of announcing a transformation agenda in a company forum – in ADKAR terms – to create awareness and a desire for change risks falling flat when the audience fails to see the need. If things look and feel good in the status quo, such announcements saying change is needed isn’t going to make them believe it.

This is particularly challenging in ‘good news only’ environments where leaders and stakeholders don’t talk about challenges and difficulties with staff.

If the time and effort has been made to lay the foundation for the issues and challenges that exist in the status quo, by the time the transformation agenda is announced, people are often keen to move forward when they recognise the status quo is no longer tenable. It’s a complex and nuanced approach to change management that needs to start early, but it pays dividends when it comes to adoption.

Motivate buy-in for change rather than pull people into change

Creating and driving the need for transformation and complex change is intrinsically linked and co-dependent and building momentum is critical to delivering a successful transformation.

When the focus is on selling the solution, the change may feel more forced. What’s often far more effective is fostering an understanding of the need to shift away from the status quo and toward the future state. People will move from the nay state to the yay state of thinking and become more vested in making the transformation a success as a more motivated workforce.

Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 1300 841 048.

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...