Is organisational change really that easy?

“The good news is that our research demonstrates it’s entirely possible for organizations to ramp up their bottom-line performance even as they secure game-changing portfolio wins that redefine what a company is and does.”

Well, that’s okay then – what could possibly go wrong? 

…Actually quite a lot!……… perhaps McKinsey’s ‘medicine’ (link to full article below) should come with a health warning.

Changing what a company ‘is and does’ implies 2nd order, radical change – at times of crisis, when ‘transform or die’ is the only viable option, a persuasive argument could be made that such a strategy is feasible. However, and McKinsey above all others should really know this, most organisational change projects fail to achieve their objectives, even though major consultancy practices secure fat fees for leading them! But then again it would be difficult to imagine leading with the strap line ‘successful organisational change is highly problematic, prone to error and leads to an uncertain future’. This might be an ‘uncomfortable truth’ too far for those with vested interests!

The most general lesson to be learned from the more successful cases is that the change process goes through a series of phases that, in total, usually require a considerable length of time. Skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces a satisfying result. A second very general lesson is that critical mistakes in any of the phases can have a devastating impact, slowing momentum and negating hard-won gains. 

Even very capable people often make at least one big, basic, error  – i.e. rushing to change in the mistaken belief that they already know what they have got, where they are going and how to get there – with no appreciation of the cost of change.

Business transformation programs have long focused on productivity improvement—taking a “better, faster, cheaper” approach to how the company works.

The problem is, it’s no longer enough. Digitization, advanced technologies, and other forms of tech-enabled disruption are upending industry after industry, pressuring incumbent companies to remake who and what they are as organizations.