All organizations face change. For any major transformation to succeed, leaders need to have deep conviction, consensus and clarity on four basic questions that can make or break their journey of reinvention. By honestly and systematically answering these four questions, you can transform your training organization, regardless of the industry you work in, the size of your team, or the age of your department or company.

Do We Really Need to Change?

Start by building a strong consensus on your three-to five-year future:

  • What disruptions are coming?
  • What opportunities can you create and capture?
  • What will happen to your growth, employee engagement and so forth if you don’t change?

Engage in multiple candid, deep dialogues with your team and key stakeholders to build the foundation for change. When necessary, involve credible business leaders or outside experts to facilitate a consensus. Hold one-on-one meetings with key players before the team meeting to ensure buy-in, and create a case for why change matters.

Make sure to address questions like these:

  • Why is a strategic pathway for growth critical and feasible for your sustainable success, in view of the influential trends?
  • Why do leaders need to empower and serve team members and partners rather than control them?
  • Why do you need to share data, tools and technologies?

Do We Know Where Are We Going?

Reduce anxiety about change — yours and others’. Such anxiety is inevitable, given that habits form 80% to 90% of what we do and that old habits die hard. You can reduce team members’ concerns by clarifying information about the change, involving them in the transformation effort and helping them see the impact the change will have on them.

Learn from, benchmark or visit organizations that have successfully gone through similar transformations. To reduce skepticism, make sure the benchmarked companies are comparable in size, age and industry.

Clarify and agree on the aspirations and pathways of your reinvented organization:

  • Your purpose (the training organization’s as well as the company’s mission and vision).
  • The pathways to growth (products, programs or geographic regions).
  • Options for growth (buy, build or borrow).
  • Critical capabilities to build.
  • The best organizational form and governance choices to deliver these capabilities.

Many leaders articulate their desired organizational outcomes as a specific destination, but the outcome of organizational reinvention is more of a direction than a destination. The direction is to create strategic agility through strategic ecosystem capabilities. These aspirational purpose statements signal to team members, your internal customers and other stakeholders how your training organization will be known. They will also lead to the right culture.

Design clear, specific and actionable plans. Fold the future into the present by imagining the future and then thinking backward to create plans.

Do We Know How to Get There?

The next step is to recognize and deliver relevant capabilities to shape your organization’s services. Remember that what works well in other organizations may not work well in yours. As a result, these tips can only offer a blueprint for your organization to customize, experiment and iterate to fit your unique situation.

To help you increase your chances of a successful organizational reinvention, here are a few suggestions:

Make Sure the Right People Are in Place

Look for team members who are adept at and eager to change and who have a track record of successfully delivering results.

Start Small and Find Early Wins

Select a pilot project that has the highest chance of success. By running pilots that are likely to succeed, you breed confidence and a virtuous cycle of further success.

Develop an Organizational Prototype

Develop a prototype that works and that you can replicate in other parts of your organization. Grant your team members the power to change, and inspire them to be courageous. Give them leeway to innovate, and offer them an appropriate blend of accountability, authority and reward for shouldering responsibility and responding with agility. Allow them to experiment, fail, learn and move forward.

Foster a Commitment to a Growth Mindset

See failures as opportunities to learn. Keep iterating to discover tools and models that work for you. Be patient; it takes time to see the results of organizational reinvention.

Do We Have a Reasonable Chance of Success?

To increase your chances of success, persist with confidence in your ability to reinvent your organization.

Confidence comes from clarity about the “why,” “what” and “how” discussed above. It also comes from making reinvention a core personal and organizational value. Confidence, then, gives you the courage to stay the course when speed bumps arise.

Successful ecosystems enjoy unfailing commitment from the top and distribute leadership throughout the organization. Bet on people, not strategy. The right people can make the wrong strategy right, but the wrong people will not get results, no matter how brilliant the strategy is.

Adapted with permission from Harvard Business Review Press from “Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets” by Arthur Yeung and Dave Ulrich. Copyright 2019 by Arthur Yeung and Dave Ulrich. All rights reserved.

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