Focus on people, not the project. Transformations are about the people in the organization as much as they’re about the initiatives. The long-term sustainability of a transformation requires companies to engage enthusiastic high-potential employees, equip them with skills, and hold them accountable for—as well as celebrate—their contributions to the effort. Companies should, in our experience, take the same steps toward developing people throughout the organization. To build broad ownership, leaders should encourage all employees to experiment with new ideas: starting small, taking risks, and adapting quickly in their work. Doing so can create far-reaching and positive support for change, which is essential to a transformation’s success.
Communicate continually. When embarking on a transformation, executives should not underestimate the power of communication and role modeling. The results suggest that continually telling an engaging, tailored story about the changes that are under way—and being transparent about the transformation’s implications—has substantially more impact on an effort’s outcome than more programmatic elements, such as performance management or capability building. But the communication doesn’t end once the change story has been told. Leaders must continually highlight progress and success to make sure the transformation is top of mind across the organization—and to reduce the gap between what employees believe is happening and what they see.
Take more action. Transformation is hard work, and the changes made during the transformation process must be sustained for the organization to keep improving. There is no silver bullet—and while some factors have more impact than others on a transformation’s outcome, the real magic happens when these actions are pursued together. Overall, the survey indicates that the more actions an organization took to support each of the five stages of transformation, the more successful it was at improving performance and sustaining long-term health.