There are some common practices undertaken by leaders to ensure successful organizational transformation. We will share some of these from our many years experiencing different organizations in type, size and sector.
In one instance the owners of a small family-owned manufacturing company embraced an entirely new concept of order taking and production. A team-based and inclusive approach to making important operating decisions was instigated. These leaders personally engaged in direct communications with all employees to ask for their help. They installed newly designed workforce skills to support their vision. In the first year they completely reversed the prior year losses and recorded one of the best years ever in sales. The volume and profitability continued to grow the following year.
In the second organization, a ‘customer driven’ initiative was embraced by leaders along with increased communications and sharing of financial data with all employees. At the same time the company invested in developing skills at all levels of the workforce to drive improved results. They also developed a formal profit-sharing program for all employees. A year later they were performing well beyond their expectations in all areas.
The COO of a large non-profit services provider committed to a new level of transparency in our third example. The entire workforce became involved with saving their jobs and having more fun. 18 months later they enjoyed the best sales volume growth ever. Employee morale and customer satisfaction went through the roof.
In our final example, a senior VP in a high-tech services firm led a key part of the organization in attacking the root causes for low service levels and processing performance. After just 90 days they saw that a marked improvement was possible. This was accomplished while improving morale and service levels. This leader convinced the entire organization to adopt the best practices discovered. It was a fundamental shift in their culture and created much better results in a remarkably short period of time.
Even though these were decidedly different paths toward success, these organizations enjoyed the benefits of leaders who exhibited these best practices:
- They personally accepted and took seriously the role they played in creating a sensible vision the whole organization could agree to pursue.
- They each changed at their core how they communicated with the organization. They were successful by getting personally involved in messaging and listening to feedback from all levels of the organization.
- They willingly addressed any detractors in a proactive way and did not retreat from the need to redouble the communications commitment when encountering resistance.
As can be seen, commitment by top executives and employee involvement is necessary to be successful in any operational transformation. The processes, policies and methods of any improvement objective can be learned by the people of that organization. But, as can be seen through our examples, top level leadership commitment is essential to build a successful culture.