Building coalitions that drive a transformation culture

In every successful transformation I have been involved with, the defining factor has been the creation of a culture that established the internal coalitions that enabled the transformation.

Normally in a business transformation blog we would demonstrate this with a case study where systems are failing and the Transformation Director swoops in like Superman and saves the day. But this time I would like to break with norms and share an example of the positives when an organisation gets transformation right.

A few years ago I was invited to Utrecht, Netherlands to lead an ERP-enabled business transformation spanning three global functions for a software business owned by private equity.

To my surprise the normal lobbying of the executive team was simply not required, as a coalition of advocates was already designed into the transformation.

With the Chief Financial Officer, Chief People Officer and EVP for Professional Services working as effective sponsors and the CEO as a visible advocate, something truly unique happened: an open and receptive culture formed naturally and permeated through the global structures.

In this transformation a coalition of the willing and an executive leadership that stood alongside them:

  • Created a higher degree of cohesion within the design and implementation of the Global Operating Model and Business Process Re-Design.
  • Enabled the Change & Communications team to build an effective Change Agent Network who became our local change champions.
  • Enabled the development of a Global ERP Template based on optimised processes stripped free of waste, enabling the organisation to leverage the benefits of automation.

How can your company achieve this nirvana? Start at the top, and spread your message throughout the business.

  • From the top: Transformation starts with the CEO and his team; this group needs to be fully vested in the change outcomes. One way to create the required level of ownership is to run workshops with the CEO and his team that decompose the transformation and explore what success and failure looks like, what makes the business different – and what are the challenges in its future.
  • Across the business: A change story that the CEO can communicate is a powerful starting point. Your change team then takes this message and decomposes it into parts that can be localised for a function or region. This helps workers accept the change and achieve business objectives, with the understanding and conviction required to drive successful outcomes. One critical action here is to ensure the change and communications resources engaged in the transformation are tightly aligned to the corporate communications team.

Realistically there are times when coalitions will be a major challenge. Consider these words of the great baseball manager Casey Stengel: “The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.”

And yet Stengel guided his teams to seven World Series titles – so  he must have won some people over to his side.

I hope this article’s tips will help you, like Stengel, to overcome difficult coalition situations – and create positive ones.

Shaun Taylor

Executive Interim – Chief Transformation Officer & Chief Information Officer 

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