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  • Writer's pictureWendy Garcarz

Corporate Alzheimer's; why transformational change frequently fails

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, the pursuit of transformational change has become almost compulsory focused on survival or growth. However, despite the huge resource invested in organisational development, success remains elusive for many. Whilst the reasons for this are multi-factorial, I believe there are three essential causes.

1. Strategists and leaders fail to bring people along on the journey.

The journey of transformation often begins with a surge of enthusiasm and anticipation, riding the initial crest of the change curve. This phase is marked by optimism and enthusiasm of the innovators and early adopters (roughly 20% or people) who would do this for the excitement and variety it brings. They need the lightest touch to get what they need to spur them onward. The majority or fence sitters represent roughly 60% of people who wait and see what the outcomes are. This group need social proof before making change. The final group are laggards or affectionately know as corporate concrete (the remaining 20%) whose job is is to retain the status quo and scupper change or seriously delay it. What many organisations do is invest a significant amount of time and resources encouraging the innovators and converting the corporate concrete. I find this a strange decision as even added together this groups do not give you a critical mass. The innovators don't need it and the corporate concrete are not influenced by those they see as creating the problem in the first place. The obvious solution is to put the majority of resources and effort to bringing the fence sitters on board as quickly as possible to gain enough forward momentum to isolate the corporate concrete. They have a simple choice to make, move forward (albeit, reluctantly) or get left behind completely. They will still be the neigh sayers but at least the change programme does gain momentum to carry it forward.

2. Strategic Blind Spots create a lack of urgency

Transformational change demands a strategic compass to navigate the changing environment and a sense of urgency that galvanised people to act. All too often, organisations embark on ambitious transformations without a clear roadmap, no understanding of why this is needed now and the consequences of in-action. The absence of strategic thinking leaves them vulnerable to organisation drift, fragmented initiatives, and conflicting priorities. Without a cohesive strategy framework, even the most well-intentioned efforts will falter amidst uncertainty and ambiguity.

3. Corporate Altziemers, the person of organisational memory.

Restructures and realignments are integral components of organisational transformation, aimed at achieving greater efficiency, cutting costs and fostering innovation. Transformations programme are frequently used to remove whole layers of middle management to create leaner flatter structures. Whilst that will reduce workforce costs it creates a significant risk; corporate Alzheimer's. By shipping out huge swathers of corporate memory they lose the ability to remember what worked and what didn't in the past, it fuels a 'reinvention of the broken wheel' without anyone critically analysing obvious solutions. Once that knowledge and memory has gone it creates a void and condemn organisations to repeating old mistakes that can very expensive. institutional knowledge dissipates, leaving behind a void that impedes progress. The erosion of corporate memory undermines continuity, hampers learning, and impede progress of the transformational programme.

In the relentless pursuit of transformational change, leaders and business strategists should acknowledge these common pitfalls and build strong contingencies to mitigate against them. Not only would this improve the likelihood of transformational success it would cultivate strategic foresight, and preserve corporate memory.

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