Transformation starts before you realise – the missing ingredient

Many transformation programmes start with the leadership team recognising the need to make a step-change. The team thrashes out what needs to be done and why, and then announce the programme to the staff of the organisation.

Inevitably this is met with the natural response of fear and resistance.

Of course the leadership team need to take responsibility for deciding what needs to happen to the organisation but often they have inadvertently created a barrier to acceptance before the programme has even started.

In many organisations, the staff are not made aware of the overall performance of the organisation through a regular communication system and even when this happens the presentations are wrapped up in management speak. Leadership teams are also prone to putting a positive spin on performance issues and this makes it even harder for staff members to really understand what is happening. Sometimes the staff know that things are not good and the positive spin results in mistrust.

Given the lack of consistent and aligned feedback on performance, the staff struggle to accept what they are hearing when the transformation announcement comes.

They instinctively question what they are hearing – do they recognise the problem; does the direction sound appropriate; will the way forward really deliver; do they trust the leadership team? In addition there are the usual personal fears – what will it mean to me; will I keep my job; do I want to make the journey? Regular feedback would both be more open and would help staff understand the real performance dilemma.

All organisations should look to have a regular structure to their internal communication which leaves staff aware and engaged.

A useful framework includes:

  1. Team level performance meetings (eg daily for 5 to 10 mins) that includes a 2-way discussion on concerns and issues.
  2. Department level performance presentations (eg monthly for 30 to 60 mins) that include feedback on the performance of both the department and the overall organisation allowing the manager to explain what this means to “us”.
  3. Organisation-wide performance presentations (eg 6-monthly for 60 mins) that include a simple, standard but open presentation on performance as well as identified issues and what is being done to address them. These presentations are best when scheduled around the key performance events eg half-year and full year performance. A department meeting following this will allow managers to listen to feedback and add local explanations.

When the leadership teams look to start on business transformation, they normally want to see employees commit to the programme with both their minds and hearts. This will be most successful if the leadership team have already shown themselves to be open and listening communicators.

Andrew Kearns
Hartswood Management Ltd
Delivering real transformation

For advice on structuring your transformation or change programme please email

For further insights please visit –

Suggestions for further actions:

  1. Review your current communication system. Is it fit for purpose? Is it both open and do the leaders listen? What best practice could be added?
  2. Read Changing Spots – a systems approach to change management for details on communication during transformation programmes (see

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