In the film Hail, Caesar! Ralph Fiennes, playing the role of a film director, tries repeatedly to encourage the star of his film to deliver the line “would that it were so simple” in the way that he desires. What becomes clear is that however much he repeats the phrase or however frustrated he gets, his star finds the delivery anything but simple.
This is a picture for me of the approach of many leadership teams when overseeing transformation programmes and projects – they want it to be simple and they get frustrated that this is rarely the case.
In transformation, there is not a single line to be repeated until it is perfect – the essence of a transformation programme is that it has not been done before and it cannot be scripted. If it were that simple, it would not be transformational.
Many leaders build their experience by taking responsibility for a defined area of the organisation and so their experience of leading change is very narrow. This means that their change capabilities can be focused around mandated change that is contained within a limited part of the organisation and for which they can delegate many of the improvement activities.
To deliver transformational change which is organisation-wide, leaders need to change their own instincts and focus on:
- Thinking holistically – what are all the elements required in the solution and how wide is the impact.
- Leading people through the change to create real involvement in the outcomes.
- Communicating openly so that those involved feel that they are treated with respect.
- Giving up control (to those who know the detail better) to gain control (the delivery of real results).
When it comes to transformational change, the change needs to start in the leadership team.