Transforming - Better or Worse?
Updated: May 18, 2021
In September 2003, Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Why Good Projects Fail Anyway”. It opened with the striking sentence, “Big projects fail at an astonishing rate.”. It then stated, “as study after study has shown, they frequently deliver disappointing returns - by some estimates, in fact, well over half the time”. The projects the article was referring to included strategies to deliver growth, significant technology implementations and post-merger integrations, typically consuming substantial resources over months or even years.
Fast forward to late 2017, when Bain & Company published an article titled Orchestrating a Successful Digital Transformation. After surveying 1000 companies worldwide, Bain found that the payoff from digital transformations could be impressively high, but the success rate regrettably low. In fact, so low that just five percent of those companies involved in digital transformation efforts reported that they had achieved or exceeded the expectations they had set for themselves. Shockingly, seventy-five percent of companies had settled for a dilution of value and mediocre performance, and twenty percent had failed, producing less than fifty percent of the expected results. Companies undertaking a conventional transformation faired slightly better with a success rate of twelve percent; twenty percent still failed.
So, over those 14 years, despite numerous articles in business journals on the same subject, thousands of books about change management (more than sixty thousand on Amazon alone) and a massive push in some areas towards Agile project management with its scrums and sprints, we’ve gone from “well over half” to around ninety percent of transformation programs delivering mediocre performance or failure. Those are astonishing numbers. Most organisations embarking on a transformation journey would be horrified to know that their chance of success was ten percent or less.
So, where does Executive or Leadership alignment fit into this landscape? It’s a great question. One thing is guaranteed: if leaders aren’t deeply aligned around the transformation’s objectives and outcomes at the start, there is no chance of alignment across the team that are doing the work every day throughout the project’s life. Having an aspirational high-level vision to motivate a team with is simply not sufficient.
What is leadership alignment? How do you align around an initiative? How do you know if you are truly aligned, besides the nods and high level yes’s in the room? These are the tough questions. Questions that we are tackling at AlignedAround.