Blog - Transformation Think Tank recap

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Clearing in the forest at sunset

Transformation, transformed

In our first Think Tank event, we tackled transforming the way we think about—and approach—transformation.

Jo Aidroos and Rachel Andre | November 12, 2015

We recently launched our very first Slalom Think Tank. Our team was thrilled to host the inaugural working session with a group of cross-industry senior leaders in London.

The topic of the day: Transformation. We discussed what organisations are doing right; what's not working; and how we need to rethink our approaches to transformation.

Keep reading for our three key takeaways from the event.

Round 1: Who are you, and who do you want to be?

We started with transformation personas. We've found our personas to be a very powerful tool in discussions on transformational aspirations versus the reality of what an organisation can achieve at any point in time.

Cartoon (by Caroline Chapple) of transformation personas: the futurologist, the slasher, the techie, the innovator, the customer focus, the power shifter

The group discussed which persona they personally identified with and which persona their organisation aligned with. We discovered that our leaders rarely identified with their organisation’s personas. Why is this, and what does it mean?

Your organisation’s directional strategy, vision, and purpose—its persona—will shift and evolve. It may be 'the slasher' when times are tough and costs need to be cut, or the 'power shifter' when a new CEO comes in and wants to make radical changes in their first year. If you have an organisation of 10,000 people, the chances of everyone being perfectly aligned to the direction of the company are small. Be realistic about this and what you are trying to achieve.

"It takes humans six months to come to terms with a major change—how can we expect entire organisations to change overnight?"

– Think Tank participant

Round 2: What does it take to be a winner?

Next up: Why transformations fail and key factors when they succeed.

The key word in this round was resilience. The room agreed that transformation is tough, and it can be easy to give up at the first, tenth, or even hundredth hurdle. It’s critical to have an evangelist who encourages employees to be resilient and persevere with the transformation, even if it feels like it will never succeed, especially in a high-pressure transformation environment.

"Be prepared to lose the battles in order to win the war."

– Think Tank participant
Cartoon (by Caroline Chapple) depicting resilience: an epic multitasker, scientists at a board, and a person swinging over a crocodile to the finish line

Round 3: What does transformation look like in the future?

We agreed that there’s no longer a common baseline for the definition of transformation. Think about your organisation: Is transformation a fundamental change to your business model, or is it a banner under which continuous change initiatives sit?

We also agreed that doing one big transformation (in the traditional sense) isn't good enough anymore. It's about incremental progress—making small, impactful changes and demonstrating success.

"Is transformation an objective or an outcome?"

– Think Tank participant

What’s next for our Think Tank?

With the inaugural Think Tank successfully behind us, we’re already looking ahead to our next working session. We’ll be convening in late November to tackle a few real-life transformation challenges in scenario-based sessions.

Possible topics include how to …

  • Work with change fatigue and bring everyone along on the journey (especially when there’s bad news)
  • Engage and communicate successfully through transformation
  • Deal with large and distributed teams. Think: is one team really one team?
  • Increase the pace of change and make it business as usual
  • Keep the customer at the heart of the transformation
  • Stay strategic when we’re under pressure to respond tactically
  • Create a resilient and responsive organisation
  • Put cultural change at the heart of transformation
  • Measure success and the level of effort required to do so
  • Gauge how critical innovation is to successful transformation

Illustrator: Caroline Chapple of Chapple Cartoons

Jo Aidroos is no longer with Slalom.

Jo Aidroos leads Slalom’s Organisational Effectiveness Practice in London. An engineer by qualification, an early technologist, and now a passionate practitioner putting people at the heart of every organisation.

Rachel André is a principal consultant in Slalom UK's Business Advisory Services practice. Rachel specializes in change enablement, change effectiveness, and project delivery.

Rachel André is no longer with Slalom.


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