By Lourdes Coss, MPA, CPPO
True transformation is not an event, it is a journey. It may be triggered by an event or a life-changing experience that may cause a disruption to our comfortable auto pilot routine. Such a circumstance may inspire us to reflect on the road traveled thus far and consider whether we are moving in the direction of our goals and the live that we see ourselves living.
Similarly, organizational transformation is generally triggered by an event or series of events that lead to the desire of a total overhaul of systems, processes and approach. In government, procurement is generally on the list of functions for which transformation is sought. A quick search of the number of cases where contract fraud and abuse of power have threatened public trust can help explain why procurement is often a candidate for transformation.
There are many dimensions to transformation. Many refer to transformation from the tangible perspective, equating it process improvement and systems implementation. People and culture that are at the root of any lasting change. A culture of continuous improvement is developed with intention and the recognition that people are at the center of every process, system, and decision in the organization.
In my experience, there are three aspects that contribute to the overall value of transformation. There is no denying that the visible progress is what is celebrated, but the visible progress is not feasible if these three aspects are not taken into consideration. These three things are: leadership, the reason for change at the micro level, and a culture of teamwork.
- A good leader: The positional leader must be equipped to lead. Poor organizational performance signals a deficiency in leadership. If employees are simply barely meeting the demands of the job, there’s not much creativity, and performance is at the autopilot level, then the leadership aspect needs to be addressed.
The limitations on performance are generally related to the limitations of the leader. Some organizations elect to bring in a new leader before initiating transformational changes. Another option is to coach the positional leader acquire key leadership skills. With the right attitude, some professional development, and coaching the positional leader can develop the skills necessary to lead the group through the transformation process. This strategy is not a quick fix. A true leader, however, invests in his/her own growth regardless of the organization’s desire to provide the resources to facilitate training.
- A reason for change. The leader must be aware of the team members’ “why”. Communicating the vision, the goals and even the strategy to effect changes is a good idea in helping people see the path forward. More importantly, it is essential for everyone to identify their own “why” for change. One of the reasons for this is that the values and priorities differ from person to person.
When individuals can filter the organization’s vision and goals through their own value system and align their goals accordingly, the effort by each individual will produce a compounding effect. Happy people are self-motivated to do and achieve their goals and/or their life’s purpose. Happy people are more productive. That productivity provides significant benefits to the organization particularly during a transformation process. This means that with goal alignment, the effort by each individual not only benefits the individual him or herself, but also the organization.
The leader should understand what moves each person in the group, and through that understanding, unlock the key to productivity. The leader can also strategically create opportunities to contribute to the success of each person. Zig Ziglar’s statement “You can have everything you want if you help other people get what they want” is very fitting and so true.
The leader must know the people that he/she leads and help them believe that they have the capacity to achieve more. A true leader empowers, believes and helps people achieve new heights. As a result of the behavior that the leader models to the team, the leader gains their trust. It’s important for the leader to gain the trust of the people they lead. Without trust the relationship with the leader will not develop.
- A team. Team is another word that people use loosely to refer to a group of people working in the same organization. Just because people work together doesn’t mean that they are a team. In his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” Patrick Lencioni indicates that trust is the foundation of a good team. Trust is at the center of every relationship. When team members can trust each other and the leader, they can tackle the toughest assignments knowing that others have their back. A good team, according to Lencioni, can work through conflicting ideas, commit to a decision, hold each other accountable, and focus on results
Trust and leadership are enabling factors for transforming the culture of an organization. Trust is at the center of any relationship and it’s nothing different in a team. A leader without followers is not a leader, and in order for people to follow a leader there has to be trust. The first order of business in a transformation is then a leader that can inspire trust, can help people grow, and can create a collaborative environment built on mutual respect.
Before setting off on a transformational journey, the organization needs effective leadership, the individual goals of its members should complement those of the team, and everyone should work collaboratively towards a common vision. Only then it is possible to change the culture of an organization. Obviously, people are happier when they are in a positive and progressive culture working with individuals that they like and respect.
To conclude, the leader has a significant role in the success of an organization’s transformation initiative. It is the leader’s responsibility to build relationships and create a culture rooted on a solid foundation of trust and respect. A transformed culture where people feel that their contribution is valued is going to continue to evolve and reach new heights. A team that feels empowered to achieve a higher level of performance while working towards their individual goals is almost unstoppable. This is the place where the leader should take the team in order to transform the culture. Add to this the necessary enabling resources and you’ll have a successful transformation.