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Managing transformation: how to get teams on board

Ali Armand
Pedagogical Director of the Leadership & Management Department at the École Polytechnique (IP Paris)
Dominique Poissonnet
CEO and founder of Alaska Consulting
Key takeaways
  • When the company is undergoing transformation projects, it is essential to get teams on board if the project is to succeed.
  • To do this, 6 levers must be put in place: trust, inclusion, belonging, importance, meaning and self-worth.
  • Among these levers, self-worth is becoming increasingly important with the new generations, who are looking for what the project can bring them.
  • One of the most fundamental levers is the production of meaning, because it allows to give a clear vision for the future that guides the team members.
  • Today, if 80% of companies undertake transformation projects, 70% fail: these 6 levers are therefore essential.

Between tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tions, dif­fer­ent approach­es to work­ing meth­ods or the ener­gy tran­si­tion, the busi­ness world is increas­ing­ly sub­ject to major changes. Such sit­u­a­tions imply numer­ous trans­for­ma­tion projects with­in com­pa­nies, cor­re­spond­ing to a need to rethink their func­tion­ing from both an organ­i­sa­tion­al and strate­gic point of view. Suc­cess depends on the peo­ple who are at the heart of these com­pa­nies – the employ­ees – and their com­mit­ment. So how do you get your teams on board? 

Ali Armand, ped­a­gog­i­cal direc­tor of the Lead­er­ship & Man­age­ment divi­sion at École Poly­tech­nique Exec­u­tive Edu­ca­tion, exam­ines var­i­ous issues relat­ed to mobil­is­ing teams and their com­mit­ment, in order to know how to bet­ter involve them in a trans­for­ma­tion project. Dominique Pois­son­net is con­front­ed with these issues in the field as a trans­for­ma­tion expert at Alas­ka Con­sult­ing. Their exper­tise on the sub­ject gives us some hints on how to ensure the com­mit­ment of the peo­ple involved.

70% of transformation projects fail

Trans­for­ma­tion projects are large in scope, affect­ing busi­ness­es from top to bot­tom. “The rea­sons for busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion vary great­ly. They can be pure­ly eco­nom­ic, or tru­ly soci­etal,” explains Dominique Pois­son­net. But in all cas­es, these trans­for­ma­tions take place in a con­text of urgency, i.e. when the company’s sus­tain­abil­i­ty is at stake, and when there is a need to com­plete­ly review the company’s mod­el. All of this makes their imple­men­ta­tion dif­fi­cult, espe­cial­ly since it is nec­es­sary for all stake­hold­ers to get involved for them to be tru­ly effective.

“Today, if 80% of com­pa­nies car­ry out a trans­for­ma­tion project, 70% of the projects fail,” adds Dominique Pois­son­net. The rea­son? Lack of stake­hold­er involve­ment: that’s why get­ting them on board is fun­da­men­tal. To do this, dif­fer­ent strate­gies can be put in place. These must take into account the desires of the team mem­bers, with­out lim­it­ing them­selves to their sat­is­fac­tion. “The first fac­tor of dis­en­gage­ment of employ­ees, all sec­tors includ­ed, is the lack of recog­ni­tion, and not at all the lack of mon­ey,” main­tains Ali Armand. “Mon­ey will only gen­er­ate a mer­ce­nary mentality.”

The two experts high­light 6 levers to build on to achieve this nec­es­sary engage­ment: trust, inclu­sion, belong­ing, impor­tance, mean­ing and self-worth.

Feeling good about your team

There is no hier­ar­chi­cal order in these levers, but organ­i­sa­tion­al trust depends fun­da­men­tal­ly on the oth­er five. “To have organ­i­sa­tion­al trust, you must gen­er­ate a feel­ing with­in the organ­i­sa­tion that the frame­work and the objec­tive are clear, where there is a shared vision,” explains Ali Armand. “And most impor­tant­ly, in which we are not afraid of things that are hard­er to be open about, because they should be brought for­ward, with trans­paren­cy, for dis­cus­sion.” Thus, this trust is the result of the prop­er appli­ca­tion of the oth­er levers.

“Near­ly 70% of employ­ees in France con­sid­er that their opin­ions are not tak­en into account by man­age­ment,” insists Ali Armand. “This is a fun­da­men­tal ele­ment in design­ing a trans­for­ma­tion project. This affects a sec­ond lever, inclu­sion. Inclu­sion results from the par­tic­i­pa­tive nature of the trans­for­ma­tion project,” says Dominique Pois­son­net. “How­ev­er, it can quick­ly turn into a night­mare, because in a large com­pa­ny, includ­ing 50,000 peo­ple can be com­pli­cat­ed.” The imple­men­ta­tion of a shared net­work, link­ing all the divi­sions of a com­pa­ny, can, for exam­ple, fuel this feeling. 

A third lever to focus on to improve the well-being of its employ­ees in its team is the feel­ing of belong­ing. “We can reach peo­ple as soon as we talk about the spe­cif­ic inter­ests of the com­mu­ni­ty, of the team to which they belong,” says Ali Armand. “It is there­fore a ques­tion of build­ing and devel­op­ing a feel­ing of cohe­sion with­in the team itself, gen­er­at­ing mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty and close rela­tion­ships between its mem­bers.” This feel­ing is essen­tial accord­ing to Dominique Pois­son­net, and is sought by “every indi­vid­ual, because when we belong to a com­mu­ni­ty, we are able to recog­nise ourown sta­tus, while ben­e­fit­ing from the strength it gives us.”

Finding meaning in the project

Once cohe­sion has been built among team mem­bers, it is impor­tant to ensure that they find mean­ing in the trans­for­ma­tion project. “The pro­duc­tion of mean­ing is, for me, real­ly the most fun­da­men­tal lever,” says Dominique Pois­son­net. “It is what will pro­vide a vision for the future, based on the com­pa­ny’s val­ues.” Thus, no mat­ter what obsta­cles are present on their path, team mem­bers will always have that clear vision that will allow them to keep mov­ing for­ward, even if it means tak­ing a detour.

An employ­ee’s com­mit­ment also comes from their aware­ness of their impor­tance. “If employ­ees think they are inter­change­able enti­ties and that any­one could do their job,” says Ali Armand, “they will not be as com­mit­ted and at the same lev­el as if they have realised their impor­tance, as indi­vid­u­als, to the suc­cess of the project.”

The last lever, self-worth, becomes even more impor­tant with the new gen­er­a­tions. “Cre­at­ing val­ue for one­self means allow­ing the indi­vid­ual to under­stand what the project will bring to him or her,” explains Dominique Pois­son­net. An indi­vid­ual will be all the more com­mit­ted to the suc­cess of a project if he or she is aware of the ben­e­fits it will bring. 

These six levers are not in any hier­ar­chi­cal order, as they must all be put in place to ensure the suc­cess of a trans­for­ma­tion project. “We notice, in fact, that the main cap­i­tal in organ­i­sa­tions is human cap­i­tal,” con­cludes Ali Armand. “So, we need empa­thy, prox­im­i­ty, human­i­ty. With all these ele­ments, we will have the nec­es­sary mat­ter to be able to build a real com­mit­ment on the part of the employ­ees with­in the organisation.

Pablo Andres

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