How I Learned Three Hard Truths About Organizational Transformations


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The hard truth about organizational transformations.

I don’t care how much experience you have or how sophisticated you are; change is hard.  As humans, it seems as though we’re destined to forever oscillate between craving change and fearing it.

When we set out to transform BodeTree into a very different type of organization, I knew that there would be quite a few challenges we’d have to overcome.

While there were a significant number of operational changes that needed to take place, I felt relatively comfortable with those. It was the human element that concerned me.

We had spent the better part of a decade trying to build a business that could bring innovation to the world of small business banking.

The team and products we developed had performed admirably, but now we found ourselves going in an entirely different direction.

I desperately wanted the team to come along with me on this new journey, but I knew that not everyone would be able to accept the change.

The experience of navigating such a dramatic change taught me three hard truths about organizational transformations.

#1 – It has to be all or nothing

When it comes to business personas, I’ve found that I’m very much a diplomat. I always try to understand the varying perspectives surrounding any given situation and strive to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone involved.

As with every management style, my diplomatic approach comes with unique benefits and drawbacks.

On the positive side, I can usually act as a peacemaker and facilitator, finding solutions where everyone is happy, and relationships are set up for lasting success.

The negative result of this approach is that I occasionally find myself holding the middle ground, not committing to any one strategy for fear of upsetting those around me.

When first contemplating the transformation we were about to undertake, I briefly considered trying to serve two masters. I reasoned that we could continue helping financial institutions while expanding into franchising.

I quickly realized, however, that the move toward franchising required more than just the creation of a new offering; it demanded a complete recalibration of our governing philosophy.

Trying to be two different organizations at the same time would tear us apart, frustrating my team and hindering our growth.

We weren’t just expanding our business; we were transforming it,  and that required us to make a decision. When it came to BodeTree’s involvement in franchising, it had to be all or nothing.

#2 – Transformation requires bold and decisive action

Once we decided that we were all-in, I realized that an incremental approach to managing this change would doom the organization. Instead, we had to adopt a strategy of bold and decisive action.

The first step was to sell off the main components of the business we had worked so hard to build while retaining the core assets that gave us an edge.

Many of our team members and external advisors recommended a more cautious approach, but I knew that would lead us straight into a no-mans-land from which we could never emerge.