Just as police investigators search for fingerprints at a crime scene, we were interested in identifying the “fingerprints” left behind by a successful organizational transformation.
I frequently hear the question, “How do I know that we are doing the right things to execute our growth strategies and transform our organization?” What a great question! To have the insight to craft such a question, one has to be aware that executing strategies and transforming organizations requires something “out of the ordinary”. Success in creating value through growth strategies and transformation requires an exceptional approach. Simply doing more of the same is unlikely to be successful, so something out of the ordinary is required. This level of change requires strong leadership. It will not happen simply through good management. Strong leadership must be actively involved.
This brings us to the question of “how do I know we are doing the right things?”
The answers center around:
* “Are you being a leader?”
* “Can your leadership fingerprints be seen on the execution actions and change efforts?”
Leadership is not a position, role or title. It is a state of being by a person who is committed to exceptional results / value creation and knows that success will require intense involvement of others. Thinking about how to involve others brings us to the fingerprints, or more specifically the thumbprints of transformation. We at KingChapman have used the term “Thumbprint” to refer to the important elements for success in organizational transformation. We began asking “when we look back at successful transformations, what evidence do we see which identifies successful practices?” This is akin to how forensic scientists look for evidence of fingerprints at a crime scene. Fingerprints are the chemical traces of the impressions from the frictional ridges of the hand which are transferred onto a surface. The best surfaces are hard, like glass or wood.
Importance of “Prints”
So why has fingerprint been the gold standard for identification for well over one hundred years? It is because human fingerprints are quite detailed, difficult to alter and change little during the life of an individual. This makes fingerprints a good identifier of identity over the long term. Thumbprints are particularly effective as identification. As an example, the Texas Bankers Association developed a fraud prevention program called the Thumbprint Signature Program.
Under this program people who wanted to cash a check were asked to place an impression of their thumbprint on the face of the check using a small inkless touchpad. This program found that few who were intentionally seeking to commit check fraud would leave their thumbprint. Of course, those who did left a positive identification which could be turned over to the police for further investigation and prosecution.
The term thumbprint is also used to say that it has a distinctive identifying characteristic. Harper Collins Dictionary adds “If you say that something such as a project has someone’s thumbprint on it, you mean that it has features that make it obvious that they have been involved with it”. It is in this light that we refer to our Transformational Thumbprint.
KingChapman’s Transformational Thumbprint
The elements in the Thumbprint initially came from our team asking, “what factors have we seen in the successful transformations in which we were involved?” At first, we were simply making note of these factors, without trying to draw inference to what drove success. Then, over time we observed that when we were able to get the client to include these elements, the projects were more successful. Additionally, we have collaborated with other consultants and have learned from their experiences as well.
KingChapman’s Transformational Thumbprint include:
1. Strong Leadership
2. Communicating a Clear and Compelling Business Case for Change
3. Achieving a New Context
4. Establishing Urgency for Action
5. Selecting Aspirational Outcomes
6. Inventing a Compelling Future for the Business
7. Rigorously Assessing Current Conditions and Performance
8. Formulating Strategies to Create Value and Achieve the Invented Future
9. Creating Scorecards with Clear Metrics & Milestones
10. Building an Accountability Structure for Leading the Transformation
11. Implementing Transformational Strategies via Breakthrough Projects
12. Just-In-Time Training in Producing Breakthroughs
13. Communicating, Communicating, Communicating
14. Enrolling Stakeholders
15. Changing Mindsets
16. Assuring Frontline Employees Feel Ownership of the Transformation
17. Choosing the Best Talent
18. Building Capabilities in the Organization
19. Sustaining Energy for Involvement & Transformation
20. Delivering Results & Not Accepting Excuses
21. Sharing Learning Throughout the Organization
22. Evaluating Results Achieved and Planning Next Steps
The ‘Thumbprint’ represents the features that confirm leaders have been involved in executing strategies which transform organizations. None of these features is beyond the wit of man to implement. Successful implementation of these features requires commitment, passion and time.