Why Business Transformation is Hard

Transformation efforts come and go. Does the picture above remind you of any of your Transformation efforts? Did you know that that studies from Candido & Santos, 2008; Bridgeforth, 2000; Dr. Robert Klein, 1998; Stephens, 2008; Wong, Chau, Scarbrough & Davison, 2005; and Standish Group, 2015, all highlight the difficulties of project execution.

  • IT Projects fail to deliver 71% of the time

  • Transformation efforts focused on improving quality fail 93%

  • Reducing business costs fail 70% of the time

  • Organizational Change efforts fail 73% of the time

  • Projects are completely abandoned 30% of the time before any benefits are realized!

Surprisingly, new executive leadership often creates a transformation effort to justify their hiring and to drive new investment dollars. If their transformation fails to deliver in 3-5 years, that leadership is replaced, and the new leadership does it again. This cycle seems to continue at some companies with different approaches, different catalysts, different technical magic bullets, and different terms but with similar promises of increased revenue and increased profit. And unfortunately, with similar results.


A simple, elegant design is often a better approach

A simple, elegant design is often a better approach

With over 70 transformation efforts from small through large organizations over the years, ENKI, LLC's consultants are still stunned by companies that continue to spiral through this cycle. Transforming a company is hard and it takes strong leadership to make it happen. We do not believe it is the lack of funding or the lack of smart people. Even companies that struggle invest large sums of money and often hire very smart people, so what is going on?

Peter Drucker stated that culture will eat strategy for lunch.

What he missed saying is that as culture digests strategy it farts out transformation, and it often stinks.

Poorly conceived, architected, designed and deployed, transformation efforts are overly complex, hard to explain, too big to succeed and counter culture. We are often surprised that some companies have any success at all given the structure of their ill-conceived transformation efforts.

Many firms overcharge clients for smart MBA graduates with 3-5 years of work experience.  The shocking part is that these firms and their executive clients are always surprised when they under deliver. 

It is very hard to find a consulting firm that would rather work with existing employees of their clients than the consulting firms' own consultants.  The Partners of the consulting firms will tell you it is because of skill set of a tool or methodology or specific industry or best practice knowledge.  In reality, it is because it generates more revenue for them when they staff more of their people on the project.  Consider that these same firms provide estimates but bill hourly so badly managed projects also generate more revenue, as they require more people for longer durations.  So why would under-delivering surprise executives. 


Large consulting firms have thousands of consultants that need to be at clients for the company to make enough money to generate a profit.  Making efforts more complex than necessary is appealing to these firms because more staff would be necessary for these really complex efforts.  

The best "transformation bus" large firms can offer blows a great deal of smoke and will likely cause a lot of fire but it can carry a lot of consultants too.

Where there is fire, there is a transformation bus from a large consulting firm

Where there is fire, there is a transformation bus from a large consulting firm

Consider the tracking of work, dependencies, activities, issues, and risks that complex programs, initiatives, and projects require.  These large firms still use Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint and Word too. How many junior consultants would be needed for hundreds or thousands of projects?  What is it worth to have efforts structured with the intent of providing clarity and consistency enough to allow a small group of experienced former executives to help your existing employees deliver amazing results with less effort.  Building the capability of transformation management internally is invaluable because you know that this skill will be used elsewhere on other culturally defining projects.

Now, add ENKI's use of a software solution to enable a repeatable project execution process that includes lessons and drives real-time team collaboration and issue tracking beyond normal project task list tools like MS Project.   Add to that an executive dashboard so PowerPoint status updates are not needed and you get executive resolution quickly with team engagement skyrocketing.   Our approach and supporting software provide full visibility across the program regardless of project, geography, business unit and even team structure.  


The majority of consultants have no experience on how to affect real change and deliver real solutions.  They have never owned it before as a corporate executive. So, the next time you have an M&A, regulatory, technology or competitor triggered transformation need, ask your potential consultants what their last corporate executive position was.  Ask them where they owned the delivery of a business transformative effort.

This is easy because it is open and transparent.

This is easy because it is open and transparent.

We have been on the “burning” transformation bus.  We learned by example and figured out that transformation does not need to be complex.  We believe you will want to stay on the bus if there is a strategic need for change.  Simplifying the transformation structure will deliver positive results.  We also believe that it helps when you couple the right structure with real leaders that have been forged by fire as executives.  Even if it is just to clean up the mess created by the busloads of consultants from the other firms so you can start over. 

We have walked in your shoes.  ENKI is Success Unlocked.