Formulation of Organizational Transformation Strategies

Definition: The formulation of an organizational transformation strategy documents and institutionalizes the sponsor's commitment and the strategic approach to the transformation. The formulation of the transformation strategy provides the foundation on which the sponsor's change agents will assist affected organizational units and users to align and adapt to the transformation.

Keywords: change management, organizational alignment, organizational change

MITRE SE Roles & Expectations: MITRE systems engineers are expected to be cognizant of the complexities of organizational transformation. They are expected to be able to formulate an organizational transformation strategy that considers the human dimension of a technology modernization effort.

Background: Why Projects Fail

According to a 2005 Gartner survey of failed information technology projects, in 31 percent of cases, failure was due to a deficiency in organizational change management. In addition, in 44 percent of failed projects, organizational change problems were identified as part of the reason for project failure. Essentially, the degree to which an organization's management is able to manage change, develop consensus, and sustain commitment will determine the success or failure of any large enterprise modernization effort.

The formulation of an organizational transformation management strategy is a critical component of any modernization program and involves a systematic approach that supports both the organization and the individuals in it to plan for the change and then accept, implement, and benefit from the change.

As government agencies expand and improve their services, they may undergo a fundamental transformation of mission, strategy, operations, and technology. If managed effectively, these changes can increase the quality of government services and reduce taxpayer costs. For most large government modernization programs, an organization's predominant focus is often on the technology. If a program's success depended solely on installing the right hardware and software, however, many more modernization programs would be successful. It is the people who are going to use the new technologies who add an unpredictable, complex dimension. The best practices below suggest approaches for the development of organizational transformation strategies.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Framework for Formulating Organizational Transformation: Burke Litwin Model of Organizational Performance and Change: During an enterprise modernization effort, a number of variables exist simultaneously that affect the acceptance of change within an organization. The Burke-Litwin model (B-L) is a framework to assess the scope and complexity of these variables within an organization. As a model of organizational change and performance, B-L provides a link between an assessment of the wider institutional context and the nature and process of change within an organization. The B-L model identifies the following as key factors to consider during organizational change:

  • The external environment is the most powerful driver of organizational change.
  • The changes that occur in the external environment lead to "transformational" factors within an organization—mission and strategy, organizational culture, and leadership.
  • The changes in transformational factors lead to changes in the "transactional" factors within an organization—structure, systems, management practices, and organizational climate.
  • Together, changes in transformational and transactional factors affect motivation, which in turn affects individual and organizational performance.

For an enterprise modernization effort to be effective and sustainable, changes in transformational and transactional factors need to be integrated and consistent. Experience and practice suggest that the variables highlighted in the model and the relationships between them provide a useful tool for communicating not only how organizations perform, but how to effectively implement change. Further information on the Burke-Litwin model is in the SEG article "Performing Organizational Assessments."

Elements of Organizational Transformation Strategy: Organizational transformation relies on five key elements that provide an overall framework for change. Each of these elements is considered a 'work stream' in the transformation strategy, which are addressed in later sections of this document. These five elements include: leadership, communications and stakeholder engagement, enterprise organizational alignment, education and training, and site-level workforce transition. The fifth work stream, site-level workforce transition, incorporates the first four elements and applies them at the level of the affected site or geographic region to prepare and manage users in the field through the implementation effort.

The assessment approach used to formulate the organizational transformation strategy is shown below in Figure 1. This approach has been found to enhance the formulation of organizational transformation strategies. When used in concert, the elements create a powerful, mutually reinforcing field for the support of organizational change and improve the chances that the transformation will meet its objectives. These elements of change leverage the resources within the sponsor's organization to reduce the risks and address the challenges outlined above. Further information on organizational assessments is found in the SEG article "Performing Organizational Assessments."

Figure 1. Organizational Change Management Framework

MITRE systems engineers must understand that the development of organizational transformation strategies involves the assessment of the following:

Leadership: Assess the sponsor's leadership. Mobilizing leaders is critical to spearheading a successful effort. Leaders play a vital role throughout the life cycle in promoting the initiative; ensuring resources are available and able to support the effort, and resolving critical implementation issues as they arise. Leaders must be aware of outcomes across the organization and be able to make decisions accordingly.

Communications and Stakeholder Engagement: Identify key stakeholders (those who will be impacted), determine how best to communicate with them, and keep them involved. Effective communications allow for two-way dialogue, so issues can be understood, and changes can be made appropriately. Assess access to stakeholder information. Access to stakeholder information is critical to the training team, which must determine which groups need to be trained and how. Further information on developing communication strategies and plans is found in the SEG article "Effective Communication and Influence."

Knowledge Management: Assess directly and indirectly affected users to determine if they are prepared to adopt the transformation. While training is delivered just prior to "going live," education needs to occur much sooner. End users must understand what is changing and why, before they are trained on "how." This assessment is tightly linked with leadership and communication assessments. Further information on leadership and communication assessments is found in the SEG articles "Performing Organizational Assessments," "Stakeholder Assessment and Management," and "Effective Communication and Influence."

Enterprise Organizational Alignment: Assess the sponsor's organization to determine how the transformation will specifically affect the organization and any external stakeholders. The transformation may be creating new organizational units or user roles to be filled by current employees. The Burke-Litwin analysis will identify as current organizational gaps. Understanding the gap between present and future roles and responsibilities is critical to prepare the organization to successfully adopt the change. Further information on organization assessments is found in the SEG article "Performing Organizational Assessments."

Site Level Workforce Transition: The relationship between headquarters and field offices adds complexity to the organizational assessment. Systems engineers must be cognizant of the need to assess field offices as part of the over-all organizational assessment. The success of organizational changes to each site will depend on the degree of involvement by its local team. Each site likely has its own processes, issues, constraints and numbers of people affected. Therefore, they must each be accountable for developing a transition plan that is tailored to meet their needs. Further information on stakeholder management and assessments is found in the SEG articles "Stakeholder Assessment and Management" and "Performing Organizational Assessments."

These workstream assessments create a comprehensive blueprint for the formulation of an organizational transformation strategy to increase the likelihood of transformation success.

References & Resources

  1. Baba, M., March 6, 2005, The Defense Logistics Enterprise: Transforming Organizations in the Information Era, Prepared for Enterprise Integration Group.
  2. Burke, W. and Litwin, G., 1992, "A Causal of Organizational Performance and Change, Journal of Management, 18(3), pp. 523-545.
  3. Gartner, 2005, "The User's View of Why IT Projects Fail," Research Notes, 2, 4.


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