Zen and the Art of Transformation

Insights | 30 May 2018

Transforming your organisation from where it is to where you want it to be doesn’t just happen without a lot of effort, some discomfort and probably a little pain.

Transformation is about recognising that the environment in which you operate has changed and that you need to adapt.

There are universal principles for personal and organisational change and growth, but transformation won’t just drop from the sky. You have to interrogate, seek and amend behaviours consistently to effect sustainable business outcomes.

The uncomfortable truth is that during any period of change, transition or transformation you need to remain, well, a little bit uncomfortable, in order to have the awareness to make change happen.

How you approach transformation can vastly impact the discomfort and pain – the less resistance you exercise to the fundamental principles below, the smoother the process will be.

1) Transformation and truth

Honesty really is the best policy. If your organisation can’t be honest with itself about what it needs to address and what it can address e.g. diversity, supply chain, then you shouldn’t start. You need to work at it, to strip away the facade to get to the heart of the transformation.

2) Transformation and awareness

Are you ready for transformation? Really ready? Is the organisation at the right point for what you want to achieve? How far can you innovate? Do you have the right people leading from the top? Lasting transformation needs levels of awareness that transcend short-termism and ego.

3) Transformation and imperfection

We all love to complete things perfectly and neatly, but transformation is messy. You’ll need to learn to love the painful and the imperfect – staff, peers, partners, customers, clients and suppliers. And here’s a truth – even after transformation, your organisation will still be imperfect. Transformation is not just about making processes or products, or even making organisations better. Instead, it’s about adapting to survive for the future – sustainably regardless of what happens tomorrow.

It’s the process and flexibility to adapt and change that you can perfect.

4) Transformation and perspective

To enact change you need perspective. We don’t know what we don’t know or can’t see. Everyone has a perspective and they are all valid, not just those with the most senior titles. Sometimes an external viewpoint is invaluable whether that’s external to your team, department or organisation.

5) Transformation and denial

Denial is a necessary natural state but it’s not helpful for change. Denying that something needs to change, or that a person needs to change, or a process is no longer aligned to your objectives means it needs to faced. You can’t drag people along to change but you can support people and lead by example, authentically.

6) Transformation causes pain

Transformation is led by people and it impacts people, so it inevitably creates pain. Pain comes from change to what we are familiar with and what we think we need or want. Communication, authenticity, transparency and support are important parts of the process to acknowledge and minimise the pain.

7) Transformation and memory

Experiences create and leave memories – people remember you not by what you do but by how you did it. Transformation ultimately transcends memory and transcends time. How you communicate ahead of, and during periods of change and difficulty is what makes a difference to how people remember it, and how open they will be to change in the future.

8) Transformation and contribution

Transformation is not a spectator sport, it impacts everyone from top to bottom. Everyone is unique and offers the organisation something different. People make things transform, not design thinking, frameworks, or initiatives and every person is unique, with a different set of skills. So ask yourself, what is your contribution to transformation?

‘No pain no gain’ may be a mantra we are all familiar with but approaching fundamental change with a sense of Zen through the points above will ensure your organisation is more aligned as a team and to the higher purpose of organisational transformation.

Does your organisation require assistance with transformation and major projects? Call us today on 1300 70 13 14.

About The Author

Pat Guthrie, Transformation Lead at PM-Partners group

Pat has 20+ years’ global experience in delivering large scale complex, multi-million-dollar transformation programs. He has worked across various industries including banking, insurance, retail, transport, aviation and utilities. Pat has established and delivered programs for international blue-chip organisations, medium size enterprises and various government departments and statutory organisations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enquire Now


1300 70 13 14


Stay Informed

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive quarterly industry news updates and stay informed of forthcoming PM-Partners group events.