Leaders & Teams

Transforming organisations: One person at a time


Terri McBride outlines that the best approach to transformation is one of inclusion and open communication.

Transformational change is achieved one person at a time, with the organisation both shaping and being shaped by each individual’s experience.

Given that transformational change is predicated on a slightly unknowable future state, the process can feel uncertain, iterative and unpredictable. Against this backdrop of ambiguity, it is not surprising that one in every three major transformation efforts fail.

Delivering required change

Transformation (in the form of insufficient leadership skills, lack of courage and the need for a new culture) is identified as a key challenge by the majority of our survey respondents, with additional respondents highlighting the necessity of the many goals and skills required to navigate change.

Tellingly, while survey respondents are very aware of the need to practice qualities such as adaptability, agility, openness, and engagement, only one organisation in our survey felt its leadership is fully prepared to deliver the change needed.

Importantly, while survey respondents point to the need for skills required to lead and respond to transformational change, they also recognise the role that emotional intelligence plays.

Additionally, survey respondents highlight the need for recognition. From experience we know teams achieve optimal outcomes when they engage and reward individuals in ways that are meaningful to the recipient.

Aligning vision with a roadmap

Setting a clear, compelling vision is important, and at the same time it must be aligned with a roadmap that broadly addresses how that vision will be achieved. Crucially, the vision must be meaningful at individual, team and organisational levels and resonate with people across the organisation, not only the leadership team.

Then comes the challenging task of identifying how to enact change — what are the specific mindsets, behaviours, and skills required to enable a fundamental shift? Often transformational change efforts fail because individuals are given insufficient guidance about what comes next. It is insufficient to simply know what not to do. Individuals require guidance on what to do instead.

An often-underappreciated aspect of driving sustainable transformational change is identifying and understanding the systemic barriers and enablers which exist within an organisations’ ecosystem, with the intention of removing the former and optimizing the latter. A key element of this is persuading leadership teams to allow the time and space to have difficult discussions, and be willing to acknowledge discomfort and suspend judgement.


“Setting a clear, compelling vision is important, and at the same time it must be aligned with a roadmap that broadly addresses how that vision will be achieved.”

Sustaining transformation

Finally, tackling the challenge of recognising and rewarding individuals in a way that is meaningful to them is also key.

While transformational change can seem daunting, it is ultimately about people. Allowing the time and space to understand and then deliver on what matters to a team sets the foundation for implementing and sustaining the transformation required by your business.

Leading for an empowered future

This article is an excerpt from Mannaz Leadership Survey 2019-2020. Download the full survey and read what more than sixty clients say about priorities and business leadership.

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The potential is people