By Arif Harbott  co-author of The HERO Transformation Playbook with Cuan Mulligan,

We have seen this first hand from our own experience, over many years of leading transformations, advising transformation teams and also reading about transformations in the press.

Why do most transformations fail when they have large budgets, excellent people and strong business cases?

If you look closely it doesn't take long before you see the same patterns over and over again in failed transformations.

We have codified these common patterns into the Five Dysfunctions of Transformations to explain the common reasons that transformations do not deliver on their stated outcomes. 

Dysfunction 1: Not Focusing on Value

Too many transformations focus on what is easy and keeping teams busy instead making real change. Doing what is easy does not always correlate to what has the biggest impact to the generation of business value.

We consulted for a government department that had started work on several projects at the start of a data transformation. However, when we looked at the projects they had started first none of them were in the top 10 highest value projects. We advised them to scale back the existing projects and start work immediately on the top 3 highest contributing projects. By doing this they were able to demonstrate actual savings and clear ROI that created the confidence for future projects.

Dysfunction 2: Not Removing Blockers

Leadership's number one priority should be to help resolve any transformation blockers and get the flow of value running again. However, we rarely see this in practice and when not addressed quickly blockers slowly strangle delivery over a period of time.

There are many impediments that will get in your way of delivery to either slow it down or in the worse case bring it to a grinding halt. Examples of common blockers include: stakeholders not showing up to meetings, slow decision making, hiring too slowly, not being able to change internal processes, rigid corporate services governance.

We saw this problem when a global car manufacturer did not allocate enough team meeting rooms and video conferencing equipment for their remote delivery teams. This lack of resources made coordination and communication difficult and this problem was not fixed for six months. This delay meant that a $4m project was delayed by nearly nine months.

Dysfunction 3: Lack of Metrics and Measurement

If you cannot measure and track your transformation progress, then you will be flying blind. Therefore, it's essential to make targets clearly quantifiable so that you know: where you are today and exactly when you will arrive at your end point.

Developing clear metrics will help you navigate the difficult path during your transformation in order to stay on track towards your outcome. Additionally, embedding metrics at the heart of every decision you make will give you more confidence and help with team alignment.

Dysfunction 4: Poor Transformation Vision

A compelling vision is a powerful tool to overcome the inevitable upheavals of large-scale change.

The organization ideally needs to buy into that achieving transformation vision is imperative to its survival. If you can achieve this then you are more likely to unleash the full force of your delivery potential.

If your transformation vision is: not strong enough, not well understood and, most importantly, not measurable, Then you are unlikely to galvanize your organization for real change.

Dysfunction 5: Lack of Board / CEO Sponsorship

When delivery gets blocked, without board sponsorship, it will stay blocked and this will slowly strangle progress.

Transformations are hard because they require changes to the established ways of working in your organization.

Therefore, if your board doesn't fully buy into your transformation and commit to being accountable, you are unlikely to make the hard changes when the going gets tough.

We see this time and again and it's disappointing because with the right structures and processes there is a much better way to solve this issue.

We worked with a large Brazilian company that started its transformation from the bottom up, without getting a strong board buy-in. When the transformation tried to change the operations process they hit resistance from middle management. This brought the transformation to a standstill and the programme was stopped after a year.

Arif  is also co-founder of The HERO Transformation Framework  - the step-by-step process to deliver transformations and large-scale change programs with the best chance of success