Anne Feeney

"Transformation", has too many meanings

Anne Feeney / 14 May 2013

Why do 70% of change programmes fail? Could it be that imposed change initiatives often delivered at a group level induce conformity and compliance but not the individual commitment that real sustainable change requires? In fact not the transformational change that was promised or hoped for when corporates launch their cultural change programmes.

Our MSc with Middlesex has the title 'leading sales transformation' but what does this word 'transformational' actually mean? It pops up everywhere in business literature these days but is it after all just marketing hype – a sexy word used to make business as usual sound more mysterious and impressive than it really is? Well this was one of the questions I had when I was doing my own Masters' research on 'the Nature and Process of Transformational Coaching' and I'd like share with you some of my findings.

You might be surprised to hear that transformative change is underpinned by serious academic research in the world of learning theory and was first highlighted as a distinct type of learning by Jack Mezirow in the 70's. To paraphrase Jack it is the process of changing ones taken-for-granted beliefs, assumptions or habits of mind that have become problematic or no longer useful.  And by its nature it is the type of change that has stickiness and is sustainable. It is different from 'normal' learning in that it leads to a shift in mind-set for the individual - the type of change where afterwards people say 'that couldn't have been predicted' or 'I didn't think that was possible before'. But how do you we do this for ourselves and others? Well namely by:

- Reflect: Encouraging critical reflection and self-reflection - by critical we mean 'objective and non-judgemental' not 'criticising'.

- Include: Inviting the individuals' willingness and motivation to cooperate with the process. You are asking the individual to change perhaps at a deep level so it will need to fit with their values and ultimately their heart will need to be in it. You cannot make someone change!

- Support: Lastly creating an environment that supports individuals to change, operating at an individual as well as a group level.

According to Branden this more flexible type of learning is what is required to 'live in a global economy characterised by rapid change, accelerating scientific and technological breakthroughs, and an unprecedented level of competitiveness. These developments ask for a greater capacity for innovation, self-management, personal responsibility, and self-direction'. And yet in Eigel's study of industry leading CEO's, only 4 out of 21 were already operating at this level of thinking!

How can we develop and promote this new type of thinking? This very question is at the centre of our Masters for Sales Leaders and Sales Professionals and is inherently placed to support this type shift in mindset. We look forward to gaining a greater depth of knowledge and understanding on this topic as our Masters intake grows; the resultant data we believe will provide us with even further evidence to support the importance of this type of thinking within the Sales profession.

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