5 Reasons Why Most Team Transformation Efforts Fail

5 Reasons Why Most Team Transformation Efforts Fail

Have you been considering a complete business overhaul? A change of direction? The next stage in your business evolution?…but you’re scared of failure?

In truth, there is no such thing as success without failure. And we can’t guarantee success. But we can help you identify the clear paths to failure before you set off down them!

Let’s start here, what is Team Transformation?

Team transformation is the process of evolving your strategies, processes, procedures, technologies, and culture, to become better.

Better at;

  • Providing a valuable product, service and experience to your customers
  • Creating a sort-after working environment for your hardworking and highly-talented employees
  • Allowing your organisation to become more profitable and sustainable for the long-run
  • And finally, exceeding the modern-day ethical, environmental and societal expectations

The world is a better place because of constant push for organisational and team transformation – But like anything truly game-changing, it’s not always smooth sailing.

In truth, most organisational change efforts will take longer and cost more money than first expected. As a result, teams bite off more they can chew and the program fails. A dim outlook, but a realistic one.

In fact, 70% of all transformations fail

McKinsey and Company

And when they fail it’s often more than your ego on the line. You can cost the company money, disrupt productivity and most damaging, cause a serious burn to team morale.

In this blog we are going to explore:

  • The 5 proven reasons team transformation efforts fail (So you don’t make them!)
  • How to kickstart your transformation

Reason #1 – You’re Not Growth-Obsessed (Enough)

Most businesses are profit-obsessed, but few are growth-obsessed. And yes, they’re different!

An organisation that is profit-obsessed will penny-pinch, cut corners and chase the dollar to no avail.

An organisation that is growth-focused is still motivated by their bottom line (you kind of have to be!) But they’re willing to take a few steps back in order to move forward.

Adventure brand, Patagonia is a superb example of this.

Not only did the company change the product offering after realising their climbing tools were causing damage to cliff faces—but they also actively encourage their consumers to carefully consider the environmental impact of consumerism.

In 2011, Patagonia ran this full-page ad in The New York Times that featured its best-selling R2 coat below a banner that read “Don’t buy this jacket.”

Don't Buy This Jacket

The message was intended to encourage people to consider the environmental impact of consumerism and purchase only what they need in the Black Friday sales. A retailer. Telling people not to shop? Yes, you read that right.

And to the surprise of many, it worked. Due largely to their unshakeable company values and pursuit of good-growth, Patagonia has since grown into a billion-dollar company with more than 53 stores and thousands of stockists worldwide.

Patagonia was (and still is) growth-obsessed and proof that being strong with your purpose can be profitable!

Reason #2 Transformation is Too Top-Heavy

Traditionally transformation efforts have been led from the top down. Decisions are made in boardrooms, targets are set in isolation, middle-management is motivated by their superiors and it’s all expected cascade down from there.

This runs into one big issue. Communication is lacking and buy-in is weak!

Conversation of a Boss and Employees about Change

Do you remember that McKinsey and Company insight I gave you earlier? 70% of transformation efforts fail! Well, the researchers attributed that largely to employee resistance.

It will only take a couple of resistant employees to topple your transformation. If you try to force it on your employees it will result in friction, fatigue, and cynicism. You won’t get anywhere!

You need input from your employees at every point of your transformation and be open to their opinions, otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Reason #3 Old Habits Die-Hard

The very wisest of old-men, Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Or put simply, old habits will not bring new results.

You see, we encounter so many businesses that are truly hyped to transform their business. But when it comes to actually change the way they do things, it can feel like we are dragging them kicking and screaming.

Client: It would be awesome to have more time in our day for campaign creativity and problem-solving…

Us: You can! Let’s implement some email automation to take the load of your customer service team.

Client: Oh that sounds like a lot of work. This is how we’ve always done it so let’s just stick with that.


Ambition alone will not transform your business. You must be willing to change the way you do things, as uncomfortable and overwhelming as this may be.

Time to teach an old dog new tricks!

Reason #4 Tech Trumps Team

In many aspects of life, we tend to signal the beginning of a major transformation with a large commitment.

We invest in activewear to jumpstart our health kick, try an edgy new hairstyle when we’re having an emotional overhaul or a new brand new Harvey Davidson in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

In business, the most common first-step we see is a bold new tech-investment or should I say, a bold new tech overcommitment!

What comes after this is a mammoth effort to implement said tech and a gaping hole in your team’s capabilities. Essentially, all the gear and no idea.

And don’t get me wrong. A MarTech investment may very well be part of your transformation journey. The mistake is taking the plunge on day one.

Team capabilities, resource management and organisational vision are your ducks — you need them in a row before you make any rash investment decisions.

Reason #5 Distracted by the ‘Sexy’ Stuff

For us, transformation is quite a sexy word. But we are total nerds

Like anything, with a transformation you can’t have the good (great results) without the bad (consistent hard work).

We are all so drawn towards the transformation efforts we find ‘sexy’. This may be a team reshuffle, a rebrand, working on a new product offering or a new technology investment. That we often ignore or overlook, the completely necessary, but not so ‘sexy’ work. Analysing your marketing analytics, redefining your policies and procedures, facing up to managerial failures (never fun!) and all the other tasks that sit on our to-do list for months.

We like ‘sexy’ tasks because they’re exciting! They bring out our creative side, we get to collaborate and we leave work at the end of the day feeling accomplished and inspired. The impact is obvious!

As much as you try, you probably won’t be able to make analytical analysis sexy (Unless you’re that way inclined). But it’s still important none-the-less.

The best advice we can give here is to balance out. Get the not-so-sexy stuff done so you’ve got the room for exploration and ideation.

How to Start Your Retail Business Transformation

As you may already know, at MI Academy we specialise in team transformation (not so subtle plug). However, even if you choose to go it alone these are the basic first steps to kickstart your transformation!

  1. First, slow down before you speed up (Oh we wrote a blog on the topic. How convenient )
  2. Perform priorities, team and project retrospective. This is essentially a complete reshuffle and alignment of your current efforts and output
  3. Understand and define your brand’s vision, mission and values
  4. Use your vision statement to identify your core business opportunities
  5. Define your 90-day goals (Another blog you need to read!)

Annnnd if you get through all the steps (or get stuck on step two) and need a little help (or a lot) we will be here. Head to www.miacademy.com.au to book in your initial 15 minute chat with an MI Academy Expert Consultant or shoot us an email at enquiries@milkit.com.au

Leave a Comment

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

Scroll to Top