Should a Cellist Conduct the Orchestra

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Should a Cellist Conduct the Orchestra

N Cubed Group
They may be the best cellist in the world, but would you really let them conduct the orchestra?
It seems lately that the in vogue thing to do is to have your change project manager lead a transformation programme, which not altogether surprisingly does (or will) lead to problems, failures and very costly initiatives being cancelled or needing to be recovered (even more costly).

When talking about a transformation, be it a full business transformation, which considering few businesses actually transform into something altogether different and so are particularly rare, or sub-transformations such as finance, organisational, operational or technological, because these are more than a change project, they require a different resource profile.

Often described as ‘complex choreography’, this description of transformations began appearing in a number of posts and articles across the web, so extending the analogy to that of an orchestra, which is closer to the reality, hopefully this will go some way to help in the understanding of the difference between change and transformation management.

Of course it could all boil down to a play of semantics, and arguments can be found for calling a change a ‘transformation’, and a transformation a ‘change’, but when you stop trying to work out what the title is and consider the roles required, and more importantly the psychological profiles for such roles, to lead (read: Direct) the initiative, you should see the two are very different.

A transformation will have a number of business areas being affected and so a number of project managers or leads (let’s call them sections – brass, wind, percussion, etc..) and like an orchestra, a ‘conductor’ to make sure they all do what they should in harmony with the other sections and with full awareness of each others part in the ‘composition’ or ‘symphony’.

No matter how great the lead cellist or trumpeter is, you would not have them stand on the podium and conduct the orchestra.

To balance that, nor would you put the conductor in the seat of the lead cellist. They are very different skills and psychologies.

Recently however, leaders in businesses seem to be making decisions to do just that, no doubt in an attempt to reduce the cost of engaging a skilled and experienced Interim transformation director.

For those executives and senior managers with experience of transformations, they know this is a false economy and all too short sighted, as the risk of failure or encountering problems increases greatly by failing to put in place appropriate direction, and the costs being ‘avoided’ up front invariably comes back with a vengeance at a later stage when recovery and rework efforts are needed.

With a number of sources of advice available, including networking events, foundation organisations and online specialist groups, I would advise asking a few peers who have successfully finished their ‘overtures’ about how they avoided the pitfalls, and what resources they deployed in order to de-risk their investment and increase their likelihood of success.

Transformation requires a specific type of direction which you don’t find in change project managers (typically) and almost certainly not in staff members, who are excellently skilled in other areas with different psychological profiles.

Talk to us for impartial and independent advice on transformation and turnaround skills and resources.


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