Transformation Strategy in the Face of Uncertainty: Planning for a Future that Thrives

This fall, TayganPoint hosted its annual Forum with three spectacular contributors, including Bob McMahon (Merck & Co.); Ricci Whitlow (G&W Laboratories) and Angela Johnson (Johnson & Johnson). Our esteemed speakers joined us for a lively discussion about planning for a future that thrives while living through the ups and downs of leading transformation. The Q&A format provided a great deal of diversity and some fascinating answers and commentary. A synopsis of the panel discussion is as follows:

With market triggers in constant flux — globalization, regulatory pressures, changing consumer demand, new emerging technologies
— it isn’t surprising that over 90% of US multinational companies are either considering or undergoing a significant business transformation this year.
From an uncertain landscape, large-scale business transformation has emerged as a means of adapting to a state of constant change and challenge. But, how do you plan for a future that thrives while still struggling to survive?

Q: How is leading transformation different than in the past?

  • Bob McMahon: In the past many organizations didn’t have any DNA for leading and managing change within the organization. We basically had a contract with employees where we never let anyone go but that is not a strategy for transformation. Instead, we had to do things differently and we had no muscle memory for sustaining long term change. It has taken us quite a bit of time to learn how to lead and manage change. But we have continued to make the investment and are poised to handle change much more effectively now.
  • Angela Johnson: Transformation was an event we talked about for a number of weeks before making a start. We are now more nimble with change because frankly, we deal with change every day. Transformation is now simply part of our culture and a term we use throughout the company.

Q: What do you believe the role of the leader is in driving business transformation?

  • Angela Johnson: When I speak about transformation, I am talking about legacy-affecting change. Leading transformation requires leadership!
  • Ricci Whitlow: The values of each individual leaders and the collective of the company are crucial to bring about the right change by modeling the change. Nothing is more important than the value of being able to drive the right behaviors for the future of an organization.
  • Bob McMahon: When people in the organization hear the word transformation, you want them to pay attention. Transformation in my mind refers to big, hard and long changes (systemic and revolutionary change).

Q: How do you motivate and get employees excited about a transformation, especially if there is a down-sizing element of the change?

  • Ricci Whitlow: The transformations I have been a part of over the last number of years have ironically led to increases in headcount. You would like to think this type of change would be met with enthusiasm, but change is change and people have a hard time with this as well.
  • Bob McMahon: Nothing works better, in my mind, then creating a crisis to create focus. The strength of the charter and the strength of character of the leaders to be bold and not afraid of change. Being flexible about how we are going to meet the needs of the transformation should be the foundational discussion going forward.

Q: How do you measure success within business transformation?

  • Angela Johnson: Being able to paint a picture of what the transformed-state of the organization will look like. Employees need to know what the future is supposed to look like. They too will judge whether an effort was successful, not just executive leaders.

Q: What is the biggest lesson learned that you would like to share?

  • Bob McMahon: Creating a crisis can sometimes create focus; Go fast even if it’s messy, sometimes it’s better to clean up the mess in the interest of getting to the goal; We must become better story tellers.
  • Ricci Whitlow: G&W Labs focuses their team by way of Perform Initiatives & Transform Initiatives; The values you possess define a leader.
    Angela Johnson: Leaving a legacy means having clarity around goals.

In the event you missed this year’s TayganPoint Fall Forum, we hope we’ll have the opportunity to see you next year, as we continue to explore the topics and challenges most relevant to those in the midst of transforming their business.


Joy Taylor  |  CEO & Co-Founder  |  TayganPoint Consulting Group  |
Sondra Leibner  |  Senior Consultant  |  TayganPoint Consulting Group  |

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