Transformation requires more than the right ingredients

A few themes have emerged in conversations with business leaders in the process of transforming their organizations with respect to their go-to-market offering:

· It’s hard to get everyone in the organization aligned and keep them aligned

· The business development team doesn’t get it and seems stuck selling the legacy offerings the way they always have…

As I sit here, trying to distill these insights into concrete problems that can be solved, I am struck by a real world metaphor for transformation happening in front of my eyes. My daughter is making pancakes for our family this morning, and I see her getting out the various necessary ingredients:

· Pancake mix

· Milk

· Eggs

· Oil

Mixed together, these stand-alone ingredients will soon be transformed into delicious pancakes. However, if you don’t have the right ingredients, or if they aren’t precisely measured or portioned correctly, the chances of transforming them into your desired end-state (in this case, “pancakes”) is incredibly low.

Just having the right ingredients isn’t a guarantee of a successful outcome, either. Sticking with the pancake metaphor, there are two more critical steps:

1. Combine & Mix — the ingredients together

2. Cook — the mixed pancake batter into individual pancakes

In many cases, even the order in which you mix the ingredients and how you prepare them prior to mixing can be really important (while this is true for pancakes as well, luckily the ingredients are simple enough that it’s pretty forgiving).

And just because you have a great mixture of pancake batter, it doesn’t guarantee that the pancakes will be cooked correctly. Care still needs to be applied to this final step of cooking both sides of the pancakes to ensure that they don’t end up undercooked or burnt.

While pancakes are a very different and much simpler offering than professional services, I still like the metaphor. Imagine you’re the end-customer and you asked for pancakes… If someone brought you just the individual ingredients or even the mixed pancake batter, my guess is that you’d find the customer experience to be unsatisfying. Likewise, if you tried to make pancakes without all the right ingredients, a less than optimal outcome can be predicted.

So, what does all this mean to organizations struggling with their own transformation? I believe these simple metaphors can help you internalize and empathize with the challenges that are surfacing internally and externally as you lead your organization through these difficult, but required, transformations.

For example, I recently caught up with an incredibly talented Design Thinking leader who spoke about creating “recipes” that combined various Design Thinking artifacts, processes, and tools aligned to specific business challenges so there’s a clear and repeatable path to get to the desired outcomes.

To create a recipe for transformational success that is appropriate for your organization, here are:

· some key audiences to consider

· typical challenges for this audience framed with our pancake metaphor

· a few How Might We (HMW) questions designed to elicit potential solutions

With upwards of 70% of transformations doomed to fail according to McKinsey and the academic research, the value of planning communication and experiences for the people involved cannot be overstated.

For many companies, a successful transformation is imperative to their survival — yet we know these initiatives take time and are not easy. Being able to predict some of the common challenges and taking steps to mitigate them by ensuring one has the right ingredients as well as the appropriate processes and tools is a great way to help achieve the desired outcome(s).

Please contact me if you have questions about how to best apply these concepts to your business, and/or how I can help make the transformational growth plan for your business a reality.

NOTE: This article is also published on my website blog.




I help companies grow (to learn more:, dad of 2 teens, and husband of 1 very patient woman... Additional musings can be found on Twitter @Sauld

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Saul Delage

Saul Delage

I help companies grow (to learn more:, dad of 2 teens, and husband of 1 very patient woman... Additional musings can be found on Twitter @Sauld

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