Busi­ness Transformation

Is your busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion “sticky”?

November 10, 2021


Krish­na Paupamah

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

I once attend­ed a meet­ing where an attendee raised a bit­ing ques­tion: “We’ve had trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes before, but per­for­mance inevitably drops. Why should this project be any different?”

The CEO respond­ed, “Why is it the job of the con­sul­tants to sus­tain per­for­mance after they have gone? They aren’t going to be around!”

The CEO got it right: It is mis­guid­ed to believe that change will be sus­tained once you’ve fin­ished a trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme if you don’t do the work. 

Trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes are vital. But even the best-designed process­es, train­ing and organ­i­sa­tion designs will not guar­an­tee the new ways of work­ing will be main­tained. To main­tain change, one needs to be vig­i­lant in moti­vat­ing employ­ees to stick to using new process­es, meth­ods, and tools.

Let me give you an example.

I’m a sales­per­son. I’ve been trained to use a par­tic­u­lar sales pitch. I realise that the new way of work gets me more sales, so I’m more moti­vat­ed to car­ry on with the method because it works. This is called “intrin­sic motivation”.

On the oth­er hand, if I’m being told to pro­duce a report that nobody looks at and doesn’t help me sell, there is a high like­li­hood I’m going to stop prac­tis­ing that change. It’s because the report is not aligned to my intrin­sic moti­va­tions – it’s for some­one else’s pur­pose. The only rea­son I’ll car­ry on pro­duc­ing the report is if my boss is breath­ing down my neck, telling me: “I still want to see that report!”

In a per­fect world, every work­er would be intrin­si­cal­ly moti­vat­ed to do every task, but in the cor­po­rate are­na, we know that there are things we do that may not direct­ly help us in our work, but they are still very impor­tant to the organisation.

And this is the dilem­ma we have with long-term sus­tain­abil­i­ty: the changes which are intrin­si­cal­ly moti­vat­ing, the ones that will direct­ly ben­e­fit employ­ees or help them work bet­ter, will stick. But a lot of changes require extrin­sic moti­va­tion, so it lies on the shoul­ders of some­body else to fol­low up and make sure that the changes stick.

Many change ini­tia­tives fail because, post-project, lead­er­ship failed to ensure that the changes were sus­tained as they were dis­tract­ed by new ini­tia­tives or agen­das. As a result, any­thing that was not intrin­si­cal­ly moti­vat­ed in the trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme may even­tu­al­ly die off.

One com­pa­ny we’ve worked with, how­ev­er, was very suc­cess­ful at mon­i­tor­ing any fall offs. A huge fac­tor in mak­ing that hap­pen was the fact that the KPIs were per­fect­ly aligned to busi­ness objec­tives and any issues with extrin­sic moti­va­tion were quick­ly picked up through per­for­mance measures.

Mak­ing trans­for­ma­tion stick 

Every trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme has bits that stick, and bits that don’t stick.

Ulti­mate­ly, lead­ers have to recog­nise that cer­tain parts of any change process require extrin­sic moti­va­tion per­ma­nent­ly to be sus­tained. If follow-ups don’t hap­pen, per­for­mance will inevitably drop.

In our expe­ri­ence, extrin­sic moti­va­tion rou­tines take a long time to be embed­ded in an organ­i­sa­tion. Research says that the aver­age time­frame is about two to three years. 

One of the best ways to embed these rou­tines is to digi­tise them. 

Over time, lead­er­ship will change, and employ­ees will come and go. As a result, agen­das will change too as the new lead­er­ship looks at dif­fer­ent things. Embed­ding the change in a dig­i­tal solu­tion helps ensure that best prac­tices won’t leave the organ­i­sa­tion when employ­ees leave or lead­ers change. And as dig­i­tal sys­tems often come with auto­mat­ed reminders, if tasks are not done, auto­mat­ic alerts can trig­ger some­one to fol­low up.

Basi­cal­ly, when the digi­ti­sa­tion of changes is imple­ment­ed cor­rect­ly, it makes it much hard­er for peo­ple to evade best practices. 

Aside from digi­ti­sa­tion, anoth­er solu­tion is to have resources ded­i­cat­ed to “keep an eye on the ball”—this is often called a Project Man­age­ment Office (PMO). Not only can they ensure past changes are sus­tained, but they can also seek new oppor­tu­ni­ties for change.

The focus on new oppor­tu­ni­ties for change inter­est­ing­ly helps sus­tain past change as well. When seek­ing more change, you invari­ably end up check­ing on the past changes as well. 

I’ve had the priv­i­lege to revis­it some of past clients many years after we’ve worked on a trans­for­ma­tion project with them. I notice that the clients that did best were the ones who digi­tised the changes and main­tained a PMO func­tion that mon­i­tored sus­tain­ing change. 

Anoth­er client scaled up their PMO office group-wide post project and they have enjoyed record-level KPIs ever since.


There’s no sil­ver bul­let when it comes to the long-term sus­tain­abil­i­ty of change. To ensure that your busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion is “sticky”, you will need to recog­nise that there are post-transformation oblig­a­tions to be followed.

To quote famous yoga teacher BKS Iyen­gar, “Change leads to dis­ap­point­ment if it is not sus­tained. Trans­for­ma­tion is sus­tained change, and it is achieved through practise.”

How can your organ­i­sa­tion prac­tise sus­tain­able change?

Krish­na Pau­pamah has worked with com­pa­nies glob­al­ly to trans­form their busi­ness for over 35 years. He is the Founder and Group CEO of Renoir Con­sult­ing. He can be reached at [email protected]

This col­umn was first pub­lished in Busi­ness Today.


Krish­na Paupamah

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

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