More thoughts on businesses in transition... or Part Two.

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Recently I wrote a blog on businesses in transition and quickly discovered that the topic was much bigger than a 500 to 750 word blog. In the spirit of what I started, this is the second in a series of thoughts on transition.

Transition (the noun) is defined as the process or a period of changing from one state (or condition) to another*, and with respect to business, I will say this is a constant state... the exception I suppose is when a business is stagnate (showing neither growth nor decline). Even this stagnation though will tip either towards growth or decline in time, and return the business to its natural state of change. BY DEFINITION, A BUSINESS IS ALWAYS IN TRANSITION... sometimes fast and sometimes slow, but always transitioning, one way or another.

One of the considerations that I put forward was Business Transition due to internal factors.

As a working definition, this transition and change in the organization is driven by internal activities and initiatives by leadership and employees to build a more viable and successful business. This is the transition that conjures up the images of people like Jack Welsh, Andy Grove or Steve Jobs whose leadership and vision created great companies and brands (not to mention a great PR machine that made them household names in business).

There are a number of elements that are needed to support this type of transition successfully but unfortunately often get forgotten or dismissed when the organization is small, or if the organization is large, can be unwieldy, administratively onerous, or make the organization slow to react to what's happening outside the company.


The first two elements are components of planning; the development of long term and short term plans.

The long term plan looks at the direction of the organization over the next five years... this is the strategic plan that ensures the organization is aligned with its vision, and keeps an eye on longer term goals to ensure short term activities have the evolution of the organization heading in the right direction. 

The short term plan looks at the next year and is very tactical regarding what needs to be done, how it will be done and what is measured to ensure success. This safeguards that the organization continues to drive activity in line with what it wants to do. In many cases the short term plan is part of the iterative process to get to the longer term goals.

Discipline is needed to ensure that the planning process is part of the business calendar, is properly resourced, and is actively communicated throughout the organization as a priority. Experience has shown that there are two critical components to the planning process: 

  • A framework and process for planning: This will offer focus, context and a process for thinking when people meet around the table. I have always liked the McKinsey 7s model, and although a little long in the tooth, it has always worked to keep everything on topic and moving forward.
  • A facilitator: You need someone designated to manage the planning process and ensure you end up with the deliverables... this also allows leaders the white space to develop their thinking, instead of focusing on the process.


The third element is the review of the people in your organization.

This is extremely important because people "run everything".

The only reason that this is not number one on this list is because you need to know what you are doing (and where you are going) before you can think about the people needed to help you. Every person in the organization should be assessed regarding skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses, so you can understand the capability of the people in the organization. This guides hiring, development, exiting, promotional opportunities and the skills (and people) needed for the future. This review is done at least once and year and supports the long and short term planning.


The forth element is having robust operating mechanisms to manage the business.

In other words, have a project and meeting calendar to execute the plans, and manage the workings of the business in an organized and on-going way. There is always a balance needed between not enough projects and meetings and having too many projects and meetings; in both cases nothing really gets done. What you are looking for is the perfect number of meetings and projects to successfully get things done... there are two main contributors to being effective, and that is leadership and having the resources available to get things done.


The fifth element is having as much transparent communication as possible.  

There are two aspects to this - 

  • Communicate the vision, the plans, what needs to be done, how things are going, etc. as much as possible.
  •  Work out the mechanisms as to how you are going to get your message out there and as deep into the organization as possible (town halls, quarterly reviews, team meetings, 1:1s)


The six element is a culture of urgency, meritocracy, respect, and curiosity.

This is the formula for success in my experience.


Can any of this guarantee success as you transition your business... unfortunately not. Although, not doing it, can almost guarantee difficultly through the natural transition of a business. And this isn't even before you consider external and revolutionary transition.

Not to worry, we will get to that soon enough.