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Mistakes CEOs Make in Business Transformations 


Mistakes CEOs Make in Business Transformations 

In this article, Tiago Garjaka explains how CEOs undermine and inhibit the business transformation process.

We all know that CEOs play a unique role in an organization. They are responsible for linking the organization to the outside world, setting up and delivering on the vision, strategy and goals, leading the executive team, and defining the culture, all while ensuring that the company thrives. Piece of cake. 

CEOs also play an important role in transformations, holding the ultimate responsibility for its success or failure. Even if the organization has a Transformation Officer, the accountability still sits squarely with the CEO. They are the final decision maker within the company and have the entire workforce constantly looking to them for guidance.

As a matter of fact, lack of commitment from the CEO is the root cause of the great majority of transformation failures. It almost guarantees failure because hard decisions won’t be made in a timely manner, the most pressing issues won’t be promptly addressed, and employees will feel like embracing the transformation is a choice rather than a necessity. 

I am not questioning CEOs’ commitment to their companies; much on the contrary, I know that they want to be wildly successful. Sadly, there are a number of ways in which they undermine their own transformations.

Failing to engage employees in the vision. I get it: crafting a compelling transformation story is far from trivial, and so is the amount of time CEOs and the executive team need to invest to secure buy-in from their employees. However, this is necessary for success. CEOs may think the story is good enough, but it may not resonate with employees. CEOs may think that the organization “surely got the message” after a few presentations, but buy-in takes a lot more time.

Hoping to be liked by key leaders. Some CEOs resist making unpopular decisions because of their desire to be liked by the key leaders and the organization. Worse yet, many CEOs demonstrate a reluctance to let go of leaders who are not contributing, especially when there is a shared working history involved. The job is not a popularity contest; it is about ensuring that the company stays relevant. 

Lacking alignment with the transformation team. The transformation team communicates “potato” and the CEO says “tomato”; the transformation team goes left and the CEO goes right. Whatever the miscommunication may be, employees will follow what the CEO says and does. When that happens, employees also start questioning the transformation team, making it much harder for them to drive real change.

Reversing decisions made by the transformation team without its involvement. The work is progressing well, and then, out of nowhere, the transformation team learns that the CEO has decided to undo a decision already made because one of his most trusted lieutenants convinced him that was the right thing to do. Although it is the CEO’s prerogative to overrule and reverse decisions when needed, there is a right way of doing so. The moment the CEO does that without first discussing it with the transformation team, they make it clear to the rest of the organization that they will succumb if pressed the “right” way and by the “right” people.


Key points include:

  • Constantly changing priorities
  • Overreacting to issues
  • Cultivating a limiting culture


Read the full article, CEOs, stop undermining your transformations!, on