The Best Transformation is the One You Don’t Need


Strategic Roadmap, Strategic Services

The Best Transformation is the One You Don’t Need

Growing up in a military family, there was always a saying in our house. It comes from the Army: “Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance.” We hear it in other places, too, whether it’s the Boy Scouts’ motto (“be prepared”), or just our parents telling us to bring a coat because it’s supposed to be cold later, we have learned that it’s better to plan too much and not need it than plan too little. 

So why don’t we apply the same approach to our businesses?

For whatever reason, we tend to keep doing the same thing over and over, hoping it will get better. Actually, it’s not that hard to guess why this happens. HR departments, especially in smaller organizations, are often working at maximum capacity, wearing a variety of hats with a mix of insufficient infrastructure and outdated processes and policies to blame. Most organizations recognize the need for transformation. Very few of the organizations we talk to think they are doing everything perfectly and just need to tweak the technology – they know that they need to take a long, hard look at how they are doing things. As they grow, HR wants to do better for their customers and their peers; they just can’t seem to get the time or attention to do so.

Unfortunately, most organizations tend to deprioritize HR technology when allocating resources, which means making the existing systems or manual processes work “for now,” while the HR team continues to build countless workarounds outside the system to compensate. As those workarounds gain widespread acceptance, they simply become the process, regardless of the manual effort and risk of error. This is particularly prevalent in small to medium sized companies that are trying to grow. 

At some point, the inefficiency and error risk become too great and someone decides it’s time for “transformation,” which can mean new technology, new people, new org structure…and the same old processes and policies. This is a mistake and the reason so many organizations fail. They avoid true transformation because it can take time and resources, and all too often companies don’t see the value and don’t want to spend the time and money. All of that adds up to a never-ending cycle of under-committed transformation that can lead to a parade of consulting firms coming into your business and telling you what you should do, and most of the time that advice is that you need to reduce your operating budget – right?

So what’s the answer? Consultant-proof your business and avoid HR transformation.

Strange thing for a consulting firm to say, we know. But we truly believe that the best thing you can do for your business is start making changes and plans NOW to avoid the need for a larger transformation down the road. And yes…a consultant can help you do this, but we should be there for support and guidance, not park our butts there! We want to see you reach your true potential and goals.

So how do you grow your company and avoid a large-scale HR transformation when you get there? 

Start now. Don’t wait until you’re “ready.” Don’t wait until you are too big. Don’t wait until you have time. Don’t wait until someone tells you that you have to change. Just start.

Start small. The smallest changes can have the biggest impacts and help you gain momentum as you work through your wish list.

Start smart. You still need a plan and a vision. If you know your company wants to scale up, you know roughly what you need to do to support this. Put together a roadmap that will guide your efforts as you navigate the work. 

Start collaboratively. One of the biggest mistakes we see is a tendency to think about HR transformation in a vacuum. Engage your stakeholders (especially IT) early and make sure you have a governance framework in place to help you prioritize initiatives as you move forward.

There’s no way around it – change takes work, whether it’s through a massive transformation effort or through incremental projects working towards a larger goal. Growing companies truly need to think about transforming HR along the way to mature with the company so you avoid HR Transformation in the future. Can consultants still help you with this work? Absolutely! But the goal should be to engage, learn and move on from the consultant, having confidence in the plan you’ve built.


  • Kimberly Carroll

    Kimberly Carroll loves change and helping others through her role at IA. Kimberly’s clients look to her as a sounding board, therapist and mentor. She is passionate about change and using her background to influence HR leaders to truly transform their organizations.


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