Blue Line

Features Health & Wellness
Emotionally-involved people equal successful transformations

February 4, 2020  By Isabelle Sauve and Bruno Seguin

In both public and private sectors, organizations are perpetually trying to improve, restructure or transform a major part of their operations, people and processes. New available technologies, corporate governances, rules and regulations, social changes or market demand are often the reasons why these organizations undertake major transformations.

What is generally called a “transformation” is a change in the strategic management that aims to align people, processes and technological initiatives with new visions to help support the new strategies.

Organizational transformation is a complex endeavour, which includes many components and specific factors for both the private and public sectors. A critical issue of transformation is the ability to thoroughly conceive the structure prior to the start of the transformation. Implementing a planning process is often divided into five key activities: preparation, assessment, plan, development and implementation.

The majority of organizations undertaking transformations are quite familiar with these five activities. Nonetheless, 74 per cent of the private sector’s and 80 per cent of public sector’s “transformation efforts fail to deliver their objectives,” according to research from global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company.


The lack of resource allocation is one of the most common reasons, although studies are showing that emotional adoption by individuals is pivotal to all transformation success. Despite this fact, emotional adoption is a long-term investment that most leaders fail to realize.

There are multiple reasons why transformations in public sector and government agencies fail at a higher rate than in the private sectors; this article highlights only a few of them.

All public sector and government agencies are facing the need to improve their operations, deal with more and more stringent budgets, and provide a better public service experience. It is not only the consequence of their leaders’ promises or goals, it is a sustained worldwide evolution.

With a generally “less culture-adverse mentality,” the public sector and government agencies must pay attention to the people and place them at the heart of the transformation process in order to succeed.

Large transformation projects must be scalable to facilitate their management and implementation, and they must be accepted by people overall within the workforce. “Scalability” in transformation is the ability to nurture and assign dedicated and emotionally committed resources to the project.

McKinsey identified five success factors with a “strong people component” in government transformation: committed leadership, compelling communication, cadence and co-ordination in delivery, clear purpose and priorities, and capability for change.

Furthermore, it is crucial for organizations to perform high on the Organizational Health Index (OHI) to be able to transform and adapt rapidly. Organizations can measure and manage health, which means they measure how well they align, execute and renew in the same way they measure performance.

Another study from McKinsey measured the health of more than 2,000 organizations in both the public and private sectors using their Organizational Health Index Survey, accounting for five million respondents. This study “indicates that over 75 per cent of public-sector organizations have below-average health.”

The research also clearly indicates that organizations in the public sector fall short when it comes to “culture, co-ordination and capabilities.” McKinsey notes, “only in the dimension of leadership do public-sector organizations match the health of their private-sector peers.”

As previously mentioned, with a risk adverse culture, civil servants who would try to innovate or outperform are more likely to be penalized in case of failure than they are to be rewarded. Similarly, in a law enforcement environment, as an example, a daring initiative to improve a service for the safety of the population has little chance to reward the civil servants at the helm of the project if a small number of complaints are received about the change.

“Likewise, a public-sector manager who succeeds in improving efficiency in his or her department might be ‘rewarded’ with a reduced budget — but punished with a poor performance review if the effort fails,” McKinsey continues on its website.

In our previous article, we also highlighted the importance of development plans in order to keep the personnel motivated and skilled. When it comes to transformation, this development becomes significant. Indeed, research suggests managers in public sectors were seen as deficient in at least three important interpersonal skill factors areas: providing feedback, motivating employees and supporting their development. The public sector participants in the survey “were less likely than the average participant to agree that managers at within their organizations were trained in these skills.”


Bruno Seguin is a senior executive manager and international business consultant with experience in global operations, international business development, strategic planning, leadership and corporate governance. He is also an ultra-runner, 9th place finisher at the Racing the Planet/4 Deserts 2018 Series and fellow Guinness World record holder.

Isabelle Sauve is a 13-year veteran with the OPP, currently with the Lanark County Detachment. She has a MA in psychology and is a
PhD candidate. She is also an ultramarathon/ endurance athlete and the Racing the Planet/4 Deserts 2018 Series winner as well as a Guinness World record holder. She can be contacted at:

Print this page


Stories continue below