Integration Through Transformation

Why is the dream of integrated talent management so hard to translate into reality?

After more than a decade of “the war for talent,” the quest to integrate talent solutions remains elusive.

Many executives are crying out for better integration. Leaders want the right people with the right skills, and they know that is best accomplished by a global approach to talent management. However, after more than a decade of trying, integrated talent management (ITM) is still not a reality at many corporations. Meanwhile, the war for talent is not going away, it’s just getting worse.

Technology is Not Enough

However, it is much too early to give up on ITM. The idea of making talent management a globally shared pursuit was still a new idea in the late 1990s. So far, the biggest component of ITM’s brief evolution has been the technology.

Companies gather a wealth of personnel data in numerous departments at various locations. It is hard to remember the not-so-distant day when computers were tied to flickering green screens and floppy disks, and the World Wide Web did not exist. Today corporations can collect, crunch and integrate all of that data across departments and continents to manage talent in ways never before possible. ITM would not be attainable without the information network and workforce analytics the last two decades have brought.

However, after huge investments to install ITM tech solutions, corporations are discovering that integration remains elusive. The reason: technology is not enough. You can’t achieve global integration of talent management functions simply by installing the right software.

Two Essential ITM Standards

The path to a talent management breakthrough lies beyond the technology. Tech is just a tool. The real solution lies within the human beings who are using those tools to drive your enterprise. To be successful, ITM must rise to meet two standards: it must

Become connected to enterprise-wide transformation and change. Transformation of culture is best done as an underlying learning experience in context of achieving greater business results.

  • No such thing as partial integration: Many companies have attempted a partial integration of their talent management and have been disappointed with the results. In this regard, ITM is like pregnancy: there’s no such thing as being a little bit integrated. ITM must reach beyond the half measures many corporations have tried so far.

Siloization, whether the product of terfdom or bureaucracy, is what has kept many companies trapped in the 20th century. If siloization is the enemy, and it is, then there is no room to tolerate its vestiges. Every component of talent management must be integrated; the whole system must be transformed; every shadow of siloization must be exposed to the light of integration. ITM must be total.

  • The Transformation must be cultural: Your leaders now have the technological tools at their fingertips to take your talent management to new heights. However, if they still have a silo mentality, nothing has changed. Effective integration occurs only in a culture of collaboration. From the corner offices to the production line, everyone must share the corporation’s vision, purpose, strategy and passion. The cultural shift must be genuine and radical. Some corporations are achieving it and are emerging as 21st century leaders.

The Transformation must start with leadership. Effective leadership must be unified in how it shows up. Leadership being, knowing, and doing harmonizes into a unified “Oneness” that we experienced by all in the organization.

Changing leadership behavior individually and as a group becomes paramount.

A Modern ITM Model

Cultural Transformation is a lofty but realistic goal. We have developed a model that graphically depicts the path to successful integrated talent management. The model (see illustration) is in the form of a wheel.

Figure 1: The BPI Integrated Talent Management ModelIntegration Through Transformation 1

Business strategy is the hub of the ITM wheel. The days when each division looked out for itself, competing with other divisions, are over or need to be. To thrive in today’s hyper-competitive market, every division and employee must be connected by and driven by the company’s vision and strategy.

On the ITM wheel, a ring of six spheres surround the hub.

Those spheres, which form the “ITM circle,” represent a company’s assorted talent management functions: talent acquisition, succession planning, performance management, compensation and benefits, workforce planning, and learning and development. The leaders of each sphere comprise the company’s ex officio ITM team.

It is simply no longer acceptable for these talent functions to operate independently. The spheres have now connected by the technology (the inner ring), but connectivity is not synonymous with integration. Each talent sphere must drop its territoriality and convert to a culture in which they work together to carry out corporate strategy.

Phases of transformation: Changing to a Culture of Collaboration

Transformation of organization culture becomes a byproduct of transforming the business using the latest social psychological principles of small and large group dynamics.

But the question remains: How does a corporation achieve Whole System Transformation that results in genuine collaboration? The answer is the outer rim of BPI’s ITM wheel. The rim is the six-step process of corporate Transformation: evaluate, diagnose, assess, design, implement, and support/reinforce.

An external change agent is often necessary. Best Practice Institute has led many corporations in discovering change including Airbus, Allstate, the Clinton Administration, BAE Systems, General Motors, Liz Claiborne, Kraft, Medtronic, EADS, Barclay Bank Semen Gresik (one of top ten organizations in the fourth largest country) and many more. Its experts excel as external transformation and change agents. Uniquely they transfer their capability to an internal change agent team. A corporation’s silos often are so deeply entrenched that only a sophisticated, cutting edge process will free the organizations resources to become what they know they must become. Doing so will help the Business to take advantage of the tremendous Global market opportunities available today.

The external agent begins by gathering data (“evaluate”). A battery of assessments, pointed interviews, and meetings with key personnel reveal challenges and aspirations. (“diagnose”). For mature organizations that work from an appreciative inquiry philosophy, a positive applied behavioral science and social psychology methodology underpins the work.

With data in hand, key leaders are brought together for a multi-day session of guided interaction. The external agent supports an internal change agent to facilitate the leaders in designing changes and developing a multidimensional commitment and action plan (“design”).

Leaders and teams then begin to enact the plan (“implement”). Of course, meaningful change rarely comes quickly or easily. Leaders need encouragement and accountability (“support/reinforce”) from the CEO (the hub), one’s peers (other spheres of the ITM circle) and the external change agent (outer circle).

Figure 2: BPI’s Transformation ModelIntegration Through Transformation 2

The Transformation process is represented by a circle because there is no start or stopping point; each phase is continual and ongoing. The first miracle is achieving genuine cultural Transformation in the core leadership team. The next miracle is transforming a critical mass of the enterprise so they can maintain an environment in which the culture continues to adapt and evolve.


The Transformation effort begins with the leadership of an organization and works outward to include major customers and stakeholders. Initially the internal change agent identifies an overall need for change and presents the case for Transformation. Ideally the proposal is co-created with the internal change agent team as well and the executive sponsor. The initial client is usually a pilot effort with a function or division with a high state of readiness for change. A unique customized journey is laid out in a collaborative manner. The intent is to gain the client’s commitment to for two events. The first objective is to transform the core leadership team. The second is to transform their organization. The creation of both objectives is a compelling reason for change and a set of clear outcomes. After the prelaunch phase the magnitude of the opportunity available through Transformation becomes apparent.

Transforming the Executive Team

Three of the most important competencies to lead change and transformation in a system are: establishing trust, “being” in effective relationships and having a unified vision for a compelling future. The major difference between traditional teambuilding and transformational teambuilding areas a shift occurs around the 3 aforementioned competencies. We often hear post event that never has the team ever worked so well together or so positive in a unified manner about the future.

In this phase the executive team will:

  • Vent feelings about the current state of their team and organization . Become unhappy with their current state and yearn to create a preferred transformative state.
  • Build and strengthen relationships among themselves but especially with their leader
  • Gain understanding of, and provide input to, the organization’s change focus
  • Unite themselves and their focus and direction
  • Create agreements on leadership behaviors for the organization
  • Determine what they need to do to become smart about leading the rest of the organization
  • Share hope because they for the first time ever they have a sense that their preferred can become a reality.

The culture is now in motion in a manner that reinvents and adjusts itself to its new impending challenges and success. At this point, the team must know how to set the direction and be supportive to begin the design and implementation events for the critical mass. A natural and excited commitment occurs as they look forward to leading the next phase in sweeping change. It is at this point that they must exude confidence and members at all levels of the organization to embrace and pursue the vision. Only after they’ve experienced their own shift can they truly perceive the possibilities that lie ahead for the organization.

One of the more exciting conversations is determining who should represent the larger organization in designing the transformation summits or conferences.

Planning the Conference

One of the key consultants in founding The Best Practice Institute was the late Kathleen Dannemiller. She referred to these events as “releasing of the magic” because an unbelievable confidence emerged that enabled everyone to overcome the challenges that had been surfaced. We have taken Kathleen’s initial work and refined it to new levels. We achieve measurable short and long-term results. Transforming the internal agent andWST develops large interactive events for 100 to 1500 people in a minimum of two and a half days. setting them up politically in the organization with the CEO is key.

Integration Through Transformation 3WST develops large interactive events for 100 to 1500 people in a minimum of two and a half days.

In order for an organization to sustain its agility, the critical mass must experience the shift. This is a shift in behavior and attitudinal mindset and the ability as an organization to execute with a spirit and ability of excellence

The selected design team plus one representative from the executive group will meet 3 to 5 times over a 1 to 3 months. The objective of the design team is to plan in detail the most compelling and powerful meeting that they have ever experienced.

The design team takes the identified outcomes from the executive teambuilding session to determine the content and robust processes for moving forward. The team plays a key role in readying the system for change by keeping their fingers on the pulse of the organization and informing the internal and external change agents about what will work and what will not work in the organization. Along with the internal change facilitators, design team members have a key role in communicating to the organization. They share deep information necessary to instruct and facilitate the activities that occur.

A detailed script emerges that will include all the messaging and group work instructions as well as logistical actions to support the work going on in the room. It is not unusual for this to be a 40 to 70-page document that will be revised 15 to 30 times. The design team is challenged to continuously improve the meeting agenda until they believe that transformation will absolutely occur.

They believe that they will have one shot at making a transformational meeting a historic moment in the history of the company and if they do not succeed in grandeur, most likely engagement of people from the system will dissipate.

The script is reviewed for guidance from the top executive. Post conference, often for the first time, they feel others are enrolled with the same passion that they have for the success of the company.

Logistical Support

The success of the Transformation is dependent upon logistical preparation and the support staff for it. The Transformation essentially is the facilitation of several hundred, and sometimes several thousand, participants working together in breakout groups of 100 and interacting together an entire organism. In spite of the large numbers of participants, the Transformation is every bit as interactive as a team building or planning session. Everyone must be fully engaged in the process to ensure its success.

The location also must be suitable, with a single meeting room of appropriate size, shape, and acoustics. Support staff must know the group’s needs. Each exercise on the script needs careful preparation, right down to the printed instructions. Prior to the event a support-team leader choreographs each step of the script with the needed materials and the movements of a floor support team, which should have one member for every 25 participants in the full group. Information processors deliver materials to tables and then type and copy data generated in the exercises for subsequent table work.

Facilitating the Conference

On the day of the event, a big meeting room is filled with round tables to accommodate hundreds of people meeting in groups of six to ten. Exercises link the work of individuals to their table group, and from this small group to the whole group. The key is to get participants talking and working with each other rather than listening to presenters. Each table group is the result of carefully assigned seating that assures maximum mixture of participants making each table a microcosm of the organization. Each table has a mailbox, easels and other supplies at hand, ready for use in the coming few days. The mailbox facilitates incoming and outgoing communication and links the table group with the whole organization.

Whole Systems Transformation Success Example 1: Fortune 100 Insurance Company

One of the most notable implementations of WST is the transformation of a Fortune 100 Insurance Company’s Customer Enterprise Services.  As the backroom for this top Insurance Company, CES was fielding more than 22 million calls a day, managing more than 250,000 financial products and generating 300 million mailings annually.  Interaction between departments, management and customers was dysfunctional. By engaging the executives and key department leadership, the company was prepared to move forward with a common purpose.  The next stage of the Whole System Transformation called for distribution of this new, transparent flow through the corporation.  Leadership was encouraged to clarify that all ideas were worthy of consideration.  The end result was a corporation with a new, sustainable culture that encouraged fluid engagements with customers, department and leadership.  Not only did CES transform its culture and customer relations but also the top senior executive became the personification of WST and the hero of the organization.

As few as two professional facilitators; one external and one internal, can effectively manage groups up to 1,500 participants. If the planning team has written a good script along with clear instructions for table-group work, the participants begin to facilitate themselves. Unlike small group facilitation that can be flexible in the moment, large-group design must be very thorough and require little or no redesign on the spot.

Each Transformation has unique context and goals. Each has its own personality. Participants engage in a process called “real-time change.” That is, they grapple with fundamental issues that they or the planning team have identified and that involve them in customized interactive activities to resolve their challenges. Past challenges include integrating different IT systems or cultures from an acquired company; creating interdependencies after a corporate restructuring; coping with rapid growth; and doing work right and fast.

Table groups share information and the room becomes a human database. Commitments emerge with involvement. The data generation and decision-making elements of the process create commitment to behavior change on the spot. Participants buy into action plans that they help to develop.

Tacit activities occurring in a Transformation may include some or all of the following:

  • Discussing issues that bear on the event’s outcomes
  • Determining what is possible
  • Establishing commitments and/or action plans for individuals, for functions and across functions. This may include specific behavioral changes required by specific individuals and or groups.
  • Clarifying relationships and expectations across functional divisions and organizational levels
  • Risk-taking within the context of the event
  • Fostering candor to create open communication
  • Innovating in thinking about, and doing, business differently
  • Discovering shared attitudes and feelings
  • Articulating dissatisfaction with the status quo
  • Testing new work processes
  • Tasting the new culture of trust and cooperation

Depending on the size of the system, the conference may be used once or many times to fit the needs of the organization. The events can be serial or sequential. In serial events members divide into groups and experience the same event at different points in time — say the first group one week and the second group the next week. In sequential events, planners define a broad set of tasks and all participants begin in one event and continue in the next.

In large organizations, it is not possible to include all the organization’s members in a single event, so planners develop several events, scheduled close enough together to keep the organization moving forward together and creating a critical mass for change. A power company in the western US held four Transformations with 500 participants in each in a one-month period. Another organization in Africa planned two large events at the top of organization and then eight in its business units. A large company in the US held four large events that built on each other and then held one-day transformational meetings of 100 to 400 people for just one day throughout the organization. This was done against our advice because we felt the transformation can never occur unless people sleep on their data two nights. Well, we were proven wrong. Now we do believe that those transformational experiences would not have occurred unless the critical mass had shifted in the four large meetings of 2 and half to 3 1/2 days

Implementing Commitments & Actions

It’s common for teams intimately connected with the initiation of a Transformation — the executive and conference design teams — to become deeply involved in the implementation phase. It is not uncommon for executive resources to become available. In the case of one of the largest financial institutions in the world, a corporate finance officer spontaneously stood up and said I will give you US$1.5 million to support the 12 change projects that we’ve just initiated. And I might say the results from that year’s work were absolutely remarkable. They are currently celebrating their 3rd annual whole system meeting.

Whole Systems Transformation Success Example 2: President Clinton and the Seventh American Forest Congress

We applied WST at the Seventh American Forest Congress with President Clinton in 1996. It was a nationwide gathering of 1,519 people in Washington D.C. from the 20th to the 24th of February 1996. Government and politics were intentionally transcended. The Forest Congress event was based on the BPI theory and practice of whole system transformation. The Congress was designed by a representative group of those who were to attend. No papers were presented. No disjointed break out groups occurred. The event was a whole system interactive change experience. Each table seated 8­10 people. The makeup of each table was as diverse as possible. Participants were assigned seats to achieve a mix of geographical diversity, interests, and experience. For three and one-half days, the table groups remained together, discussed, voted, and committed to a variety of forest-related issues. The results of the Congress were presented to the United States Congress. Thousands of harmonized actions resulted. Most every major newspaper in the country reported extraordinary results. The 94 local roundtables and collaborative organizations each established action plans. Countless individuals fostered change in their domains. All in all, the experience was a grand success.

Often there is considerable assistance from enthusiastic participants. In the case of a large aerospace engineering organization, 85% of the 350 people committed to post-conference work and followed-up on each activity. So planners find themselves delegating tasks as well as working on particular substantive issues. These substantive tasks are common in implementation phase.

  • Some organizations must telegraph new work processes to affiliates or to remote parts of the organization. In still other instances, participants want to use the techniques they sampled in the large event and embed the practice in their units.
  • Pursue Action Plans. Most Transformations end with creation of action plans. These are the first steps to real process change. Immediately following the event, cross-functional working groups are primed to work on those action plans. Such implementation teams can ensure coordination of follow up activities. We have learned a great deal over the last 30 years on how to utilize extraordinary project management capability to ensure astute execution.
  • Reinforce Practice. It is one thing to articulate new cultural values and practice them in an off-site environment. It is quite another to establish firm habits of behavior that will maintain the paradigm shift and grow that culture. In particular, leaders must model the new behavior.
  • Institutionalize Structures for Change. An organization will not come out of a Transformation the same as when it went in. Magic has happened and tremendous energy has been released. The organization may need to modify or create new processes while major processes will require integration. Leaders must grasp this opportunity to build their capacity for management of change into the organization’s daily operations, such as annual business planning.

Measuring Results

One organization was involved in an independent research activity at the cost of millions of US dollars. The findings were that significant positive change occurred. For example they became identified as the most loved brand in their country. Coca-Cola was number two. The profits in a 2,100 pilot group increased 69% while any of the other 50 divisions only increased their profits by 8%.

Another Fortune 500 organization had 27 people hand in their resignations to corporate HR. Post conference 25 of those who wanted to resign again re-signed up. Part of the reason was of the tremendous cultural transformation that occurred. They wanted to be a part of the new exciting, engaging and involved workforce.

In another instance of one of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. it was reported at a national conference that the organization had spent US$6 Million on WST in a series of large meetings all around the country. The measured results two years later were an increase or savings of US$100 Million.

Whole Systems Transformation Success Example 3: BAE Systems

At BAE Systems, the divisional general manager was searching for a new approach to strategic planning to continue to drive their vision of being the premier innovator of launching systems solutions for a free world that meet customer requirements with on-time delivery at the lowest achievable costs, as well as improve inbound sales. The strategic planning process would require an engaging positive, high-energy force to develop a future focus because its forte is execution. During its implementation and design phases, the team continued to identify, evaluate, and pursue both the existing and emerging launching systems opportunities in the world market. BAE created tactical objectives within one-year through dialogue with 50 key program professionals from three levels. The Innovation phase occurred in a three-day summit with cross-functional stakeholders from six operation units. The planning and implementation teams met monthly for course corrections and presented results. During this phase, inbound sales increased by $18 million.

We have never had event that was not dramatically successful. Change occurs in how participants interact with each other. For example, a change that is barely perceptible at first may become resoundingly clear as the conference draws to a close. People start to believe in each other and gain ways of understanding and working together. Personal lives change. Professional relationships change. The organization acquires the capability to become agile., Rational linear planning is a less important outcome. Participants tear down barriers and put in place a rich web that weaves the organization together in a profound and fundamental way. Confidence emerges that participants themselves can overcome their own challenges. Successful events affect a paradigm shift of the first magnitude. Special skills and learning from new ways of interacting with co-workers to conducting better meetings-become part of the organization’s new culture.

The outcome: Talent not only develops … it transforms. It transforms in context of the organization becoming more effective than it ever could have imagined.

Follow Me On My YouTube Channel

Featured Posts