Change is a team sport…

Sportsmen and women from 204 nations will compete in the London 2012 games. For many of these athletes, the 2012 games represent the ultimate testing ground. Pitting themselves against the best of the best – and (in many cases) themselves –  they will run, jump, wrestle, swim and swat their way to glory in over 302 medal events.

Watching Friday night’s Olympic opening ceremony, I found myself really moved by the collective esprit d’corps as the first of the 10,490 athletes entered the main stadium, cheered on by 80,000 local well-wishers, and a global audience of billions.  It felt good to be part of the celebration.

Of course, the 30th Olympiad is the culmination of years of preparation and the hard work of many, many people. Which got me thinking…the whole event has parallels with business change and transformation.  Specifically, moving from a current state (planning to host a global event in a deprived borough in London) to a desired state of play (delivering the games successfully). And like business change – whether it’s to do with culture, process or strategy – planning, sacrifice and sweat are part of the deal!

While you need strong leaders to champion and drive transformational change, the reality is that it doesn’t happen without the team. Even solo athletes have a cadre of coaches, nutritionists, psychologists and friends who spur them on to realise great things – achieving gold at the London Olympics or exceeding their personal best!  To my mind, this is where many organisations falter.  Leaders get so focused on the future state, that they forget about the present one. Change doesn’t happen just because the CEO says so.  Business transformation is a journey, and clearly you need to prepare well. However,truly successful transformation comes for those who recognise that their people are pivotal in making it happen. Involving your home team in the process can make the difference between being a corporate catastrophe or a true contender.

What do you think?  Do leaders, or employees make change happen?  Comments on the blog, pls.