Don’t forget ‘formation’ in your ‘transformation’

Butterfly hatching

Transformation. A word going around many organisations at present. Technology has advanced to enable more effective ways of working and has created other strategic possibilities. To remain relevant, many organisations will need to transform the way they operate.  

Often the temptation is to go in search of a transaction. Silver bullets like a training course in a new methodology. A new piece of software. A restructure. All these can be useful and could even catalyse the change. 

But a transformation must come from a culture change. Which means individuals need to be open to changing themselves. Adopting new behaviours or practices that change the way we work.

So how do we make this shift?

Focus on formation. Put ‘formation‘ at the centre of your ‘transformation‘.

The behaviours and practices we do on a regular basis form us in a certain trajectory. 

I’m a parent. Not a perfect one. But there are regular practices I engage in with my kids. One is the coffee date with my daughter (she’s 6) before school once a week. This started about a year ago. I was travelling a lot and we weren’t communicating well. I thought one on one time would help us connect better. We both look forward to this time. It’s transforming our relationship in the direction of the communication and connection we aspire to.

Practices like these are intentional ‘cultural’ practices. The way we do things around here. Over time the practices may change but the focus is on formation in a certain direction. 

So how can this work for you in the workplace? In your organisation? Once you have some understanding of the strategic direction of the organisation, try the following frame I’ve been working on. *

Focus. Amplify. Persist.


Focus on three or four key behaviours that will be most formative. Things that will lead to other good practices. Jon Katzenbach would call these the ‘Critical Few‘.  It will take some effort to distil down the key behaviours from a long list of potential options. A good place to start is what you perceive to be behaviours that are already having an impact. What are the ‘good operators’ demonstrating that is resonating with those around them?

To get the behaviours started, consider BJ Fogg’s Behavioural Model:

Behaviour = Motivation + Ability (to carry out the behaviour) + Prompt

How could you choose a behaviour that will appeal to core motivators for relatedness, competence and autonomy?

How can you make it as easy as possible to carry out the action?

What prompt or reminder mechanism do you need to put in place to trigger the behaviour?


As we see the behaviours having an impact, we amplify them. Find ways to encourage others adopt the behaviours. It doesn’t matter what position you hold.

Whether publicly or privately, you can provide positive feedback to affirm those that are choosing the key behaviours. Describe the actions you’ve witnessed and the positive impact they have had. Who could you provide with positive feedback on their behaviour today?


Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Remember it’s not a ‘silver bullet’. Usually the process is hard. It’s why we need to persist. Find a few other people to commit to the key behaviours.

Given the complexity of organisations, some key behaviours may prove to be ineffective. We keep reviewing and change if necessary. But let’s not abort mission without persisting enough to collect the evidence to confirm the behaviour is ineffective. Who could you connect with regularly in your organisation to commit to the desired behaviours and build momentum towards transformation?

*But what if the strategic direction is unclear (this can be the case for various reasons we won’t go into here)? Start with behaviours that unlock people’s intrinsic motivation. Behaviours that connect people, promote learning and give people a sense of control over their work. 

The reality is we’re in a process of formation all the time. We have habits and routines whether we think of them in that way or not. The question is: what level of intent we are going to bring to our formation that will lead to true transformation?

I coach the people I work with in their ‘intentional formation’. If this is something of interest to you, book in a time to talk here.

Doug Maarschalk guides workplace teams to become more ‘human’ by growing a culture of contribution, learning and empowerment. He is a facilitator, consultant and coach who helps teams get clear on their strategy and change their thinking to become high performing. He’s worked with clients in the horticulture, banking, logistics and manufacture sectors along with local government. Read more about the Services Doug provides and the Clients he has worked with.

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