Following one of my interventions in a seminar on transformation, some participants regretted that I did not propose a method. This is not the first time that, faced with the difficulty of leading an organizational transformation, the need for a method has been strongly expressed. But I resist it because I am convinced that not only is transformation not a question of method, but that a method, whatever it may be, is often an obstacle to its success.
GE has just dismissed its CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, who has been in office for sixteen years. Despite considerable work in transforming the business, an ambitious innovation drive, and a big push on some hot topics such as the Internet of Things and sustainable “eco” development, which together seemed to represent the ideal transformation strategy, the results have been disappointing, and the company is now in the hands of activist investors who may soon be dismantling it. If GE has done what looks on paper like the ideal transformation program, and yet fails in the end, what lessons can we draw from its story for innovation and management in times of disruption in general?