With regard to this book's title and to the model that Behnam N. Tabrizi, it is important to note at the outset that he does not believe that organizational transformation can be completed in only three months. What he offers is a framework with which to formulate a program that, once implemented, may require 6-12 additional months (or more) to achieve the desired objectives. The proposed model has these characteristics: all-encompassing (i.e. "all aspects of the company, looking under all the rocks and leaving no stones unturned"), integrative (i.e. "various functions and processes within the organization" are synchronized), fast (i.e. "fully engaged in all [its] efforts in parallel, looking at everything at once" expeditiously), and have full, passionate commitment and buy-in, "especially at the top layers of the organization."
Tabrizi rigorously examines six companies that have used the 90 days model: 3M, VeriSign, Nissan, Bay Networks, Apple, and ACI. All of them proceeded through a multi-phase process. Here's the timetable:
Pretransformation (30-90 days)
Phase 1: Diagnosis (30 days)
Phase 2: Envisioning the future (30 days)
Phase 3: Paving the road (30 days)
Transformation implementation (6-12 months)
Of course, these are general guidelines and the timetable will vary among organizations that commit themselves to transformation initiatives and progress of such initiatives will also vary, once formulated and then implemented. Barriers are inevitable and some will probably be the result of what James O'Toole has so aptly characterized as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." He correctly points out that "today's executives believe they are struggling with an unprecedented leadership challenge to create internal strategic unity within a chaotic external environment." This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that so many companies are now competing in what Thomas Friedman has described as a "flat world."
Of special interest to me is what Tabrizi has to say about envisioning the future during the second phase, in Chapter 5. "Now, it is time for the teams to shift their focus and start looking at solutions for [the problems previously identified]. Over the next thirty days, with [various] pain points in mind, the teams will work on identifying various alternatives for treatment and remedy" by following this sequence: cascading goals > creating a set of metrics > rationalization of key areas > developing a set of "big ideas" > gap analysis > ongoing organizational excellence > get an early start on implementation [i.e. "picking low-hanging fruit" > Day 60 integration meeting > tiger teams. Tabrizi carefully explains what each of the steps in this sequence involves, and, correlates the importance of each to the other steps that precede and follow it. Along the way, he cites real-world examples from companies that include Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Nissan, VeriSign, Telefónica de España, Bay Networks, and The Home Depot. By the completion of Phase 2, teams will have "rationalized and streamlined their portfolio of products and services and used gap analysis of revenue projections...[and will have] developed their big ideas, which were recommendations shared with the EMT [i.e. executive management team] at the day 60 integration meeting. In some cases, new rapid response teams, called tiger teams, need to be created to address areas that have been previously ignored or overlooked."
Throughout the balance of his narrative, Tabrizi explains how to build on accomplishments achieved through the second phase so that those involved are well-prepared to meet the challenges that await them when they begin the 6-12 month process of full implementation. The model he proposes is not for every organization, as he duly acknowledges. Moreover, those organizations that that select it when planning and then implementing transformation initiatives must be sufficiently agile and flexible to make whatever modifications of the model may be necessary.
"However, it is only a matter of time before change is required again. The question then is, How do I continue to change before I have to? The beauty of the 90 days model is that it spins out an army of change agents with informal networks and experience working across numerous boundaries, and who have internalized change and the change process." Tabrizi then goes on to point out that, by creating an organization of change leaders that think outside the box, "the company will be better prepared to change in the future, fir employees will be less resistant and more experienced...Instead of being something to be feared, change becomes something that is empowering. Change promotes growth. And that is the ultimate power of transformation."
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out James O'Toole's Leading Change: The Argument for Values-Based Leadership, Corporate Agility: A Revolutionary Model for Competing in a Flat World co-authored by Charles E. Grantham, James P. Ware, and Cory Williamson, Kevan Hall's Speed Lead: Faster, Simpler Ways to Manage People, Projects and Teams in Complex Companies, Dean R. Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success, and Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.