The Problem with Scaling Transformation

Babatunde Mumuni
3 min readJan 15, 2024

Too many “seniors”, and not enough leaders

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Since the advent of specialization, organizations have always placed a premium on functional competencies. This is because the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so the more “strong hands”, the better the output.

The transition from the industrial to the digital age and the rise of the knowledge worker (some might argue that his fall is imminent) only made this focus on highly skilled specialists even more intense. So as a rookie starting up the career ladder, one thing would be clear to most — I need to level up.

However, organizations have also grown in complexity — the sheer number of employees who work there, the vast and diverse customer bases, and an ever-evolving network of partners and competitors all locked in arms, facing wicked problems. In this context, the highly skilled guru is often a grossly inadequate tool, no matter how proficient.

The other challenge in large organizations is the fact that it is possible to identify a threshold — the barest minimum contribution needed to get by. Do the time and move up the ladder. This is sad but very true, very real. Invariably, you could end up with people who have spent the most time in an organization, possibly holding important positions, but contributing the least actual value.

Regulators of important industries sometimes contribute to this problem. When competencies are prescribed in their approved models and frameworks, the emphasis is usually on one or both of the scenarios identified above — functional skills that you must have and how long you need to have spent on the job. Small wonder that transformation, as critical as it is for all traditional organizations, is such a fraught process with an alarming rate of failure.

Even on a personal level, when most people choose mentors and role models, we base our decisions on these things. We would typically be more impressed with someone who has “done this for over thirty years” than anyone who has done it for less, regardless of what he actually spent the time doing in that period. This is of course a generalization of sorts and isn’t intended to be a judgment on people and their longevity.

There is a whole other set of skills and capabilities required to solve problems in business that are often overlooked or wrongly labeled. They have been on the ascendancy for some time now, but adoption is yet to scale. In traditional business circles, they are still viewed with suspicion. Leadership, Coaching, Design, Empathy, Communication (for building connections, not hitting people with information).

Increasingly, in today’s world, these are the skills that really matter. They make for genuine leaders who are well-rounded and equipped to deal with more than just functional requirements. Leaders who are as comfortable dealing with deep people problems as they are with technical issues. Leaders who can embrace the tension and messiness that are natural offshoots of people coming together to solve difficult problems.

I hope to see competency models and frameworks being revised and updated to contain these. I look forward to the elimination of the “soft” label. I am eager to see organizations being intentional about providing opportunities for people to develop in these areas as they progress in their careers, not abrupt switches that leave them totally unprepared. My argument is that only then will we truly see the transformation that we truly desire scale.

When we have more leaders and fewer “seniors”.



Babatunde Mumuni

I think and write here about life as one continuous experience, not fragments stitched together. I believe that we should partake of this with our whole selves.