The Keys to a Winning Transformation

Transformation is not just about short-term solutions, but about long-term healing. It's about understanding how to remove broader barriers and obstacles, how to achieve results that generate sustainable advantage and, at the same time, create momentum from the start. Successful transformation leaders promote a collective mindset when it comes to posing and solving problems. They motivate their people to be inquisitive, to offer constructive criticism, and to find their own answers to the issues they face.

Additionally, they cultivate an open environment where issues and problems can be raised so that they can be quickly and effectively addressed. Surprisingly, few studies have been conducted that aim to quantify the factors that contribute to the success of business transformation. Of those that have been conducted, 479 said that their organizations' transformations successfully improved performance and enabled them to achieve sustained long-term performance. Waves of transformation must be designed to demonstrate that the transformation is financially self-sustaining. When leadership fosters a culture that suppresses timely notification of problems, this can lead to major issues that will affect the overall success of the program. When front-line employees take the initiative to drive change, transformations have a 71% success rate.

According to research conducted by my company in collaboration with the Saïd Business School at Oxford University, 83% of respondents said that their company transformations were fully or partially focused on changing the long-term health of organizations through capacity building, changing mentality or culture, or developing a capacity for continuous improvement. When asked what they would change if the transformation happened again, almost half of the respondents (and most of them) wish their organizations had spent more time communicating a story of change. Among respondents whose business transformations failed to engage line managers and front-line employees, only 3% say they were successful, compared to success rates of 26% and 28%, respectively, when each of these groups is engaged. A number of specific practices that help companies connect strategy with daily work, deliver value more efficiently to customers, allow people to contribute to the maximum of their capabilities, and discover new ways of working are related to the long-term health of the organization and can prevent companies from going backwards in increasing performance and support continuous improvements after transformation. It cannot be delegated to a project management office or to a central team whose presence (or not) does not clearly influence the success of a transformation while the executives continue to work as usual. When I reflect on my 32-year career as a consultant, the most important lesson I've learned is that you can't apply the same transformation model to every organization. Each organization has its own unique needs and challenges that must be addressed in order for it to succeed.