10 questions to ask to keep your business transformation on track
Just how do you keep a transformation on track, asks Karen Thomas-Bland, founder at Seven, a business transformation consultancy based in London. Transformation in this context is defined as an organisation-wide performance improvement and organisational health effort to improve critical business drivers e.g. top line growth, capital productivity, operational effectiveness. So, whether you are running or advising on a transformation, or a board member whose organisation is transforming, these are the types of questions to consider. What questions would you add?
- Has the organisation identified its full value creation potential though a private equity style due diligence process to look at, for example, cashflow, liquidity, product analysis or expense control? In oury experience the value pools identified yield less than anticipated so it useful to spend time here to understand the value flows. If you ask the CEO to put themselves in an activist investor’s shoes what would they be doing?
- Has the value case been planned into initiatives with a value case attributed? It’s important to establish initiative owners for these with clear milestones and accountabilities.
- Is there the aspiration and conviction of the CEO and does the board share this? These are high stakes efforts with high reputational impacts.
- Is there alignment around a common purpose, vision and strategy? Often organisations assume that a CEO deck presentation is enough, but this would not likely provide the context and momentum to sustain the transformation over time. Like any story it needs context, vision and a call to action.
- Is there time, effort and energy being invested to make the transformation a reality? It’s useful to understand what the organisation plans to stop doing and or repurpose.
- Is there the mindset, behaviour or capacity to pull it off? Is there an organisation competence in transformation? Most CEOs and top teams are more accomplished running a business in a stable, changing state but not a transformative state.
- Is the pace and discipline being set through the transformation office and is this dynamic and agile to adjust and respond to data in real time?
- Is there a chief transformation officer to challenge, question and push? It’s important to resist the temptation to make this an operator role — CTOs are agitators, not operators and need a mandate from the board and a clear authority to operate.
- Is there a plan to change culture and mindsets that are holding the organisation back and embed the right incentives? We would expect to see a plan of behaviour to change and nudges being deployed to start forming new habits.
- What happens when the CTO and transformation office is disbanded? Transformations typically degrade rather than fail so it’s important to understand how momentum will be sustained.
Based in London and with over 24 years’ global experience, Karen Thomas-Bland is often cited as one of the top business transformation consultants and coaches in the world. She is a trusted advisor to boards, executive teams and investors, creating sustainable, long-term value for FTSE/Fortune businesses and PE funds. She writes for many publications including The Times, FT, Association of MBAs and Management Today.