Eight questions for board members governing a business transformation
The board plays a fundamental role in a business transformation’s success according to Karen Thomas-Bland, founder at Seven, a business transformation consultancy based in London. It needs to satisfy itself that there is clear ambition and direction for the transformation, that leadership are up for the challenge, determine if they have been bold and brave enough, if the right value pools have been identified, the metrics that will change, that a robust plan is in place for implementation and the right balance is being achieved between transforming and operating the business.
Here is a set of questions board members can use at the proposal stage, pre-mobilisation and throughout the programme to ensure the transformation is well governed.
Questions for the proposal phase
1. Impact — how will the transformation impact show up in our P&L, balance sheet and metrics e.g. EBITDA, cost, revenue and in what timeframe?
2. Buy-in — how committed are the board, executives and investors to the transformation outcomes? What are the principle risks and reservations?
3. Strategic choices — what alternative options were ruled out that led to this being the proposed way forward?
4. Extent of change — does this represent a material change to the agreed strategy, plan and budget? Is the proposed change ambitious enough?
5. Value case — what is the value case for the proposed transformation and time frame for delivery?
6. End state vision — what are we transforming to? Describe what the enterprise will look like and what we will be doing differently.
7. Leadership and psychological safety — how will we create psychological safety for our leaders and people going through the change? Have they been bold and brave enough? What leadership styles will we need to draw on?
8. Execution — how will we create and direct resources that are ring-fenced from operational budgets and performance metrics? An uncertain future will always be sacrificed to a present bonus!
Questions for the pre-mobilisation phase
1. External help — what external support will be needed to help us achieve our transformation ambition?
2. Risk management — what principle new risks does this add to the board or organisation agenda?
3. Momentum — how will we sustain the momentum needed over time?
4. Value case — how will we track on the business case and ensure the value outlined in the business case is delivered?
5. Capacity and capability — do we have the capability and capacity to mobilise the transformation? How have we determined this?
6. Financial return — how can we deliver the transformation in a way that early financial return can be reinvested in subsequent phases?
7. Non-financial return — what broader benefits will be delivered and when?
8. Phasing — based on a two-year programme, can we break the transformation journey down into distinct phases?
Questions throughout the programme
1. Tracking benefits — are we on track to deliver what we set out to? How will we know?
2. Leadership vdo we have the right level of leadership and sponsorship?
3. Roadblocks — what big roadblocks have come up that need to be addressed?
4. Stakeholder management — do we have the right level of stakeholder management?
5. BAU — how are we managing BAU in parallel? Is anything materially at risk?
6. Temperature check — what is the climate or culture like? How are people feeling or responding, particularly in a disrupted working world?
7. Capability — are we delivering the capabilities we set out?
8. Sustain the change — what’s the plan to sustain the change beyond the duration of the transformation?
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.