"If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

Woodrow Wilson

While most business leaders fully understand the need for change, making change happen in the real world is hard.

A brief review of almost any business publication will highlight a multitude of initiatives that underperform against their objectives. But, to date, little progress has been made in transforming the effectiveness of business transformation.

Failure is not because of a fundamental flaw in the thinking or objectives. Many initiatives are based on sound business strategy and focused on meeting a real need in the wider market. The problem is turning the ambition into an effective and workable plan. One that delivers, and keeps delivering, over the long term.

It’s about people

Whether it’s a functional change, a merger integration, a cost-cutting exercise or a business model update, transformation programs are complex and multi-faceted.

What looks good in theory can struggle when it comes face to face with the real-world messiness of how people work and react to change.

At its core, business transformation should improve how your people work to advance your business strategy. It’s a reconfiguration of your organizational resources, capabilities and investments to drive growth, to better serve customers, to enter new markets or whatever your ambition may be.

Making change happen in the real world

This is a challenge for any business, but it becomes more acute when your employees number in the thousands and you operate across multiple locations.

It’s not enough to have the vision and the will to transform; you need a modern methodology and practical tools that can help you manage the inevitable complexity transformation involves. Tools that can both accelerate the process and help ensure the changes you make deliver against your objectives (and continue to do so over the long term).

Four stages to every transformation

While every business transformation is different, there are typically four stages that every program goes through:


Gaining clarity on your current situation


Exploring the different options open to you and assessing the impact of each


Developing a plan for how you will move to your future state


Monitoring your progress over time, so you can course-correct if needed

Successfully navigating these four stages will enable you to achieve the levels of stakeholder engagement, transparency and effective communication you need to ensure your programs fully deliver against objectives.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

90% of leaders in the middle are likely to resist change, not because they’re resistant people, but because they just don’t have the tools.

John Boudreau, Professor of Management and Organization, University of Southern California