Discover the Secrets to Successful Business Transformation


Welcome to the world of business transformation, where staying ahead in today's dynamic and competitive environment is crucial. With technological advancements, economic challenges, and global events shaping the landscape, businesses must adapt to thrive. In a recent webinar, I had the pleasure of hosting Lisa, a change management expert, as we delved into the vital elements of business transformation.

As Managing Director of The Oriri Partnership, Lisa is recognised for her extensive experience in driving change and business transformation through the most important assets … people. She has implemented strategies that have increased colleague engagement by 20%, reduced costs by over £90m, and improved organisational performance across the board. She's an expert in change management with a focus on organisational design and effectiveness.

For those who prefer to watch, here’s the webinar recording:

Download the slides from the webinar here

However, if you’re a reader or short on time, I’ve highlighted the key takeaways below.

Key Takeaways: Successful Business Transformation Webinar

Business transformation is a multifaceted endeavor that requires a synchronized approach across change management, stakeholder engagement, communication, agility, innovation, and resource optimization. Being cognizant of these elements and strategically integrating them can steer the transformational journey in the right direction.

Understanding Change Management

Change management is not just a subset but the very fabric of business transformation. It’s about creating a receptive environment, steering organizations through changes, and ensuring that these changes are ingrained into the culture.

Lisa pointed out that change management involves assessing the impact of changes, managing resistance, and aligning organizational behavior with transformation goals. This understanding helps in driving business transformation by minimizing disruptions and fostering commitment.

The Four Pillars of Business Transformation

Successful business transformation rests on four pillars:

  1. Vision: Articulate a clear vision of the organization's future state, setting goals and understanding what the organization aims to achieve.
  2. Skills: Equip the organization with necessary skills and capabilities through hiring and training.
  3. Incentives: Motivate and incentivize employees through recognition, rewards, and career advancement opportunities.
  4. Resources: Allocate necessary resources including budget, time, and tools.

A business transformation initiative is likely to falter if any of these pillars are weak.

Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder management goes beyond identifying and communicating with stakeholders. It is about actively engaging them in the business transformation process. Lisa explained the importance of mapping stakeholders, understanding their levels of influence and interest, and tailoring engagement strategies accordingly. She emphasized the value of feedback loops in capturing stakeholder insights, which can significantly influence the course of business transformation.


Communication is the lifeline that sustains business transformation. Lisa and I discussed how communication must be multi-dimensional – it should flow top-down, bottom-up, and across the organization.

Tailoring the message to suit diverse audiences, being transparent, and using the right channels are crucial. Most importantly, communication should instill a sense of purpose and connect the dots between individual roles and the broader transformation objectives.

Employing an Agile Approach

The Agile approach is synonymous with adaptability, and its principles can be integral to business transformation. As discussed in the webinar, Agile methodologies advocate for iterative development, allowing for continuous reassessment and adjustments. This means that during a business transformation, the Agile approach can help in responding swiftly to changing market conditions, customer preferences, and internal organizational needs.

Innovating During Uncertainty

Innovation is not just a buzzword; it’s a survival tool during uncertain times. Lisa shared insightful case studies where organizations used periods of uncertainty to reassess their strategies and processes. The essence is not just to weather the storm but to emerge stronger by fostering a culture of innovation. This involves thinking outside the box, encouraging cross-functional collaborations, and embracing technological advancements as part of business transformation.

Utilizing the Efficient Frontier

The Efficient Frontier concept, as I explained in the webinar, is about optimizing the allocation of resources to maximize value. This involves a systematic approach to evaluating projects and initiatives in terms of their contribution to organizational goals.

During business transformation, understanding the Efficient Frontier helps in prioritizing investments that have the highest impact. Lisa and I discussed real-world examples of how businesses have successfully employed this concept to drive transformative change.

In line with this approach, a valuable resource that can aid organizations in effectively implementing the Efficient Frontier concept is the Strategic Portfolio Management Guide. This comprehensive guide offers practical insights and methodologies for aligning projects with strategic objectives, managing portfolios, and optimizing resource allocation.

Transcript Summary: Successful Business Transformation Webinar

Notice: In this section we utilized various tools to process the transcript and summarize the key points discussed during the webinar. These tools aided in extracting relevant information and condensing it into a concise summary for easy comprehension.

Part 1: Introduction and Purpose

Stuart Easton introduces the webinar and guest speaker, Lisa Wheatcroft, who specializes in business transformation. The webinar aims to discuss business transformation, with insights on successful transformations and possible pitfalls.

  • Introduction: Stuart Easton, the CEO and one of the founders of Transparent Choice, introduces the webinar. He mentions that they typically run two webinars each month. One is a demo of their project prioritization software, while the other one discusses topics related to leadership, strategy, and business issues.
  • Guest Introduction: Stuart introduces the guest of the webinar, Lisa Wheatcroft. He highlights her background, including her experience as a business leader and executive in the airline industry, specializing in managing large transformation and change programs. He mentions a particular achievement where she was able to increase engagement and reduce costs through an organizational transformation program.
  • Purpose: Stuart explains that the webinar will focus on business transformation. He believes that project prioritization is a critical aspect but is not the whole picture. The discussion aims to explore what good transformation looks like, possibly including some horror stories.
  • Audience Engagement: Stuart encourages the audience to be active during the webinar. He mentions that there might be pop quizzes and that he expects the audience to participate by answering questions and contributing to the discussion through chat.
  • Handing over to Lisa: Stuart hands over the presentation to Lisa Wheatcroft. Lisa thanks Stuart for the introduction and mentions that she will try to make her accent understandable for all. She indicates that the discussion will cover what business transformation is, what makes it successful, the pitfalls, and some tips for embedding change in an organization.

Part 2: Challenges and Models

A technical issue arises, and audience engagement is encouraged. Lisa discusses the challenges of business transformation and the importance of having a solid plan. She mentions various transformation models and highlights four key elements: Vision, Engagement, Optimization, and Embedding.

  • Question for the audience: Stuart mentions that there seems to be a technical issue with Lisa's screen sharing and then poses a question to the audience. He wants to know the roles of the participants and whether they are leading a transformation or are part of the implementation team. He encourages the audience to share where they stand in the transformation process.
  • The challenges of change and business transformation: Lisa starts by acknowledging that change is never easy, and business transformation can be challenging whether you are leading it or on the receiving end. She emphasizes that even if 80% of a transformation is done right, it's considered world-class. However, when it goes wrong, it can have various negative impacts such as loss of market position, stakeholder credibility, key team members, and overall engagement and motivation.
  • The importance of a robust plan: Lisa mentions the importance of having a robust plan for business transformation. It's crucial to be clear on what the transformation entails to ensure its success.
  • Audience feedback: Stuart briefly mentions that the audience feedback indicates that most are at the project management and implementation level, with some in consulting and transformational leadership.
  • Models for business transformation: Lisa talks about various models available for business transformation and mentions her preference for using an academic model. She mentions John Kotter as a reference and emphasizes the importance of a brief and succinct change model.
  • Four key elements of change: Lisa shares four key elements that she focuses on in every transformation project: Vision, Engagement, Optimization, and Embedding. She goes into detail about the importance of having a clear vision, which includes understanding what the business aims to achieve and what needs to change. She also touches upon the significance of comprehending the consequences of not changing.

Part 3: Importance of Engagement and Understanding Resistance

An audience question prompts a discussion on the challenges in transformation. Lisa emphasizes the importance of considering the human element and proper planning. She mentions that transformations sometimes fail due to being reactive rather than strategic. Lisa stresses the importance of engaging people throughout the process.

  • Audience question about challenges in transformation: Stuart, refers to an audience question from Gregor regarding the challenges in transformation and what can go wrong.
  • People and planning are critical: Lisa responds by stating that things typically go wrong when the people element is not properly considered and when change or transformation is treated as a task rather than as a program of work. She emphasizes the importance of proper planning, being clear on priorities, and understanding who is responsible for delivering what and how. The people aspect and planning are intertwined, and it's essential that people are engaged in the process.
  • The reason behind the lack of engagement: When Stuart asks why people sometimes don’t engage or actively undermine the process, Lisa points out that often, when a business decides to undergo change, discussions have usually already taken place among the executive team. By the time the change needs to be delivered, there might not be much time left, making it reactive rather than a planned and strategic change program. She shares an example of a construction business that did not allocate enough time to deploy change effectively.
  • Taking people on the journey: Lisa emphasizes that taking people on the journey isn't just about communicating what is going to happen but involves actively engaging them in the process. Many businesses forget this and focus only on delivering the task without planning, prioritizing, and engaging.
  • The rush in transformation: Lisa mentions that sometimes businesses try to change too quickly, using the analogy of trying to "swap the engines on the jumbo jet." This rush can make it hard to effectively engage people and plan properly.

Part 4: Lack of Common Vision and Differentiating Transformation and Change

The discussion focuses on the significance of a common vision, and the dangers of not adapting. The distinction between business transformation and change is addressed, with transformation seen as more extensive. Stuart mentions that transformations range in scale and can be perceived differently depending on one’s position within an organization.

  • Lack of common vision: Stuart shares an example of a global engineering company where the owners of different business units resisted change because they were performing well in the short-term. This resistance stemmed from the lack of a common vision regarding the long-term future of the company.
  • The importance of considering the impact of not changing: Lisa speaks about the importance of being forward-thinking and understanding the impact of not changing. She mentions how some organizations that failed to adapt to new technologies such as AI didn't fare well during the pandemic due to their inability to innovate.
  • Difference between business transformation and change: Responding to a question, Lisa explains that change can be relatively minor, such as a change to a process or way of working. In contrast, business transformation is typically more extensive, involving culture change or strategic shifts. Lisa sees the difference mainly in terms of scale.
  • Transformation as a continuum: Stuart agrees with Lisa and adds that transformation is like a continuum. On one end, there are more tactical projects like upgrading a system, while on the other end, there are initiatives that fundamentally change the business. There is no clear line separating the two, and whether something is seen as transformational or a change can also depend on one’s position and perspective within the organization.
  • Perspective matters: Stuart emphasizes that perspective is crucial. For example, changing a CRM tool might be transformational for a call center employee, while it might be seen as a minor change from the C-suite's perspective.
  • The next step, Engagement: Towards the end, Lisa briefly mentions that the next piece in the four-stage process they are discussing is engagement, emphasizing its importance.

Part 5: Genuine Engagement, Case Study, and Wastage in Organizations

The webinar concludes with a focus on the importance of genuine engagement with employees during change, a case study illustrating the financial benefits of bottom-up engagement, and the necessity of structured engagement between executives and experts. There is a mention of the commonality of wastage in organizations and how the principles discussed apply to small businesses, where emotional investment may be higher.

  • Engaging People in Change: They argue that involving people in any business change is crucial. By doing so, employees become more knowledgeable about the changes, buy into the idea, and can become ambassadors for change. They bring up the example of a call center where including the teams in planning the changes can be highly beneficial because those at the ground level often know more about what needs to be done.
  • Case Study of a Utility Company: One speaker mentions a case study of a utility company in the US that simply asked its employees to point out all the dumb things the company was doing and to suggest how they could stop it. This bottom-up approach led to a significant reduction in capital and operating expenses amounting to $300 million and $200 million respectively, which was considered transformational for the company. This case is highlighted as an example of how engaging with employees and implementing numerous small changes can culminate in a substantial transformation.
  • Importance of Genuine Engagement: It is important not just to listen to employees' problems but also to involve them in finding solutions. One of the speakers shares a personal experience from his career in the aviation business, where a top-down approach to tackle engagement issues failed because the leadership did not properly engage with the employees to understand their concerns and find solutions together.
  • Specific Engagement and Prioritization: They discuss how a structured engagement between executives and subject matter experts within the business is crucial in the early stages of change. This helps in identifying opportunities for change, scoring them, and identifying risks upfront. Executives may not always have the best perspective on what's most impactful, so engaging with experts can help in avoiding pitfalls and ensuring that the changes are aligned with the company’s goals.
  • Wastage is Common in Many Organizations: They point out that wastage and inefficiencies are common in many organizations, regardless of size. This is why engaging with employees to pinpoint areas of wastage and inefficiencies is beneficial across various industries and scales.
  • Same Principles Apply to Smaller Businesses: One of the speakers, Lisa, points out that the principles apply equally to smaller businesses, though it might be even more critical for smaller businesses to avoid wastage and ensure clear planning. In smaller organizations, especially those with a founder still involved, emotions might run higher, making managing transformation harder.
  • Emotional Investment in Small Businesses: In smaller businesses, there is often a higher emotional investment, especially if the founder is still involved. This can make transformations harder to manage as changes can feel very personal.

Part 6: Challenges in Founder-led Organizations and Key Elements of Change

Founder-led organizations can be challenging for change due to inward focus. Engagement, execution, and embedding changes are crucial. Leadership accountability, culture, and understanding digital transformation are key factors for success.

  • Founder-led Organizations: The speaker mentions that founder-led organizations can be particularly challenging environments for change. This is due to the fact that founders often have an inward focus on what made them successful, and they may not see the need for change. Moreover, they might not have experience working with other organizations and may lack a strategic outward view.
  • Engagement and Optimization: Engagement is considered vital during change programs. The speaker talks about using change programs as opportunities to address systemic issues within an organization such as silos, inefficient ways of working, and processes that slow down operations. By doing so, the change program acts as a burning platform to manage and improve various aspects that hinder the organization’s progress.
  • Execution is Crucial: The importance of execution in change programs is emphasized. It's not just about having a plan but ensuring that the plan is adhered to and executed properly. Many organizations tend to lose sight of their strategy and plan, and as a result, only deliver part of the transformation.
  • Embedding the Change: Another point made is that just completing a change program doesn't guarantee success. Often, after the change program is completed, people revert to old behaviors and the organization loses sight of its new state. This can cause a business to go off course and necessitates going through the transformation process again to ensure that changes are truly embedded.
  • Accountability and Leadership: The speaker emphasizes that executive leaders or those in leadership positions are accountable for ensuring that change is embedded in the organization. There is also a mention of the importance of overseeing the change not just from start to finish but also afterwards to ensure it’s implemented and maintained properly.
  • Culture During Transformation: There is a discussion about the culture of a transformation program and how it’s crucial to think about the culture you want at the end of the transformation from the very beginning. The speaker mentions a quote about culture being what happens when you're not watching, indicating the importance of embedding the desired culture throughout the process.
  • Digital Transformation: Near the end of this part, they discuss how 70 to 90 percent of transformation programs fail, specifically referring to digital transformations. It’s pointed out that in digital transformation, IT organizations might change the software or infrastructure and think the job is done. However, this is not the case as transformation goes beyond just technological changes.

Part 7: Significance of Governance, Cultural Alignment, and Leadership

Proper governance and change management are highlighted as crucial elements in business transformation. The speakers emphasize the significant impact of organizational culture and behavior on the success of transformation projects. They stress the importance of checks, gates, and accountability in delivering project outcomes. Additionally, change management and stakeholder engagement are emphasized to ensure the adoption of new methods and systems.

  • Aligning Organizational Culture: An example is shared where a global company failed in implementing SAP globally due to a misalignment of organizational culture and behaviors with the new system. This resulted in a significant financial loss, emphasizing the importance of aligning culture with change initiatives.
  • Leading Transformation: The speakers discuss the distinct skill sets required for leading transformation projects compared to day-to-day operations. Visionary thinking, strong communication, collaboration, motivation, and empowerment are essential for successful transformation leadership. Creating a shared vision, fostering interdepartmental collaboration, and aiming for transformative outcomes are key aspects.
  • Clear Decision-Making Authority and Structures: Having clear decision-making authority and structures is crucial for effective governance. Clear visions should be established at different levels, including the portfolio, program, and project levels. It is highlighted that all changes are ultimately projects but may differ in scale, requiring appropriate scaling of governance.

Part 8: Soft Governance Introduction and Case Study on Heathrow

The importance of governance in managing the transformation process is highlighted in the discussion. While opinions vary regarding the level of governance in transformation projects, it is acknowledged that "shadow" projects without official sanction can hinder progress and resource allocation, indicating a lack of engagement or alignment at senior levels.

  • Soft Introduction of Governance: One speaker suggests that governance can be introduced in a softer manner through collaborative tools and software, enabling effective oversight without stifling innovation and flexibility.
  • Leadership and Transformation: A case study involving Heathrow demonstrates how strong leadership can transform organizational thinking. By establishing a clear framework with key pillars aligned with the organization's goals, governance around projects was streamlined, leading to transformative outcomes.
  • Organizational Culture and People: Organizational culture and individuals play significant roles in successful transformation. Fast-growing organizations may initially resist processes and governance due to a preference for flexibility. Engaging people in the transformation process by demonstrating the benefits, such as quicker project completion or equitable resource distribution, is vital.
  • Enforcing Governance: In some cases, tough measures like withholding resources until individuals engage in governance processes can be used. However, such approaches should be carefully applied, taking into account organizational culture and leadership style to ensure effectiveness and avoid unintended consequences.

Part 9: Prioritizing Innovation, Repurposing Employees, and Efficient Resource Utilization

Organizations should prioritize innovation for future growth. Repurposing and retraining employees can add value. Leadership capability is vital in volatile periods. Understanding the Efficient Frontier optimizes resources and value. "Making The Boat Go Faster" analogy guides decision-making. Sharing resources and best practices accelerates change. Engagement and communication foster further discussions.

  • Innovation During Uncertainty: During economic challenges or uncertain times, businesses often become protective and try to save money. However, this discussion suggests that organizations should use these periods to innovate and create paths for future growth. This is especially relevant considering recent events like the pandemic which led to significant growth in the tech sector.
  • Repurposing and Refocusing: Organizations should consider repurposing people in their organizations, especially if certain functions no longer add value. They should look at where employees can be repurposed or retrained to create value. The example given is a UK bank that plans to replace around 50,000 employees with AI, signifying a major transformation.
  • Leadership Capability in Volatile Times: Developing leadership capability is crucial so that leaders can operate effectively during volatile times. Engaging people and giving them the freedom to come up with suggestions for improvement can lead to innovation. New partnership arrangements and adopting new technologies are also ways to create efficiencies.
  • Efficient Frontier and Value Creation: A concept called the “Efficient Frontier” is discussed, which is about understanding how resources are utilized and what returns they generate. It involves analyzing services or projects and scoring them against certain pillars that are critical to the organization. A curve (Pareto curve) can be created which shows the cumulative scores against the cost. The curve usually flattens out indicating that additional investment past a certain point has diminishing returns. In some cases, the curve even goes down showing that additional projects could be destroying value. By understanding this, organizations can identify areas to cut costs while improving value.
  • Making The Boat Go Faster Analogy: A simple analogy is mentioned – “what’s going to make the boat go faster?” – which means if something doesn’t contribute positively, it shouldn’t be done. This analogy can be applied to business decision-making and investments.
  • Sharing of Resources and Best Practices: The speakers mention that they will share an eBook or documentation containing different models and best practices regarding transformation. One of the books recommended for employee engagement and accelerating change is “Accelerate (XLR8)” by John Kotter.
  • Engagement and Communication: The speakers appreciate the engagement and questions from the audience and encourage reaching out for further discussions and debates regarding the topic.
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