Volume XXVI, Issue 40 |

Transformation is the key to turning business strategy from theory into action, but successfully delivering transformation can be challenging, with many initiatives doomed to failure. In today’s increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, even a well-planned transformation programme can suddenly require drastic modifications.

This Executive Insights draws on recent experience helping a client in the utilities sector repair a bogged-down transformation programme and put its business strategy back on track.

The initial transformation journey and challenges

The group’s transformation began through partnerships with two major professional services firms. Following a brief diagnostic phase, the focus shifted to large immersive workshops involving over 100 subject matter experts from various departments across the organisation. This process unearthed thousands of key frictions, identifying essential areas for transformation efforts. However, this approach had its limitations.

A fragmented approach

While there was consensus on the frictions and the enabling projects needed to address them, the approach faltered in connecting investments in enabling projects with concrete outcomes and clear responsibilities. The bottom-up approach quickly generated individual solutions, but it was unclear whether these solutions were ambitious enough or how they would impact different parts of the organisation.

This fragmented approach meant the group was unable to generate SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) targets. Additionally, ongoing performance improvement projects made it difficult for project teams to distinguish the expected benefits of new initiatives from their ongoing work.

Challenges in framing implementation

Implementing enabling projects like digitisation required significant investment. However, without transparency and accountability regarding expected returns, internal governance staff rejected the plan. They viewed it as poorly defined, lacking credibility and overly expensive with poor prioritisation of enabling projects. This brought the transformation to a halt, a discouraging outcome given the hard work already done.

How L.E.K. revitalised the group’s transformation plan

Taking a structured approach to address challenges

With a constrained timetable, we were asked to support the repair of the transformation plan and gain board approval. We quickly identified the need for a structured approach to address the challenges faced by the group’s transformation plan, focusing on three key drivers:

  • Restoring consistency between performance diagnostic, objectives, and transformation levers
  • Redefining priorities and the programme roadmap
  • Re-engaging transformation stakeholders on revised key projects

Our business transformation standards comprise eight key modules (see Figure 1).

The initial six modules are dedicated to transformation preparation. They enable the client to confront vision and goals, determine market context, and set internal performance diagnostics before building a detailed transformation roadmap that highlights the full potential of the group, establishes the programme’s impact on the operating model and details the priorities needed to build a detailed financial plan.

The latter two modules are dedicated to plan execution, setting up the transformation programme (programme management office and change management) and ensuring execution support on an ongoing basis.

Our end-to-end framework enabled us to pinpoint two essential steps missing in the client’s current transformation:

  • Reconciling the vision and goals with performance gaps from market benchmarks and business diagnostics to establish clearer objectives for the entire transformation journey
  • Creating a consistent transformation plan composed of projects with clear responsibilities and impacts, detailing explicit trade-offs and priorities to build a roadmap aligned with every stakeholder

Re-engaging stakeholders

We shared a clarified vision of objectives and gaps that needed addressing while discouraging the temptation to reinvent the wheel. Re-integration of the work already done was essential, but new ideas were also required, connected to impacts in a SMART approach. As the plan took shape, stakeholders were remobilised, and the co-creation of new solutions fostered renewed commitment and motivation.

Objective-driven transformation

To ensure the transformation programme was aligned to objectives, we followed a systematic approach (see Figure 2).

This included:

Insights through benchmarking

Confronting vision and objectives with rigorous external and internal benchmarking is crucial when embarking on any transformation. This approach helps establish data-driven insights, validate key assumptions, uncover best practices, and highlight gaps needing attention. Benchmarking also helps build qualitative business cases to address identified challenges, creating detailed transformation objectives at various cost structure levels.

Making sense of transformation levers

To overcome the disconnect between enabling projects and their expected transformation impacts, we highlighted how the transformation journey combines benefit initiatives enabled by projects to create an impact. For example, a benefit initiative driving 10% productivity gains in the frontline workforce involves enabling projects such as operating model evolution, planning automation and IT infrastructure digitisation.

Structuring by benefit initiatives

To comprehensively address our client’s operational and financial needs, we aligned benefit initiatives with the client’s cost centres. Defining initiatives by cost centres and specific key performance indicators facilitated efficient tracking through a structured cost framework. Focusing on improving direct labour productivity, reducing subcontractor costs, decreasing external invoices and optimising support functions ensured a holistic approach to transformational impacts.

Accelerating transformation with enabling projects

Enabling projects in the client’s stalled transformation were documented but lacked a clear organisation-wide relationship with expected savings. We ensured these projects were mapped by investment level and timing to enable change. Three main categories were highlighted:

  • New operating models
  • Process redesign
  • End-to-end digitalisation

Actionable charters and a roadmap for transformation success

To ensure consistency, we designed a charter for each transformation lever, detailing tangible actions with measurable impacts and clear ownership. Quantifying financial impacts, interdependencies and accountability provided stakeholders with a roadmap for tangible and sustainable transformation.

Fostering a revived culture of change

Repairing the transformation plan helped the group gain agility and an objective-driven mindset, clearly connecting change requirements with cost impacts. This enabled decisions on required investments and priorities, facilitating the ability to rapidly drill down from strategy to concrete actions and impact.

A transformation tack on track with tangible results

Our work on the client’s transformation plan resulted in a 15%-20% cost reduction over five years, leveraging 60+ benefit initiatives and 30+ enabling projects across six cost categories (see Figure 3). Key evolutions from the bogged-down plan included:

  • Identifying gaps with benchmarks to support transformation objectives
  • Developing a comprehensive list of benefit initiatives to meet these objectives
  • Ensuring consistency with enabling projects to help achieve the objectives

By maintaining continuity and restoring pragmatism, we renewed energy and initiatives, better aligning the group's strategy with the transformation plan.

Stalled transformation programmes can be fixed — but it’s better to prepare than repair

In today’s increasingly VUCA world, transformation challenges will continue to pose serious threats to companies. Crises, unpredictability, the risk of transformation fatigue, insufficient drive and vision, and the financial stress of failing to connect investments to outcomes require careful consideration and an experienced approach.

By leveraging the L.E.K. end-to-end framework to strategic transformation, companies can define vision and objectives, conduct diagnostics, identify levers for transformation, prioritise decisions, mobilise for change, and execute successfully.

L.E.K. offers the guidance needed to effectively navigate transformation journeys and achieve strategic objectives. Contact a member of the team to discuss your challenges or learn more about our work helping companies get their transformation back on track.

L.E.K. Consulting is a registered trademark of L.E.K. Consulting. All other products and brands mentioned in this document are properties of their respective owners. © 2024 L.E.K. Consulting

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