The success of business transformation is often underpinned by timing and pace.

Recognising the need for change and knowing when to take action is key. However, often by the time you realise you’re in trouble, you’re probably in deeper than you think. When this happens, you need to make transformation a priority.

And while change is normally slow and organic, transformation often involves getting five years of change done in half the time. So it’s important to build this pace expectation into the transformation process.

With timing and pace being critical, it’s important that you have the right skills to deliver.

Here, we take a look at what these skills are.

Commercial thinking

Though you may recognise the need for change, actually figuring out what you need to do and where you need to be is one of the most difficult elements of transformation.

The ability to determine this comes down to genuine creative commercial thinking. It’s critical that you have a strong knowledge of how businesses grow, what customers want and what barriers are in the way to enable you to think commercially about business opportunities.

Emotional intelligence

While commercial thinking is required to determine what change needs to take place, emotional intelligence is required to manage the actual transition. And this tends to be the most difficult part. Creating a company culture that accepts that the business needs to continually improve and evolve requires a considerable behavioural shift. This is why the ability to identify the emotions and reactions of others is critical to effectively motivate and engage employees.


Business transformation is everywhere. Companies are becoming more and more accustomed to regular periods of transition and change. But change initiatives occurring too frequently can lead to ‘change fatigue’, leaving employees feeling frustrated, burnt out and disengaged. In fact, in a survey by BIE, 47% of senior executives said their employees were becoming disengaged with change. With this in mind, it’s important that you understand when to execute initiatives - as well as when employees might need a break from change.


While there may be clear opportunities to improve operational performance, change doesn’t just ‘happen’. It requires a great deal of planning, and this requires a crucial information gathering stage. You need to gather data about the people, processes and systems that are involved and assess the impact on each one before taking action.

Ability to prioritise

There may be a number of change initiatives to focus on, all of which are vying for attention. But you can’t do everything at once, so being able to prioritise is key. You need to be able to look at each initiative and weigh the risks and rewards as a whole.

Often, it all comes down to timing. There may be an optimum moment to implement an initiative, so it’s important to get the timing right or you may lose the window of opportunity.


The existing morale and culture of the organisation should be an important consideration when kicking off a transformation programme. Change can only truly be embedded with the support of everyone in the business. And the best way to get their support is with regular and open communication.

You need to be able to provide insights and share information across the organisation as changes take place so that everyone is on the same page. And you need to do it in a way that is clear and compelling.


Too often, there is so much focus on getting to a certain point. But it’s critical to realise that embedding change will take a long time, probably years. You need to be able to look past the end of the assignment and think about ways to ensure change is sustained beyond the initial transition period.

This involves clearly articulating the people-side of the future organisation. How will the role of individuals and teams be impacted by the change? What are the required competencies, skills and behaviours needed for success? Things like performance management, learning and development and retention programs will need to be considered to ensure improvements can be sustained in the long-term.


Successful business transformation requires knowing when to take action and how to keep pace during the transition. It comes down to having a combination of the hard skills required to act quickly and make strong commercial decisions about what change initiatives to drive forward, along with the softer skills of understanding the human side of change.

You can read more about business transformation here.

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