Achieving business transformation is a significant accomplishment. According to the McKinsey Global Survey 2015, only one in four respondents say that transformations have been successful at both improving performance and equipping the organisation to sustain improvements over time.

So when do you know you’ve successfully delivered a change programme? And how do you embed and maintain this on an ongoing basis?  

In a previous blog post, we discussed three key ingredients of business transformation:

  1. A clear vision and strategy
  2. Transformation capability
  3. Sustainability

A common mistake is for businesses to take their foot off the pedal once their project has gone live. In fact, post-delivery is just another part of a successful transformation. You need to concentrate on embedding change post-transformation and view go-live as part of a long-term journey. So while sustainability comes at the end of the journey, it is the longest stretch - immeasurable, actually.

Adjusting to your new operating model

When planning and implementing any programme, you will be working towards an end state target operating model and will need to tailor your day-to-day operations to support it.

Returning to the McKinsey Global Survey 2015: "The results suggest that some transformation practices correlate much more closely than others with success. These practices include communicating effectively, leading actively, empowering employees, and creating an environment of continuous improvement so organisations can keep their performance from stagnating (or even regressing) once a transformation's goals are met."

The report continues: "By implementing continuous-improvement activities that enable the organisation to look regularly for new and better ways to work, respondents' organisations double their chance of successfully sustaining improvements after the transformation."

It may seem obvious to say but, in the excitement of completing that enormous project to alter the way your business operates, it can be easy to overlook the ongoing efforts required to make the change a lasting one. Just as successful weight loss is only maintained by continuing to eat healthily and exercise, successful business transformation doesn’t sustain itself.

So think about how you can remain on track. What do you need to do on a yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily, basis? Who will be the people to oversee this process long-term? If you have used outside help to implement your transformation - for example, an interim manager - will you require ongoing support? How will you prevent old habits and problems rearing their heads again? And how will you adapt to meet new challenges and changing customer demands or disruptive technologies?

Keeping the right mindset

Writing for the Harvard Business Review (HBR), Ron Ashkenas says: "The overall goal of transformation is not just to execute a defined change - but to reinvent the organization and discover a new or revised business model based on a vision for the future. It’s […] unpredictable, iterative, and experimental."

It's worth remembering the fundamental difficulty and capriciousness of transformation as you emerge from the other side. If your organisation keeps these traits firmly in view, you are more likely to succeed in not dropping the ball. Successful transformation thrives on you constantly responding to changes that you may not have envisioned - but are adeptly prepared to tackle.

Achieving successful business transformation is no mean feat - but the hard work is not over once you have hit your deadline. It’s easy to be caught out if you don’t reassess and re-evaluate as you journey through the business transformation. Things are changing all the time and you need to have a constant eye on whether your roadmap is still appropriate. However, having made it this far, you should feel assured that you have the people, skills, systems and processes to complete your journey and to continually evolve. The key is to keep the momentum going, so that you can keep driving your organisation forward.

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