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A 5-step framework for successful business transformation

October 17, 2023
clock 4 MIN READ

Why do 70% of business transformations fail?1

Many firms have robust plans for deploying new technology or rolling out new business workflows, yet they share a common flaw: They fail to proactively manage the people aspect of implementations.

As a result, these projects are often challenged by high turnover, overt or passive resistance to change, and lower productivity or delays—all of which can lead to suboptimal outcomes. That’s why it’s crucial to develop a proactive plan for transformation, ensuring that all stakeholders feel included.

As part of SEI’s stakeholder-focused approach to change management, we recommend the following five-step framework:

Step 1: Awareness

Start by creating a sense of urgency among stakeholders, with compelling arguments for why what you’ve been doing is no longer sustainable. It often helps to use top-down messaging around the criticality of the change initiative, demonstrating visible support from leadership.

It also helps to connect the initiative to your broader organizational strategy, so everyone understands how it fits into the big picture.

Step 2: Desire

The initiative will excite some people, while others will be happy to keep things the way they are. Frankly, many probably won’t have any idea what the initiative means. 

  • Make the excited people part of the program, so they can drive change and promote the benefits.
  • Make sure people who oppose the change have a voice in influencing the outcome of the initiative.
  • For those who don't know what it’s about, provide clear communication to mitigate undue stress and concern.

Step 3: Knowledge

Your change-initiative team members will likely be experts in their jobs, whether they’re on the business or technical side of your company. But few will have formal training in organizational change management. If you work with a strategic partner like SEI, we’ll ensure your team has the proper training to be effective in supporting the change process and addressing issues that come up.

Step 4: Ability

It’s important to set up the right infrastructure, particularly by putting trained individuals in roles where they can impact and support the process. This could involve a change management lead, who monitors and supports the overall process, or a network of change agents that keeps the lines of communication open with stakeholders.

Step 5: Reinforcement

Most firms are not looking for a once-and-done change process. They want to maintain the momentum and make continual improvement part of the organization’s DNA. That’s why it’s crucial to get your people involved in driving the change—to make the decisions and the effort—so they own the initiative

Potential barriers to success

Even with these elements in place, delivering successful business transformation has its challenges. In our experience, those barriers tend to fall in a few main areas:

  • Leadership doesn’t maintain the level of support needed to drive the next set of goals, or it fails to provide the required resources.
  • Resistance among stakeholders is not acknowledged or addressed, and it eventually delays or derails parts of the initiative.
  • There’s little communication about the initiative’s benefits and progress, and the project loses the support of stakeholders shouldering much of the burden.

Another key barrier is change fatigue, which is resistance or passive resignation to organizational changes. In fact, according to a Prosci study, 78% of employees say their organizations are at or past the point of change saturation.2 While this is not altogether surprising, it can, and often will, derail the process.

The good news is that there are ways to manage these situations. Simple steps, such as early planning and factoring in team members’ workloads, will help ensure that people know what they need to do well in advance. When individuals are needed to test the systems, try finding resources to cover their daily jobs so they can focus on the change initiative. And, remember that continual reporting, often through project dashboards, can go a long way in making progress more visible and maintaining commitment from stakeholders.

Lastly, internal communications are crucial. It’s important to share things that come out during project testing, such as the risks, actions, benefits, issues, and decisions. Remember to track these over time. Doing so will not only highlight progress, but also help ensure that the broader stakeholder group is well informed. Above all, don’t forget to communicate wins. It’s an excellent way to maintain excitement and enthusiasm for transformation.


1 "Perspectives on transformation: Why do transformations fail," McKinsey & Company, July 2019

2 "Introduction to Change Portfolio Management," Prosci

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