Transformational Leadership

The fact remains that many large digital transformation projects end in failure.  We estimates that over 65% of all business technology related projects fail to meet their time-to-value objectives and do not provide the desired business transformation.

While having highly skilled IT and business process design capabilities are necessary for business transformation, they are not sufficient to achieve frame-breaking improvements.  Overall, business transformation and large scale organizational change require four key elements:

1)    Transformational Leadership

2)    A Compelling Case for Change

3)    Process and Technical Expertise

4)    Dynamic Team Communications

Of these four key elements, Transformational Leadership is where change begins. We define transformational leadership as:

 The ability to paint a compelling vision for the future, build trust, commitment and accountability, engage in constructive conflict while simultaneously focusing the team on delivering results.

Transformational Leadership 

Leadership is about creating breakthroughs and requires both Core Strategy and Execution skill-sets.  Core Strategy comes in the form of visioning and planning expertise, but also requires a business transformation champion with the courage to lead.  Leaders have both hunger and drive and are tasked with seeing what others in the organization cannot.

Execution involves the ability to amplify the value of each team member – putting them in a highly motivated state.   This requires high levels of emotional intelligence, integrity, and an innate sense of organizational fairness.  Moreover, self-awareness and relationship management are key leadership characteristics that are extremely motivational to team members.

The ability to create a motivated team often requires correcting organizational dysfunction.

While healthy spirited debate is a critical success factor, transformational leadership is not always about seeking consensus. More often than not, it requires facilitating team disagreement and then driving commitment to a selected course of action.  Leaders also need to recognize that implementing business transformation projects are not just about business technology, they represent a true cultural change event.  Lack-of an appreciation of this fact has derailed many a project.

Transformational leaders also must clearly define success.  This, in turn, leaves no room for interpreting results. Leaders need to keep the team focused through a common team-wide set of metrics. The creation of clear measurable organizational objectives ensures that each team member drives against a well understood and agreed upon set of goals. Each of the objectives needs to be socialized across the team and it needs to be known that it is less about an individual’s success and more about the results of the overall team that truly matters.

Compelling Strategy

When planning large scale organizational change, it is necessary to confront the reality of the business, understand opportunities and create a compelling story of why change is necessary.  This is the time to “Think Big” about the future in the context of competition and important market trends.

One of the most important elements is involving key stakeholders and executive sponsors into the strategic planning process. The goal for visioning and brainstorming sessions is to create a common understanding of the ideal future state coupled with what it will take to get there.  Subsequent scoping exercises will then need to be conducted as part of the Project Charter creation process.  The creation of a Project Charter is a critical success factor because it helps gain and maintain organizational buy-in throughout the project execution.

Process and Technical Expertise

Business transformation also requires an in-depth understanding of the organization’s business processes and technologies. business modeling, technical analysis and process re-design are fundamental to the transformation.  Once business processes have been analyzed and fully understood, only then should specific technical solutions be considered as enablers of the new business process.

Radical process and technical change also requires an in-depth understanding of the organization’s culture. Often times, it is very difficult for an organization to manage a global change process with internal resources.  Having highly skilled Change Management resources as part of the team can make all the difference between timely success and never reaching the initiative’s goal.

Dynamic Team Communications

While business leaders often look at organizations as machines – if we have the correct parts in the correct sequence, correctly connected, the right outputs should appear at the end.  This is partly true, however, this view blinds us to the fact that organizations are more like communities, where seemingly random interactions among participants can entirely change or derail outcomes.  Transformational leaders foster and nurture these communities and are highly aware of cultural norms.

Building trust along with establishing a healthy feedback loop is a critical success factor to any business transformation project. It should also be noted that business transformation projects often lead to new team dynamics and frequently involve alteration of reporting structures.

While Business Transformation is a high-stakes game, the benefits associated with doing it well often mean the difference between winning in the marketplace or losing significant ground against the competition.

If your organization is thinking about implementing a large-scale Business Transformation project or other strategic initiatives, HBSC Strategic Services can help. Please contact us at or visit our website at


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