How to make your next transformation project a roaring success

Every business professional knows the importance of change. For an organization to stay in the game, it needs to successfully renew itself. Yet change and transformation are still the most poorly implemented practices in business.


To this day, a quick enquiry about executives’ experience of the previous transformation project most often leads to a painful-looking cringe on their face. The typical explanations for failure are budget blowouts, employee resistance to change, uncoordinated planning and shortsighted KPI’s. The list goes on. It’s been shown in numerous studies that a whopping 70% of transformation projects fail.

First, it’s good to draw a line between change and transformation. Change is any intentional shift in the way the organization does business, whereas transformation is the reorientation and renewal process that everyone goes through when they encounter a change. By putting these definitions and the following 5 tips into practice one can make transformation smooth.

1 Address both business and people’s needs

For over two decades it’s been known that in pursuing a successful large scale transformation, the management need to know how to base change management activities on creating economic value while building organizational capability. It used to be a choice between these two, but gone are the days when a pure hard core top-down approach worked in implementing change. Similarly, solely relying on people as driving force is doomed to fail.

2 Get clear on the goal

Visualise, document and share the desired outcome. How does the organisation look like after the transformation, what are the key success factors in the future state? Build the picture and share that throughout the organisation. Ensure the staff understands what this means for them. Even when details are not clear, it’s essential to bring it down to the individual’s level of interest.

3 Determine the required leadership / participation ratio

Take an honest look at the existing company culture. What kind of leadership is required to guide through the change? If encouraging more participation and building organisational capabilities is required, but current personnel are masters in procrastination, you need extra resources to shift it. Against to common belief, culture change doesn’t have to take a long time. Everyone has certain needs, and once they are met people will shift. Individuals can change quickly, which sums up to collective change force.

4 Keep your eye on the gold

This is a simple idea but often forgotten. First, determine the factors that will let you know you have successfully transformed the business. Then, get creative and break those factors down to measurable chunks. Finally, only measure the progress against these indicators unless the entirety of the project changes, such as a new CEO comes on board or a significant change in project direction.

5 Know the type of support you need

Not all change requires external support but when it does, choose wisely. When selecting external resources, choose the ones who have comprehensive experience in managing business and people aspects of the change (see tip 1). Make sure that consultants don’t only analyse the data and focus on the top management, but rather empower people on all levels to do their best at work.

Like many things in life, successful transformation requires balanced approach between managing the hard facts and addressing the human needs. One without the other will end up as that painful-looking cringe. And everyone wants to avoid that, right?

Katja Laukkanen works as a Manager in KPMG Global Strategy Group. She has advised companies for over 10 years in process development, technology transformations and performance management.

In her leisure time Katja helps people to overcome their fears and phobias, trains towards 100 kg deadlift and manages complexities of a house building project.