Business transformation – the importance of not delegating too early

A transformation programme usually starts when the senior leadership team recognise that significant things need to change in their organisation. This may be driven by a number of critical events for example:

  • A deterioration in performance eg missed financial targets or service delivery failures;
  • The loss of a vital customer contract;
  • The challenging actions of a competitor.
  • The availability of a new disruptive technology.

From the start of the transformation programme, the leadership team will need to agree together the critical drivers of change, the way forward for the organisation and the delivery method of the necessary changes.

These discussions in themselves may be challenging for the leadership team as they might involve the resolution of significant differences of opinion about the root causes of the issues to be addressed and the priority areas for focus. As a consequence, the Senior Leadership Team usually opts to produce a list of projects to be delivered and a programme sponsor to oversee the future steps and then delegate the responsibility for transformation.

This approach appears to be a sensible way forward but it actually exposes the programme to threats down the line.

The danger of this position is two-fold:

  1. There is often not enough detail to describe the projects accurately and therefore the completed projects do not deliver what the leadership team envisaged or what was needed for transformation to occur.
  2. The leadership team shy away from the detail and in doing so walk away from developing an understanding that will be critical in the decision-making stages of the programme.

Before the Senior Management Team delegate responsibility completely to the programme and project delivery teams it is important that they are clear about the immediate way forward.

It is vital that the Leadership Team have agreed:

  1. The targets and benefit stream required from the transformation.
  2. The intended organisation shape (sometimes called Target Operating Model, Blueprint or Concept Design).

The Senior Leadership Team can develop these 2 agreements and this works well when the options and analysis are clear. However when critical analysis is required to underpin the decision, the work can be delegated to a small full-time project team who bring back recommended options for the Senior Leadership Team to agree the way forward.

For successful transformation, the Senior Leadership Team must stay involved in deciding the detail of the targets required and the proposed organisation shape before delegating to programme and project delivery teams.

Andrew Kearns
Hartswood Management Ltd
Delivering real transformation

For advice on structuring your transformation or change programme please email

For further insights please visit –

Suggestions for further actions:

  1. Read Leading Change by John Kotter which describes the 8 critical steps for leadership teams.
  2. Consider your own organisation and how the senior leadership team could be equipped to tke an active role in defining the transformation programme.
    Read Changing Spots – a systems approach to change management for details on communication during transformation programmes (see

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