Transformation and complex change programmes are usually high stakes activities that eat up time, money and human resources. Before embarking on any such programme there are many preparatory steps to be taken. However, in practice there are nine questions that must be asked first and foremost. If the answer to any one of these is ‘no’, we would suggest thinking hard about pressing ‘go’.

1. Is there a solid commitment from the CEO?

Highly visible and heartfelt CEO commitment to a programme of change is vital if successful and sustainable change is to be delivered. Regular reinforcement of their personal and unwavering commitment helps win hearts and minds and helps remove the blockers and negativity that can often accompany large scale change.

2. Are the executive ready to support?

Every programme needs a range of support, from other programmes, business areas, central functions and third-party partners. To secure the necessary resource and commitment, each functional group must be fully on-board, directed and motivated to help.

3. Is the end-state understood?

Clarity keeps everyone focused on a shared vision and helps ensure the right decisions are made at the right points throughout the journey. Crucially, the vision must be built with every stakeholder in mind and include the ‘what’, the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘when’.

4. Can we deliver in chunks?

A ‘big-bang’ approach to transformation or complex change is seldom the right choice simply because it requires a rigour (and imposes risks) that most organisations do not possess. Broken down, the task becomes easier to digest, to plan for and to communicate.

5. Have we the capacity and capability?

Capacity and capability are often confused in organisations taking on complex change. It is unlikely such a programme will be successfully delivered without the right capability (almost always a function of change experience and training) and capacity, both at sufficient levels to match the dynamic needs of the programme over time.

6. Can we demonstrate early success?

This is vital if the programme is to win hearts and minds across the business. Meaningful and reportable positive results, celebrated as the first step in a long journey, gives everyone confidence and belief. Equally important, those doubters and those that are perhaps working against the change can see that the transformation train has left the station and they had better get on board!

7. Is communication well planned and well delivered?

The bigger the programme, the better the communication needs to be in order to achieve alignment and positivity. Whenever leaders address their teams, putting the transformation first on the agenda, in language appropriate to the audience on the day, helps build a consistent understanding of the importance of the programme.

8. Do we understand the risks we face?

The more complete the understanding, the less the likelihood of unpleasant surprises during the programme life potentially derailing it and undermining confidence across the organisation.

9. Do we have the necessary processes and tools?

Processes and tools are important components in guiding complex change and transformation. However, they should never lead the programme; nor should they act as a straitjacket. Instead, they should be flexible, acknowledging and accommodating the myriad variables that make every programme different.


Are there any more you would add? Please put your thoughts in the comments below!