Skip to main content

How to get started:

Feel like you’re at a crossroads? Ellevate 101 introduces you to the community that can give you a career kickstart.

We’ll walk you through some light intros and give you space to connect about shared career experiences. You’ll also learn how to use your Ellevate program to continuously make moves towards success at work.

Our next live welcome session is .

Register here for your chance to get started

4 women lined up supporting each other

9 Things Leaders Must Do To Create A Transformation

9 Things Leaders Must Do To Create A Transformation

Many high performing senior managers, leaders and executives find themselves, at some point in their careers, faced with the challenge of leading a strategically critical, highly visible transformation program. The company needs to move in a new direction, a start-up must professionalize, product and service innovations must be accelerated, costs must be reduced, or competitive positioning can be strengthened. Whatever the business driver, the initiatives born from strategic calls to action will always change the status quo, and sometimes they’ll transform the organization in very significant ways. Designing and executing a strategic change or transformation program to realize mission-critical business objectives isn’t simple, familiar or easy, yet often times leaders with no previous experience leading big change are put in charge.

Natural instincts and leadership talent alone, no matter how robust, won’t get the big financial, business and customer wins necessary from a highly visible transformation effort. There is a proven science to executing change that must be acknowledged and heeded – reflected in the following list of success factors leaders and executives must know to execute strategic change or transformation efforts. Each success factor outlined here shows the key criteria for transformation success along with a few key questions:

1. Define what you are going to do, why you will do it, what the benefits of change are, and what the dangers of not changing are.

  • Is a clarifying vision of the future articulated and widely accepted?
  • Is the rationale for change sensible and clear and sound? Are benefits well defined?
  • Does the case for change balance crisis + opportunity?
  • Are the vision and rationale easy to communicate in <3 minutes AND easy to get a reaction from AND of interest to others besides those in the executive meetings?
  • Has a clear roadmap forward been developed and shopped around to gain support?

2. Create a sense of urgency and then maintain it for the long haul.

  • Is there a change champion calling others to action at very top?
  • Is the Guiding Coalition actively involved (not just hoping for wins) in generating legitimate short term wins?
  • Are reward & recognition for wins happily made AND do they go beyond money?
  • Are leaders leveraging the positive energy created by short-term wins to go after bigger problems?

3. Put governance and management in place; Form a powerful guiding coalition for success.

  • Is a Change Sponsor selected and has a Governance Body/Guiding Coalition been established to oversee and refine execution of the transformation roadmap and to maintain urgency throughout the enterprise?
  • Is the effort inclusive of diverse, influential leaders throughout the organization, or are the ‘usual suspects’ once again involved in this effort?
  • Is a day to day leader in place to coordinate the program’s various work streams, manage the roadmap, identify needs, remove barriers and drive execution?
  • Are there sufficient resources with the right skills dedicated to the effort?

4. Engage key stakeholders - particularly managers - in making change happen.

  • Have stakeholders who are critical to transformation success been identified and their personal value drivers learned?
  • Is it clear how stakeholders will be proactively involved in making the transformation happen over time to build their support and maintain their engagement?
  • Has a cadre of top change agents been identified and rallied to be actively involved in all aspects of executing the transformation – planning, communications, engagement, execution, monitoring, training, local level readiness, piloting solutions, etc.? Is this cadre treated like the pioneering group of change agents and first-followers they are?

5. Over-communicate the vision & key messages by a factor of least.

  • Are executives across the impacted enterprise incorporating messages into their hour-by-hour activities?
  • Are ALL channels/roles being leveraged to deliver the right message > to the right people > at the right time?
  • Are visible & influential leaders and managers walking the talk? Are change leadership coaching & 360 feedback tools being applied to change their behavior when needed?
  • Do the communications about this change strive for candid, cascading, interactive, face-to-face messaging?

6. Remove obstacles to transformation success, especially during implementation.

  • Have those impacted by the changes been asked about barriers to success?
  • Has fairness been included as a design principle in workforce reduction plans to avoid creating sense of injustice and disengagement?
  • Have local level change agents/leaders been identified and prepared to be involved?
  • Have “Barrier Busting Circles” been formed on the ground to swiftly remove the biggest obstacles during implementation? Is feedback on barriers shared regularly with the Guiding Coalition to facilitate problem solving?

7. Enable real transformation by cultivating a new organizational culture and individual behaviors.

  • Are you actively and thoughtfully identifying and cultivating a desired culture that supports, not hinders, the new business strategy or change vision?
  • Are you actively and thoughtfully shifting underlying mindsets along with delivering new skills training?
  • Is there a focus on leaders modeling the desired behaviors as a key way to cultivate a new culture?

8. Realign operations and organization to enable the new vision and support the transformation.

  • Have competencies and skills been assessed and upgraded across the impacted enterprise?
  • Are processes being assessed and modified to enable a new way of working?
  • Are you hiring for the future or for yesterday? Do new hires reflect desired or old culture?

9. Upgrade executives' and leaders' skills in change leadership.

  • Is your leadership prepared to effectively lead people through change, or do they simply do things the same way they’ve been doing them in relatively stable times?
  • Are there key leaders and senior managers involved with the effort who are experienced in change or is there an assumption that it ‘can be figured out?’ Can you afford to assume that given what’s at stake for the company?

[Related: 5 Ways Women Can Maximize Their Leadership Skills]

If you find yourself in charge of a highly visible, strategically critical change program, it is appealing to think of a list like this as a checklist – “if I do these things, we will succeed.” The power of understanding these success factors cannot be underestimated. The real power in this framework, however, is in its’ effective execution. And that’s where experience with big change comes into play – make sure you’ve got people supporting you who have done it before and who understand the nuances involved in each of these factors. While it won’t be as easy as clearing a checklist, understanding the framework and having the right change experience on board will get you far closer to the financial, business and customer outcomes your company must achieve than “winging it.”


ASC* Advisory ( is an executive advisory firm specializing in strategy execution, change and transformation advisory services, particularly for strategic initiatives that require process, behavioral and/or organizational changes. Founding Principal Supriya Desai has managed, led or advised dozens of global strategic change and transformation programs as a corporate leader and as a Big 4 management consultant, and wants to help business leaders around the world succeed in change.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.