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Is there a black hole in your leadership strategy

Nickie Fonda and Lynn Lilley

Now that a new wave of transformation in business models is sweeping through many of our industries, director Nickie Fonda and consultant Lynn Lilley, from the Value Partnership, give advice on how to anticipate which of these transformations are likely to be successful

Business transformation is fundamentally about what the people who work for the business do and how they do it. 

But whose job is it to lead transformation of a business? Obvious answer: the directors and senior managers of the enterprise. This is where the buck stops. 

And here’s where a black hole starts to become apparent. In too many cases we have seen, there’s a major gap in this leadership at the top. Here are some situations we have encountered: 

•  The CEO recognises the need but sometimes has limited experience or expertise in how to lead this and so tries to press on regardless – perhaps using sheer force of will to drive changes and, at best, getting compliance from their team. 

•  The executive team and its members see themselves as having other priorities and ignore this strategic issue – a task/output focus wins over the apparently less-tangible behavioural requirements that are harder to measure and discuss. 

•  The transformation strategy is formulated in structural and quantitative terms, which prompts a predominant focus on managing these – especially if the business has engaged a strategy consultancy at huge cost to carry out a strategic review, build a financial case for transformation, make recommendations and build implementation plans. 

•  The CEO sees ‘the people dimension’ as an implementation issue, and so delegates the issue to the HR director, who reports to the finance director, or to a transformation team. 

•  The transformation director sets up the work as a classic project, with a task-oriented project management and delivery system, so the transformation strategy is insensitive to people issues and largely ignores them. Individual projects and work stream accountability dominates, and integrative challenges and the overall purpose of the change are lost. 

•  The consultants who have been brought in to manage specific changes realise there is a critical issue but have limited access to a senior sponsor who may be able to influence the focus of the work or the bigger organisation system. 
If your business is on the transformation journey, perhaps it’s time for a pause to consider the state of commitment, engagement and competence in your leadership team and organisation as a whole: 
1. Are you working diligently to ensure that people in your business see their leaders as shaping and guiding the company’s mission and vision? 
2. Are you consciously building their trust in those who are in leadership positions and their belief that leaders have the success of the enterprise at the forefront of their effort? 
3. Are you ensuring that people are clear about their roles in making the vision happen? 
4. Do the people who work for the business experience your communication as dynamic, courageous, and authentic? Do they see it as building dialogue, through listening and learning? 
5. Are you supporting staff with learning and development opportunities and with time – with coaching as a non-negotiable part of everyone’s leadership role? 

For more information on the Value Partnership and the authors, visit


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