Four principles of successful strategic transformation

by Michael Hubbard

January 9, 2024

As enterprises grow, business models, processes, and company culture often become deeply entrenched. However, agility is key when it comes to navigating market disruptions, technological advances, new regulatory requirements, and other growth blockers. This is especially true as organizations scale and pursue strategic transformation–the implementation of large, cross-functional projects or programs to support a change in business strategy. When leading an organization through strategic transformation, there are four core principles to keep in mind:

1. Engage employees early

Successful transformations are grounded in a comprehensive understanding not only of market demands, but the internal pulse as well. Engaging employees early in the process to get bottom-up feedback and input around the programs and initiatives you’ll pursue to support transformation will create buy in and momentum.

With a clear understanding of the goal, the “why” behind it, and the steps needed to implement changes, there will be stronger alignment on objectives and tactics that will be used  throughout your transformation journey, leading to a higher likelihood of success. This can be accomplished by asking questions, seeking feedback, communicating early and often, and leaning on your internal domain leads.

2. Shorten feedback loops

As soon as an initiative is launched, learning should begin. Leaders have the opportunity to see which assumptions were spot on, which missed the mark, and where shifts in focus or targets are needed. Centralizing reporting and feedback mechanisms – and remaining responsive and agile enough to adjust the plan or tactics that support it – is imperative to ensure the success of your large scale transformation efforts.

Collecting, understanding and implementing feedback is an active exercise that requires dedicated time, effort and investment. While it’s important to use feedback to uncover opportunities, potential risks, or impending obstacles, extended feedback loops can often create bottlenecks. Evaluate your current feedback mechanisms, and look for opportunities to make them more efficient to unlock greater speed and agility.

3. Iterate (in response to feedback)

Once you collect and digest the feedback provided, it’s important to ensure it translates into action. This may seem like an obvious assertion, but it’s a common pitfall within strategic transformation. Given the significant time and effort that leadership invests to craft the initial transformation vision, plan, and approach, there is often a level of reluctance to adjust tactics or targets mid-stream.

The most successful transformation efforts capitalize on learnings, making execution a more responsive, iterative process. As you learn what works well and what doesn’t, remaining nimble with your approach will help you adapt the strategy to avoid pitfalls and improve outcomes. Encouraging experimentation, focusing on continuous improvement, and framing mistakes as opportunities cultivates a culture of iteration and constant learning. It’s important to “fail forward” when things don’t go according to plan… and just as important to build upon successes.

4. Support collaboration with the right technology

The ability to successfully implement strategic transformation hinges on how well organizations can align people, processes and technology. Large scale changes inherently involve different teams, and the more ambitious the transformation, the more complexity that follows. Selecting the right technology for your distinct objectives will drive quality and improve efficiency.

The right technology, especially when leveraged at the enterprise level, can support efficient and effective collaboration by making it easier to gather feedback and insights, drive meaningful conversation, report on results, and identify and prune inefficiencies.

Deliver lasting transformation

Strategic transformation is a multi-year process. You must continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of changes you’re making, collect feedback from customers and employees, and be ready to adapt strategies as needed to stay on track. It requires a forward-thinking mindset and a commitment to innovation. Following these four principles when leading your business through significant change will increase your chances of success at delivering meaningful, lasting, enterprise transformation.

If you’re leading transformation efforts at your organization and need support implementing these four principles, Smartsheet has the enterprise technology and frameworks to help you achieve transformation success. Learn more about how Smartsheet can support your strategic transformation or contact the team to talk to someone directly about your specific goals.