A talented and effective Transformation Director is one who can not only oversee the technical delivery of a programme, but also recognise and cultivate employees’ capabilities to achieve buy-in and collectively develop ways of achieving the corporate objectives

Paul ArnoldWe have only to look back a decade, when the term employee engagement was something business leaders discussed with enthusiasm, to see how rapidly business has evolved.

Now that the concept of employee engagement is hard baked into the DNA of most organisations, we have the advent of Transformations.

The language of Transformation has picked up pace as organisations have grown accustomed to the idea of embracing regular and ever more radical change if they are to remain competitive.

Despite the numerous articles written on the management of change, performance of Transformation programmes for many organisations still remains a conundrum: how do we break down and apportion the value in our goals across the organisation, who takes control for capturing the value from implementation, when does a transformation stop, and new business as usual start,?

From our own considerable experience in working with companies to support their transformation programmes two issues have become abundantly clear: first, due to their complexity transformations are delivered through multiple sub-initiatives, each of which needs its own plan and, second, there must be one person who is fully accountable for the overall transformation.

Defining what makes a Transformation Director

Where programmes often fall down is that executives fail to allow adequately for the human elements of change. In the desire to see results, programmes are quickly rushed into solution-mode. While management may conclude that the plans they have formulated are structured to capture value, it is only through the sustained, collective actions of all employees — those who are responsible for developing, implementing or working with the changed environment – that sustainable value will be realised.

One might argue that it is the CEO’s role to oversee transformational change within the organisation but this need not be the case. CEOs will ultimately be responsible for the success of the company but they will often create a senior role to oversee the transformation. This is one of the reasons we are seeing the position of Transformation Director taking root.

A talented and effective Transformation Director is one who can not only oversee the technical delivery of a programme, but also recognise and cultivate employees’ capabilities to achieve buy-in and collectively develop ways of achieving the corporate objectives with minimal disruption and maximum effectiveness.

The increased presence of Transformation Directors in numerous departments, all with differing change remits, begs the question, can so much change, all pulling in different directions, result in a coherent outcome?

It can if there is a unifying, consistent direction across all the ‘transformations’ taking place within a single organisation.


At RBS, Paul Geddes turned the sale of their insurance business into a positive process

A case study: Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

When RBS went into financial meltdown following the global economic crash in 2008/2009, the European Commission ordered the sale of the bank’s insurance business in return for the taxpayer bailout.

Paul Geddes was appointed to oversee the transformation and he and his team turned the divestment into a positive exercise. The process was leveraged to create a viable, standalone, rebranded insurance organisation, now known as Direct Line Group.

The political pressure was such that the transformation process had to be one of controlled urgency. As there was no Plan B, those in charge of workstream transformations fully embraced the need to systematically shift their people on to the next step as rapidly and as efficiently as possible. Once the separation from RBS had been effected, the focus was on creating a new brand and rapidly building the business into a viable standalone operation.

It took 18 months to separate out every single strand of the business: from customer data to independent functions and governance. Whilst this was a case of operating from a potentially sinking ship, it was highly successful due to the focused orchestration of the change.

The company was the subject of an initial public offering (IPO) in October 2012. Despite the still-fragile marketplace marked by the pulled flotation of a German insurance company – Talanx – a few weeks earlier, the Direct Line Group floatation was the biggest and most successful IPO on the London Stock Exchange that year.

The role of Transformation Director going forwards

The ability to manage change is now becoming a recognised business skill that few organisations can do without.

As a consequence those organisations appointing Transformation Directors to drive change forward should first define the exact role expected of such a person. This role should add a new dimension to organisations’ capability to reap greater reward from change. Whilst the proliferation of Transformation Directors within the same organisation may multiply the capacity for change, this will only occur if there is one overall Transformation Director who is accountable for the totality of the change. Otherwise there is a risk of diluting the ability to deliver radical deep-seated change.

Certainly those who have the management and leadership skills required to fulfill the remit that comes with the position of Transformation Director can expect an exciting career.





Paul Arnold is Director of change management consultancy Able and How. He works with clients to realise the full value of their transformation programmes, dealing with issues ranging from organisational change delivery and change strategy through, to leadership development and stakeholder engagement. Paul has worked closely with many leading international businesses, including BP, GE, HSBC, Rio Tinto, Santander, Sony Ericsson, Shell and T-Mobile.