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Transformations at scale with Impact Essentials: A conversation with Seth Goldstrom and Elizabeth McNally

By following a checklist of ten impact essentials, organizations can ensure that they’re boosting both performance and health.
A transformation requires a company to execute a lasting change plan. In this video, McKinsey senior partner Seth Goldstrom and partner Elizabeth McNally discuss why these ten impact essentials are critical.

Interview transcript

Seth: When people think about the activities that drive impact in a transformation, they look at performance and health. But often, they tend to view one as dominant. Some people are performance oriented and believe it’s all about the numbers and the results. Others, who are more health oriented, will ask: “How are people feeling? Are we building capabilities? Are people inspired?”

They’re using two different lenses to look at the world. Our job is to help people see through both lenses and think about how to drive performance and health. Because these two things combined lead to sustainable change.

Elizabeth: That’s why we use a checklist of impact essentials, which are ten activities that improve performance and health.

Impact essentials are the activities that drive sustainable execution and change—and become part of a company’s business-as-usual activities.

Often, these big transformations require senior leaders to fundamentally change how they’re leading and behaving. And that’s not an easy task.

Seth: If you go back ten or 15 years, companies would focus on a couple of big projects and a handful of things to improve. In that context, it didn’t matter as much if the entire organization was engaged and moving in the right direction. Today, if you are transforming a Fortune 500 company, you’re not going to be focused on three things that get the company to its full potential. It’s often thousands of initiatives.

Elizabeth: To make transformations happen at scale in today’s complex environment, you have to do a multitude of things. That’s why we use the checklist of ten essentials to make sure we’re paying attention to all the steps needed for sustainable impact.

Seth: We look at the mix almost as you would for an asset allocation in a retirement portfolio. We look at the mix of initiatives impacting performance and those impacting health. We also examine the mix of initiatives that enable people to implement change versus quantifiable performance-oriented initiatives. We use our analytics tools to track these initiatives against best practices and against the targeted opportunity.

Seth: We call these ten activities impact essentials because they’re essential. Still, we often find that companies aren’t doing some of these things at all. I’ve never shown up at a client that wasn’t in the midst of a host of performance improvements. In today’s world, everyone is trying to be better, and no one is just standing still. It’s like they’re running hard, but on a hamster wheel. You’re not going to get anywhere.

Often what we find is that people are doing lots of things, but these activities aren’t making enough of a difference to the bottom line to allow the company to reinvest in growth.

The impact-essentials scorecard lets you take stock of what you’re doing. What’s working? What’s not? It lets you pause and reset to move forward more effectively.

Elizabeth: As McKinsey has moved toward being more of an impact partner that works with companies to implement transformation plans, these playbooks have become more important. Our impact-essentials checklist enables our consultants to spend more time partnering with our clients and coaching them. We have a cookbook with proven recipes. We’re not forced to make up the recipes as we go along.

Seth: These tools allow us to help people and organizations reach their full potential in a way that’s sustainable. When companies do things and accomplish things that they didn’t think that they could, it’s extraordinarily exciting and rewarding.

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