The science behind transformations: Sustaining value after implementation

Keeping a business transformation on the path to long-term success requires more than just completion of the initial transformation of initiatives. In fact, our latest global survey confirms that many organizations have underestimated the long-term efforts needed to achieve the full financial benefit of transformation.

Our previous blog posts emphasized the importance of protecting value from day one, including measures that should be considered during the planning and implementation phases. But even after implementation, a company’s work is not finished.

Our research shows that, on average, 20 percent of a transformation’s value is lost after its initiatives have been fully executed. What separates successful transformations from the rest? Our research confirmed a belief that we have long held—that making and sustaining changes to business-as-usual structures, processes, and systems doubles the overall transformation success rate.

Successful transformations share three principles to mitigate post-implementation value loss:

  1. Embed transformation disciplines. Our research suggests that embedding transformation disciplines into business-as-usual structures, processes, and systems can help mitigate post-implementation value loss. In fact, organizations that have undergone successful transformations are more likely to have made substantial changes to their annual business-planning process and review cycles—from executive-level weekly briefings and monthly or quarterly reviews to individual performance dialogues (exhibit).

    For example, as part of a significant cost and growth transformation, one organization intentionally revamped the operating cadence of their executive leadership team. By embracing transformation discipline, the team cut down their time in joint weekly meetings by 75 percent, while increasing the actual time spent on making key decisions.

  2. Organizations with successful transformations are more likely than others to embed transformation disciplines into ‘business as usual’ processes.
  3. Align incentives for the long term. We have found that incentives can often be too focused on the goals critical to implementation and fall short on what is needed to continue momentum afterward, when sustaining new ways of working, mindsets, and behaviors becomes critical.

    This includes incentivizing initiative owners as well as the broader team with a mixture of aspirational and measurable benchmarks: What am I leading as an individual? How do I support my team? How do I support the broader organization for the long term?

  4. Assess and refine regularly. A transformation that is just one of many ongoing side projects will not be truly transformational—and will not attract the resources or attention that it needs to succeed. Leaders must go all-in with transformation as “the main event” and recognize it as a journey—one that goes well beyond implementation.

    Assessing progress against relevant business metrics remains important post-implementation to keep the transformation finely tuned to evolving business and market forces. Yet, leaders often underestimate the continued vigilance needed once implementation is complete. Clear roles and responsibilities throughout the journey to monitor and address how it’s progressing are often what differentiate a successful transformation over time.

No single action, or group of actions, defines transformation success. However, there are positive indicators among transformations that capture the most value. Leaders that invest in tangible changes to business-as-usual structures, processes, and systems; prioritize transformations as the main event; and maintain a long-term mindset can give their organization the best chance at achieving the full potential of its transformation.


This blog post is part of a three-part series on the science behind successful transformations, with a focus on where value is lost and what companies can do to preserve it. In each post, we discuss how leaders can capture the value at stake in each phase of the transformation life cycle: target setting and planning, implementation, and post-implementation.

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