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The Execution Assessment: A conversation with Elizabeth McNally

A proven playbook to measure an organization’s capabilities against best practices can help set the direction for a successful transformation.
Many organizations fall short in their transformation process. In this video, McKinsey partner Elizabeth McNally explains how an execution assessment can open leaders’ eyes to see the path to sustained improvement.

Interview transcript

When we work with clients to create sustained improvement through a transformation, we apply a process that we call an execution assessment. This is a turnkey approach to measuring their capabilities against ten essential best practices that will drive a successful transformation.

At the beginning of a transformation, when we’re conducting an independent diligence review of the entire enterprise, we interview individuals throughout the organization, observe operations, and survey people close to the transformation. We then compare this information with our grid of best practices and share it with the client. We can tell them: “Here’s our assessment of where you are, and what you need to change.”

This allows us from day one to start a conversation about what they need to do to make sure their transformation has a sustained impact.

We show them how to go beyond thinking that they should aim for a limited, one-time goal, such as $500 million in improvement potential. At the same time, we point out the capabilities they’ll need to achieve their goals.

Successful implementation

We know there’s no single silver bullet for success. Through these assessments, we show organizations how to take a broader view of the transformation process by opening their eyes to some of the “softer elements” that are important.

When we did this recently with a client, a few things surprised them. We interviewed the top team, spent time with the initiative leaders, and looked at data. We realized that some essential elements of a transformation weren’t even on the senior team’s radar.

For example, their change story focused only on financial impact. This was a manufacturing client with unionized employees, and those employees weren’t motivated by this story.

The organization’s leaders weren’t thinking about how to sway the active influencers and the change agents throughout the entire company. They weren’t identifying the influential people in each plant and creating a strategy to enlist their support.

In addition, the leaders hadn’t had tough conversations among themselves about talent. Are we going retrain people? What types of talent do we need to hire from the outside?

To address these problems, we used an execution assessment to bring these issues to the CEO’s agenda. The leaders realized they needed to make important changes, which put them on the road to improved performance.

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