Stephen Bertrand: Using a Line-Led Approach to an Accelerated Transformation

Bain research shows that a minority of organizations actually accomplish their goals when launching a transformation journey, due to a disconnect between the executive suite and line management. Stephen Bertrand, a partner with Bain's Technology practice, outlines the five principles that organizations should follow to drive line-led transformations and accomplish their targets.

Read the Bain Brief: When the Front Line Should Lead a Major Transformation

Read the transcript below.

STEPHEN BERTRAND: Bain research shows that only 12% of organizations actually accomplish what they set out to achieve when they embark on a transformation journey. The most frequent reason for organizations failing to accomplish their objectives is a disconnect between the executive suite and line management. Using a line-led approach, we can help increase the chances of success of any transformation.

A line-led approach means one where the executives help set out targets for the organization, and broad-brush the direction in which the organization needs to travel—but then leave it to the line managers to actually define exactly the direction and the actions that they're going to take, as well as the pace at which they're going to be able to move.

Two ingredients are necessary for any successful line-led transformation.

The first is intent. Intent can be either defined as a burning platform or a burning ambition, but it needs to be some very clear objective, coupled with a sense of urgency that will motivate the organization to get moving. The second key ingredient is accountability. Accountability is the definition of responsibility for the line, so that line managers are clear on what they are expected to achieve. And there's transparency, so that the organization can see when those objectives are being met, and can step in to support them when they're struggling to meet their objectives.

So how does a line manager actually accomplish that accelerated transformation? They need to follow a set of fairly simple principles that guide the entire transformation. The first of those is to behave like an owner, to understand that every line manager needs to think of the entire business as their business.

The second of those is to recognize that costs need to be thought about strategically. Every cost isn't equal. And you'll need to focus on the costs that are going to make the most impact.

The third is to shape the organization, we say, from the future back. Thinking about where you want to end up before you actually get started.

Fourth is reengineer how the work gets done, changing the way in which work gets done within the organization. And that leads to the fifth, which is actually driving a culture change in the organization, to ensure that once cost is taken out of the organization, cost stays out of the organization.

If you follow those five principles and really empower the line to drive a line-led transformation, the chances of successfully accomplishing the overall transformation objectives radically increase.

Read the Bain Brief: When the Front Line Should Lead a Major Transformation