Learn the secrets to transformation success with the HERO Transformation Framework

Arif Harbott
Arif Harbott

I’ve spent the last five years writing a book on change management and effective transformation, the centrepiece of the book is the HERO Transformation Framework, which I developed with Cuan Mulligan.

You could, of course, buy the book, but we wanted to share our Framework with you as soon as possible. In these very uncertain times, now more than ever, businesses need to transform themselves to survive and we want to show you how to do it effectively.

In this article, I answer:

  1. What are the origins of the framework?
  2. What is the HERO Transformation Framework?
  3. Who is it useful for?
  4. Why is this better than other change management approaches?

What are the origins of the framework?

Over the years, Cuan and I have run hundreds of millions of dollars of transformations, across many different organisations and industries. We’ve seen, up close, how transformations fail and how they succeed.

We’ve seen almost every mistake in the book as well many examples of transformation greatness.

The first version of the framework was conceived as a field manual for our teams. We wanted to document our transformation war stories and our approach to help us on future engagements.

The first full prototype of the HERO Transformation Framework (c.2015)
The first full prototype of the HERO Transformation Framework (c.2015)

The manual we wrote, while very raw, really resonated with people we shared it with because the approach was not the normal ‘fluffy change management’ approach.

Instead, it was a practical step-by-step guide of exactly how to run a transformation or change programme. It was also ruthlessly focused on the delivery of value.

Early draft of the HERO Transformation Framework (c.2016)
Early draft of the HERO Transformation Framework (c.2016)

We wondered whether the manual would have wider appeal, so we spent five years honing the model, removing the fluff and distilling the messages to only those parts that worked in the messy world of transformation.

Early draft of the HERO Transformation Framework (c.2016)
Early draft of the HERO Transformation Framework (c.2016)

What is the HERO Transformation Framework?

At its heart, the HERO Transformation Framework is an evidence-based approach to transform your organisation from where you are now to where you want to get to… 

…with the highest chance of success.

It is split into two parts:

  1. Transformation Design 
  2. Transformation Delivery
HERO Transformation Framework
The HERO Transformation Framework (2020)

Transformation Design

This is where you determine where you want to go and how much Enterprise Value this will create.

Transformation Design
Transformation Design

Each step is sequential and must be completed before moving on to the next one. It can be tempting to rush design and move straight into delivery but the roots of success are laid in this design phase.

There are six steps in Transformation Design:

Step 1: Transformation Outcome

The Transformation Outcome is a measurable and compelling business target, which when achieved will have a clear and measurable positive impact on your organisation’s Enterprise Value. You should be able to demonstrate how every decision, action, investment and activity drives towards the achievement of the Transformation Outcome.

Step 2: Enterprise Map

The Enterprise Map is a visual way to show how the company currently operates and what levers are available to improve performance. It captures: current ways of working; contributions to current performance; performance levers (i.e. those aspects that affect performance); governance; and areas to deep dive on.

Step 3: Targeted Analysis

This step involves performing deep dive analysis on areas of opportunity, identified in the Enterprise Map through investigations, interviews and surveys with those people on the front line of operations.

This will help you to close any gaps and identify which levers have the highest potential to deliver the Transformation Outcome.

Step 4: Transformation Plan

The Transformation Plan is the business case used to get sign off for the transformation. It includes high level vision, timelines, budget and targets.
The most important part of the plan is generating a list of Initiatives (projects) that give you line of sight to the Transformation Outcome.

Step 5: Approval

Gaining formal board approval for the Transformation Outcome and business case is a key milestone in the process.

Beyond approval, you’ll need to develop strong organisational buy-in, and strong relationships with business units (especially those most affected by the change).

Step 6: Initiation

When you reach Initiation, you’re almost ready to start delivery! But before you do, you need careful preparation in order to hit the ground running.

Initiation involves filling all the key transformation roles, setting up governance, developing a communication strategy and, most importantly, setting up outcome tracking (metrics). All of this preparation will establish who will do what, by when and how you will measure and communicate progress.

Transformation Delivery

It’s finally time for the rubber to hit the road, planning is over and execution can start. Delivery is where the value is created and where the Transformation Outcome will be achieved.

Transformation Delivery
Transformation Delivery

The road to changing an organisation is fraught with difficulties but, through a proven process, success can be achieved. Over the years, we have found the right ways to run transformation delivery, which consists of five parts:

Part 1: Blockers Backlog

Anything that blocks, impedes or disrupts the delivery of value (Initiatives) is placed on the Blockers Backlog for urgent resolution. It is the Transformation Lead’s responsibility to rapidly remove the blockers and get the delivery of value flowing again.

Part 2: Transformation Kanban

The Transformation Kanban is a single list of all the Initiatives whose value, when delivered, adds up to achieve the Transformation Outcome. The flow and order of Initiatives across all workstreams are managed via the Transformation Kanban.

Part 3: Transformation Accountability Meeting (TAM)

A forum should be created for continually steering the transformation to ensure it is on course to deliver the Transformation Outcome. The TAM should become the most important governance meeting of the transformation, with two-way accountability built in, for:

  1. Delivery teams being held accountable for delivering value and
  2. Transformation Lead being held accountable for removing blockers impacting delivery.

Part 4: Workstream Accountability Meeting (WAM)

This is similar to the TAM but a more delivery-focused meeting at the workstream and Initiative level. It covers: Initiative progress, updates on blockers, sharing learning and decisions to start, stop or pivot Initiatives.

Part 5: Initiatives

These are individual projects that each contribute value toward the Transformation Outcome. An Initiative could be anything from building software, streamlining your processes or changing your pricing.

Leadership’s role is to do whatever it takes (within reasonable limits!) to make sure they are delivered quickly.

WARNING: We know the framework works in the real world, but is not for everyone. Many parts are challenging and require a lot of discipline to keep consistently bringing the conversation back to measurable value.

Who is the HERO Transformation Framework useful for?

Anyone who is involved in large-scale change programmes or transformations.

The three main audiences for the framework are:

  1. Change management leaders - the transformation leads, programme managers and project managers responsible for delivering the change
  2. Sponsors/ stakeholders of large-scale change - board sponsors, executives, and senior managers
  3. Consultants - either within existing consultancies or independent consultants looking for an edge

It is ideally suited to Private Equity companies because it is laser-focused on increasing the Enterprise Value through transformational change.

Design and deliver enterprise value

Why is the HERO Transformation Framework better than other change management approaches?

We were frustrated with so many of the change management techniques being too superficial and high-level. So we set out to create a pragmatic, detailed framework which would give you the nuts and bolts of how to run a successful transformation.

The framework lays out everything you need in order to design and deliver a transformation that delivers real value to your organisation.

Every part of the framework is focused around the delivery of value, not the “softer” side of change, e.g. as culture change, communications issues or conflict between people or teams. Our approach is that until the “softer” side of change blocks the delivery of value, we do not worry about it.

The HERO Transformation Framework is a clear and detailed method of how to design your transformation and how to deliver the stated outcome. In the book, we include all of the roles, processes, meetings, governance and templates for you to apply to your transformation today.

How is the HERO Transformation Framework different?

Here are five ways that our framework stands out from the rest and delivers results:

  1. Value focused - We ruthlessly focus on the delivery of value at all times, full stop, the end. Everything in the framework is geared towards the target performance of the business. This is hard work, it takes discipline, but it is not negotiable.
  2. Evidence based - Transformations do not run smoothly, we recognise this and have course corrections built in, based on evidence and data, to allow you to keep your transformation on track.
  3. Two-way accountability - This is unique and means that delivery teams on the front line (where value is created) get a mechanism to hold the transformation leadership accountable to unblock anything that gets in their way of the delivery of value.
  4. Step-by-step approach - We were frustrated with change management framework being too superficial so we give you practical tangible actions on how to run a transformation. It is a detailed step-by-step guide that you can use to run any transformation.
  5. Not about “soft” change - We do not address the “softer” side of change e.g. people, emotions, culture, relationships etc. until it blocks the delivery of value. This is very different to most approaches that focus on “soft” change first.

Learn more about the HERO Transformation Playbook

If you are interested in learning more about our book and how to implement the HERO Transformation Framework, please reach out to me on LinkedIn or check out the website: www.herotransformation.com.

Cuan and I passionately believe that if we can help you learn how to deliver successful transformations it will make organisations all over the world better and more resilient. Ultimately, this will improve the world of work for everyone, especially future generations.

This is why we developed the HERO Framework.

Most transformations fail

Learn the secrets to transformation success with the HERO Transformation Framework
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