Cutting through the uncertainty and complexity of Enterprise level change

During the past 18 month’s Enterprise Transformation/Change has become even more of an important topic for businesses with the need to adapt to the changes in the wider world.

There are many different flavours of Enterprise Transformation/Change from Data to Digital and beyond.

Ask yourself this… Is there an Enterprise Level Transformation/change happening at your organisation? Is the purpose and progress of that transformation clear? Or is it stalled and struggling to create real momentum?

Let’s look at some statistics from 2020 regarding ‘’Enterprise Digital Transformation’’. It shows that 93% of enterprises are undergoing a digital transformation, and 42% are either struggling, falling behind, or completely stalled.

WHAT is Enterprise Transformation?

Enterprise-level change/transformation is not just about how we deliver innovations to customers; it’s much deeper than that. To simplify this, it breaks down into two perspectives, the internal and the external.

The External Perspective

This is about stepping outside the bell jar of your organisation and stepping into a space where you can re-imagine and re-design the experience, products, and services you offer your customers.

The Internal Perspective

This is where you take a close look inside your organisation’s bell jar, identify its connecting elements, how things flow through the complex and dynamic system, and re-imagine and re-design it for enhanced success.

SO WHAT are the areas of Uncertainty and Complexity?

Uncertainty and complexity manifest differently in every organisation. However, there are common themes/areas that we typically see these show up in:

Vision and Strategy

Vision and strategy is the guiding star and path to success for your organisation. If people don’t have that purposeful connection to a vision, they will show up to ‘’Do Stuff’’ with a high degree of uncertainty about why it’s important. The strategy should bring the vision to life in a tangible way; without it, we often see lots happening at once with little consistency or coordination, creating greater levels of complexity.

Executive Sponsorship and Alignment

A high level of shared accountability and understanding is crucial to help drive the change forward. However, if this is only coming from one part of the organisation (e.g. the business), this can create high levels of uncertainty across the executive team. This uncertainty will ripple through those executives to the parts of the company they are responsible for, fracturing the transformation before it begins.

Delivery Execution

There is a need to have a clear understanding of what people should be trying to achieve at this moment and how they can measure the progress of that work. Without this, people will decide what to do first based on their needs, with a high degree of uncertainty of how this connects to the vision and strategy for the transformation.


Often governance tends to be very complex at organisations as layers upon layers have been added over time. These elements and how they typically show up at an organisation only drive greater complexity in how people get stuff done with the minimal value associated with it.

Ways of Working

Any change to how we get stuff done is not just a change from a system perspective, but it’s also a human-level change. Often the mistake here is only to view this as a system-level change. This will create uncertainty for people as they have built norms up over time to get stuff done. That uncertainty will create mental complexity as their internal compass will conflict with the new way of doing things.

Enterprise Enablement

Enterprise transformation is a massive and complex undertaking for an organisation. There are many aspects to consider and the golden thread that weaves them all together. However, without a team that enables that thread to remain strong and the elements to make progress, the complexity of the overall change can grow, and uncertainty will start to manifest.

NOW WHAT can you do to reduce Complexity and Uncertainty?

We can now explore some ways you can begin to support your organisation in cutting through and reducing the uncertainty and complexity.

Vision and Strategy

For an Enterprise-Wide Transformation/change, this starts at the very top. As the Executive team, you all must find the time and space to come together to build that Strategy and Vision. To start to craft the vision, begin by asking yourselves these questions:

What is it you want to see at your organisation in the next X years?
What is the importance of having those things?
How would those things change the organisation?
How might you get those things?
Why are those things so important?
Why haven’t you done them before, and what makes this different?
Who do you and the people at the organisation become by having those things?

Once you have captured all the ideas and details around the above and formulated a Vision, you can begin asking the following to shape the strategy:

Where do we feel is the best place to start?
What are the capabilities and skills required to realise this vision?
What are the objectives that will enable us to realise our vision? 
How will we measure these?
What do we need to achieve within the next 6–12month’s12month’s to create momentum towards the vision?
Who are the key advocates who can help shape the strategy and lead the change?

The critical piece here is to come together and co-create something that you are all committed and passionate about, as that commitment and passion will ripple through your organisation with significant effect.

Executive Sponsorship and Alignment

It’s vital that the executive and leadership teams are true sponsors and advocates for the transformation/change, and they continue to maintain a high level of shared understanding and accountability.

Define what you require from a sponsor; it’s not about just funding something and getting progress reports. It’s about those leaders showing up first with the behaviours, mindset and focus.

Delivery Execution

As people begin execution and delivery, everyone must understand what they are doing, why it’s important, and connected to the broader Vision and Strategy.

To do this, I suggest using OKR’s, which stands for Objectives and Key Results. These will help you drive greater alignment, foster engagement and track the progress of your measurable goals. In addition, there are loads of useful materials out there to help you get started.


Governance should be powerful yet simple in its execution; it should provide a heightened level of assurance without impacting the agility of change.

I advise you to go back to the drawing board with this and look at the following 3 areas:

  • Line of Sight: How can we create transparency to understand what people are working on?
  • Progress: How can we see and measure the progress made against Objectives?
  • Assurance: How do we assure that we are doing the right things to the correct standards?

Use the learnings and experience of what you already have to create something new that is even more powerful and becomes a fundamental enabler for the teams and organisation in realising its vision.

Ways of Working

This is a big one, and it’s at the heart of everything; it’s crucial that people are given the right level of support and that the processes are designed to enable success and continuously go through inspection and adaption to meet the evolving needs of the transformation/change.

To advance this area and enable a foundation to be built on which to begin delivering value, I suggest exploring the following areas:

  • People & Culture: From my perspective, this is the most crucial piece of all, ensuring that people have the proper support, opportunities and a positive culture is emerging. Ask these questions to get things moving:

What skills and capabilities do we need people to have?
How might we identify, build or acquire these capabilities and skills?
What are the cultural norms and values we want to see emerge?
How could we cultivate, enable and maintain our culture longer term?

  • Structure: This is about the roles, responsibilities and constructs that bring people together and enable them to execute against the strategy. Ask these questions to create the foundation:

What Roles do we need, and what Responsibilities do we expect them to have?
To deliver with Minimal dependencies, what roles would we need in a team?
How would we construct the team to enable effective communication and collaboration and support people and cultural growth?

  • Strategy Execution & Delivery: It’s important to consider how the teams will translate, prioritise, and deliver the broader strategy. Here I suggest replicating the OKR structure right through to enable consistency and create a strong connection with the wider purpose. Enable the teams to shape the OKR’s and build a prioritised view of what they are going after with a straightforward way to measure progress.

Enterprise Enablement

Given the scale and complexity of Enterprise Transformations/Change, there must be a team/community/coalition of people whose focus is to support and enable its success. I suggest having the core themes and pillars defined similarly to those shared here, for each pillar/theme collaborates to co-create mission statements for each. This can begin to form a kind of ‘’Mission Control’’ that people call on and utilise to advance their efforts, turning it into a powerful enablement function.

Final Thoughts

Enterprise Transformation is not something to be underestimated. It would be best to focus on building solid foundations, enabling people to have a voice, carefully balancing alignment & autonomy and be focused and prepared to pivot quickly as new learning emerges. Then, you can create real momentum, excitement and motivation in the people across the organisation to enable its success.

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