What type of Transformation Champion are you?


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Transformation roles are relatively new to the scene. We were curious about where these new business change-agents came from, so we analysed more than 200 Transformation Leader profiles across Europe.  


Many organisations have embarked on the journey of digital transformation over the past few years to sustainably reinvent themselves. While the organisation is on this journey the Transformation Leader's role is to turn separate innovation, digital and culture initiatives into a balanced, integrated programme of change. Easy, right?

In practice, individuals charged with spearheading transformation programmes must have multiple capabilities and, as stated by McKinsey in their article 'Leading Organisational Transformation', the ability to skilfully control the following three levers in order to materialise meaningful change:

  • Top-down direction setting to create focus throughout an organisation and develop the conditions for performance improvement.

  • Broad-based, bottom-up performance improvement to get people at all levels to take a fresh approach to solving problems and improving performance.

  • Cross-functional core process redesign to link activities, functions, and information in new ways to achieve breakthrough improvements in cost, quality, and timeliness.

So what does a successful Transformation Leader look like?

Depending on who you ask the opinions will vary. A CFO will say it is someone who can demonstrate ROI and does not turn the programme into a cost centre; a VP of Operations will push for a company expert who knows how the organisation works; an HR Specialist will insist it is someone who brings people along with the change; an IT executive will argue it must be a seasoned technologist who has successfully managed the technical complexity of change initiatives. Each of these executives will also be able to retell multiple horror stories from other organisations that will support their point of view.

If you find yourself in this conversation one day, remind the room that we've seen some of this before. 10 years ago we had 'Digital Gurus' and ‘Digital Ninjas’ preaching to digitally immature organisations about the rise of smartphones and the urgency of building an online presence. The business climate at the time pushed organisations to quickly inject digital in order to compete and stay relevant. However, unlike the era of the 'Digital Guru', where digitising a part or function of the business was the focus, today, the role requires much more systemic and transversal change to be implemented across an organisation.

Today, the pace, density and unpredictability that technological change brings requires that Transformation Leaders have a track record of successfully rethinking business models as well as rewiring and rebuilding the people, processes and technologies behind them. Outside of the CEO, there has never been a role that touched so many areas of the business at the same time.

So, does a good Transformation Leader actually just look like a good leader? Will successful Transformation Leaders actually be mini-CEOs? In the 1980s and 1990s we saw CFOs and CMOs becoming CEOs, will the 2020s see a raft of CEOs who were former Chief Transformation Officers?


It’s a bit too early to tell which type of profile will increase the odds of transformation success, but below you’ll find an infographic summarising what we learned when we analysed more than 200 Transformation Leader profiles across Europe. In the infographic you’ll also see our take on the respective benefits and blind spots various Transformation Leader profiles might experience while on their transformation journey, considering our opening comments that these professionals could be considered mini-CEOs.

Some highlights and observations:

  • 75% of the professionals in the role are male, however, in Spain there is a 53% : 47% split between men and women. Women in the role had a greater tendency to have a background in Consulting and Retail, while men came from Telecom and Financial Services.

  • 34% of the professionals have been in their current organisation for 10+ years. 6% spent 10 - 20 years in an organisation, but switched to a competitor within the industry when starting their current role.

  • Only 4% of the professionals previously held a role in areas such as Innovation, Customer Experience (CX) or Transformation for 5+ years. Only 1 professional previously held the title of ‘Chief Digital Officer’.

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