12 October 2018

Having spent most of my professional career in global and FTSE organisations, it’s fair to say I’ve led more than my fair share of transformation programmes and mergers.

Think the DIY boom in the nineties and the foodie explosion in the noughties – Granada PLC and Compass Group, Forte Hotels, Sainsbury’s/Texas Homecare. And while I’m in confessional mode, I was one of a small team who disposed of that iconic British brand we all loved but pretended we didn't – Little Chef – delivered into the clutches of private equity ownership. I cleansed my soul by expanding Travelodge into Europe, but the 'sailing the Olympic breakfast down the river’ media headlines still haunt me.

Perhaps one of the most interesting sector transformations I worked on was changing the concept of travel hubs, such as airports or service stations, from being a pit stop to becoming a destination experience. I was proud to be part of the team lobbying and changing highways legislation to allow retail malls on motorways. Our transformational 'towns by the roadside strategy' in 1997/8 saw a shift that is still evolving. In airports the shift capitalised on foodie culture and celebrity chefs, where I marvelled at us being able to transform from fast food and family diners to global taste sensations – from the iconic Montreux Jazz Cafe in Geneva airport to Caviar House and Prunier worldwide. Not forgetting the advent of the high street supermarkets delivering convenience to travellers with their sub-brands.

For transformation to be successful, it needs to tick lots of boxes. Many programmes are shaped to implement new I.T., or to save money. Those drivers aren’t necessarily a problem, but I would challenge organisations to think far more broadly about the transformation agenda. What is the market doing? Where are the risks? What is the prognosis for the future? How do you adapt for the future? Where is best practice and innovation? And most importantly how do we create and embed a culture of transformation as part of what we do in our day jobs?

Ultimately, how do we create value and optimise through a transformation agenda?

Delivering value and realising benefits is key in any sector and in particular, sectors with a social mission at their heart. Working in the social housing sector, I have seen first-hand how powerful transformation can be when all the characteristics of success are embedded in every stage of the journey.

Aligning ambition and creating a vision for change is the start, but so is early vesting by all interested parties and ensuring that a compelling evidence-based case is also supported by a mission to win hearts and minds. I like to call this stats and storytelling. People engage with stories, narrative and bold ambition, but they act on evidence, data and good business sense. Of course this varies depending on leadership style and degree of intuition versus evidence in decision-making, but successful transformation relies on both.

Another challenge to consider with transformation is 'how far ahead do we look'. A model I’ve used successfully in the housing sector, and am now applying to several organisations with HouseMark, is one that focuses on four equal quadrants of Size of Prize versus Implementation Distraction and Benefit Realisation versus Cost of Change. The latter being data and evidence driven and the former more intuitive, emotion, organisation and capacity led. All four are key considerations for successful transformation planning, driving investment, return, capacity planning and ambition.

There are no prizes for blindly driving multi-faceted change without context. Successful transformation identifies not only the early rewards, but also the breakthrough objectives that accelerate delivery and benefit realisation whilst simultaneously taking time to deliver areas that are key to business continuity. Benefit erosion is just as easily seen in day to day performance as it is in transformation arenas and everyone has a responsibility to optimise change.

Amanda spoke at the first Business Transformation in Housing Conference in May 2018, where speakers from across all sectors and streams of transformation explored and shared latest thinking and world class practice. Book your place for Business Transformation in Housing 2019 today.

Amanda Leonard

Amanda Leonard is Managing Partner of Perfectstorm.inc

Amanda Leonard has spent a 20 year corporate career, working globally in Business Development, Growth, Commercial, Marketing and HR and Change at Board level. Her experience includes senior roles with Sainsburys, Granada Group PLC and Compass Group PLC before working with a private equity company to spin off Compass Group's retail travel division - SSP The Food Travel Experts where she initially set up a new division in the USA before moving back to London as Global Senior Vice President for Business Development and Client Relations, working with brands such as M and S Simply Food, WH Smith, Starbucks, Caviar House and Prunier and Burger King.

Having worked extensively in fast moving, changing sectors, including taking Travelodge into Europe, handling the challenging disposal of Little Chef and working on multiple mergers in hospitality, retail, housing and leisure since establishing her consultancy in 2010 she has brought new transformative thinking into the housing sector. As one of the key leads of the Clarion merger, she has also worked on benefit realisation both pre and post-merger and in a number of associations throughout the UK on their transformation agendas. She is also working with HouseMark to develop new transformation methodology, combining their unique data, insight and relationships with exemplar external organisations with her proven track record, experience and model.

Amanda has a passion for leadership, and believes that transformation shouldn't be limited to large scale change programmes. She has a particular approach to ensuring that organisations have future capacity and headroom as they transform. With clients in British Sport, Consulting, Retail, Hospitality and Housing she brings a broad perspective to the transformation agenda.

Transformation - way of life or big deal?