How to put people at the heart of strategic transformation

19 January 2021 7 min. read

Transformation is notorious for its pitfalls and challenges – but perhaps the most common mistake firms make is neglecting the so-called ‘soft side’ of change. In fact, according to consultancy People Change, successful transformations strongly depend on transforming the culture. The firm’s new book ‘Strategic Transformation’ help CEO’s and companies better appreciate the human side of change programmes.

In the age of digital disruption, efforts to integrate new, innovative technology with business operations have become essential to the survival of modern businesses. Even the largest market incumbents are having to move to revamp their operations, as new digitally savvy competitors have emerged to eat into their market share – something which has seen the demand for digital transformation services boom to an industry worth billions.

Despite this rush to adapt, however, many organisations continue to struggle to carry out transformation projects. According to various reports from experts across the research landscape, the core issue is not that companies are failing to invest adequate amounts of time and money in the upgrading of their equipment – rather that they are underestimating the amount of work they will need to put into helping their workforce make the most of those changes.

Three types of change

The name of consulting firm People Change is not a coincidence. The company helps its clients with the complex processes of organisational or digital transformations in their business – with the firm’s transformative focus being on the workplace culture and skills at all levels of a client’s ranks.

In order to help firms better understand just why this is so important, and what they stand to gain by taking people-driven change more seriously, the firm has launched a new book. ‘Strategic Transformation: Essential Insights for the 21st Century’ outlines four key stages for successful transformation.

Speaking at the release, co-author and People Change founder Rogier Offerhaus said, “The success of a transformation stands or falls with the way in which that change is put in place. The human approach is crucial here. In order to be able to change, the organisation needs full involvement and commitment of the employees. Every mindset reacts differently to change. The trick is to facilitate the change in such a manner that the people and teams in that organisation feel invited to change and can make a positive contribution from his or her uniqueness. Personal development and organisational development therefore go hand in hand.”


According to People Change’s book, historically businesses have witnessed three kinds of change. Developmental change sees gradual improvement of a current performance level over time. Transitional change sees an old state of working transition to a new state.

Transformation, however, is far less straight-forward, with the creation of a new mode of operating resulting from a period of chaos that reveals the unsustainability of the old way of doing things. Due to the anarchic nature of this last form of change, gaining insight into what assets a company has before attempting to adapt can be an essential part of any transformation.

The People Change Scan

To that end, People Change offers its People Change scan, which measures insights in the field of organisation, leadership and change to illustrate the initial situation of the individual, team or organisation before embarking on a change programme. The scan indicates which conditions employees need for the change and which skills they possess to be able to change, and what behaviour they exhibit when the pressure on them is increased.

The People Change scan consists of a questionnaire that is completed online, containing about 40 questions and takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.

Explaining the importance of such a step, Offerhaus said, “The data entered is validated using the latest scientific insights and our own extensive experience. Change organisations, teams and professionals can use the insights to immediately formulate a change plan. With this they can implement and realise measurable changes. The benefits of the change are immediately noticeable, measurable, visible and cost-efficient.”


No transformation can succeed unless it is made clear what it’s purpose and long-term goals are. “A CEO cannot simply sanction a digital transformation top-down; they must communicate a shared vision of an inspiring future, why the transformation is necessary, why digital is an unquestionable priority, why leaders have to transform themselves and step-up, and make it harder to back-track,” Offerhaus said.

Good communication is a two-way street, and to some traditional leaders that can be a struggle to accommodate. If a leader can make employees feel listened to, as well as explaining clearly what the benefits for a transformation will be, people will be inspired and energised for the coming changes.

In other words, as People Change’s book puts it, “For a good cooperation it is necessary to familiarise yourself with the mindsets and develop them in yourself and then recognise and appreciate mindsets in others. The best way to work together is to understand each other's worldview.”

Offerhaus added, “From the insight stage comes specific information about the desired organisation, leadership and culture in terms of mindsets and value systems. For leaders and employees of an organisation this can come across as abstract. We therefore propose that after the analysis, in a starting session we co-create their vision of the desired organisational culture, values and behavioural characteristics.”

“In this way, the 'gap' between the current and desired culture can be identified and subsequent steps can be discussed in order to embed the desired culture and transformation for all leaders and professionals in the organisation.”



Following these preparatory phases, the third step on People Change’s transformation curve relates to building of the desired organisational and leadership transformation. The firm’s approach is to make use of different types of interventions within the implementation program: GROW group transformation sessions, leadership and team development, as well as coaching and training in change and support for organisational change projects.

The GROW model consists of four steps: Goal, explaining what the individual or team wants to achieve; Reality, exploring the current situation and discovering the barriers to change; Options, outlining what the choices are for action; and Will, determining what will be done. These steps do not always have to be taken in this order, however, a GROW session is most effective if every step is discussed during coaching sessions.


Finally, Offerhaus stated, “The integration phase is about the question: how do we stay here? You've brought an organisation, team or leader to a new level, how do you anchor it? What have we learned and how do we incorporate it into the organisation so that future generations can benefit, enjoy and build on it?”


Cohesion between people and the company’s goals are an essential part of a successful transformation. It is the role of the leaders to ensure that over the course of a transformation the company moves toward a shared vision and the leaders and culture will continue to behave as a unified entity, striving to meet future challenges as one.

People Change moves to help its clients ingrain the ability to adapt within the organisation, even after the consultancy has withdrawn. People Change can continue to support the organisation in onboarding new employees, performing individual analyses using the People Change scan, and developing the organisation.