Leading Through Transistions

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Business Challenge

If your organisation is like the average company, the chances are that roughly 25 percent of the management positions turn over every year.1 The cost for the transitioning manager, team, and company can be startlingly significant, because up to 50 percent of role transitions fail within the first 18 months.2 The cost of one failed senior-level transition can be more than 20 times the senior leader’s salary.3 Further, a recent Forum Corporation study on strategic speed—how leaders accelerate the execution of plans and strategies and sustain speed over time—revealed, among other things, that role transitions are only one of several types of transitions that impact strategic speed. There are, in fact, four categories of transitions that impact not only the bottom line, but also leaders and their teams:

  • Place Transitions: Leaders in role transition who are new to the organisation altogether, who are moving laterally to a new business unit, who have been promoted, or whose scope of responsibilities expanded significantly.
  • Assignment Transitions: Leaders who are heading up a special, limited term project or initiative designed to address a specific business issue.
  • Team Transitions: Leaders whose role remains unchanged, but whose team composition has changed significantly.
  • Heading Transitions: Organisations, divisions, or functions as a whole that are under new management, have a significant new organisational strategy, or whose leaders have a new boss.

These transitions occur repeatedly—much more frequently than do role transitions. Yet in practice they all typically take longer and cost more than anticipated. This means that just when the organisation needs the leader and team to add value quickly, the transition creates a drag on resources and takes longer than it should, because, as Forum’s research shows, we naturally gravitate toward specific actions that slow us down, trip us up, and imperil our efforts while ignoring the critical few things that accelerate transitions and ensure success.

Leading Through Transitions

Leading Through Transitions is based on three transition accelerators that help overcome common transition decelerators, speed transitions, and ensure success. The programme explores the accelerators and their associated concepts, tools, and strategies, helping participants identify the critical few things they need to focus on.

Key Content

The working session includes four modules of activities and tools that help leaders take immediate steps to accelerate and strengthen their transitions. They are:

  • Analyse Your Transition Path features an in-depth analysis of leaders’ particular transition situations. Included is a review of the three research-based accelerators leaders can use to speed up and transition more successfully and an assessment against the seven decelerators that most leaders fall prey to due to a lack of awareness.
  • Increase Clarity focuses on identifying the business backdrop for the transition: the launch of a new project, business, or initiative; a time of rapid growth; steady success with little growth; a period of renewal of the business; or a project, business, or initiative in imminent danger of failure. Leaders assess the degree to which their interpretation of the situation likely aligns with that of their manager and team, identify the leadership actions relevant to their business situation, and prepare for alignment conversations with manager and team.
  • Increase Unity focuses on identifying and building alliances with the people across the organisation who can really help the leader succeed. Leaders identify existing alliances and gaps, assess the status of these relationships, and identify specific steps to take to form strong alliances with high-priority people.
  • Increase Agility focuses on building personal and team capability for rapid innovation and execution under the changing circumstances that accompany transitions. Using assessments and practices from Forum’s research, leaders focus on both the personal and environmental factors that will enable themselves and their teams to adapt and act quickly under changing circumstances.

Throughout the session, participants diagnose and plan ways to accelerate their transition, receive feedback on their transition strategies, and explore best-practice examples from multiple industries. They leave the session with an action plan to accelerate their transition.

Target Audience

The audience for Leading Through Transitions is mid-level to senior-level leaders who have recently, are presently, or will soon be going through a transition.


As a result of participating in Leading Through Transitions, leaders will be able to:

  • Diagnose and accelerate their transition by applying a framework and tools to their situation
  • Address the risks and challenges that hinder transitioning leaders and teams from delivering value to the organisation
  • Identify their team’s transition needs and help team members quickly align action to the situation
  • Create a shared, clear understanding of their transition situation and priorities with their manager and team
  • Enhance critical working relationships and gain support from their peers, team, and manager
  • Enable high levels of agility in their team

Delivery Options

  • Classroom: 1 day
  • Virtual Classroom: Two 2-hour virtual instructor-led sessions combined with 4 hours of inter-session work

Coaching Support

Forum provides the ability to deliver personalised just-in-time, transition-specific coaching to leaders by the client’s staff or by Forum. Coaches and leaders have access to tools geared toward place, assignment, team, and heading transitions as well as tools that apply across the range of transitions.


1 Results of Michael Watkins’s 1999 management transition survey of heads of Human Resources at random sample of 100 Fortune 500 companies, cited in M. Watkins, “Strategy for the Critical First 90 Days of Leadership,” Strategy and Leadership, vol. 32, no. 1, 2004, pp. 15-20.

2 George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, Jorge E. Pedraza, The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, 2nd Ed. (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009). Cited 1998 study by Manchester, Inc., often incorrectly attributed to the Center for Creative Leadership.

3 Bradford D. Smart, Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People (New York: The Penguin Group, 2005).

Forum is a global professional services firm that mobilises people to embrace the critical strategies of their organisation and accelerate results. We help senior leaders with urgent strategic agendas equip their organisations to perform, change and grow. Our expertise is built on decades of original research; our business insight keeps companies out ahead of their markets, competitors and customers. Harvard Business Press published Forum’s latest book Strategic Speed in 2010. For more information, visit www.forum.com.  2014 The Forum Corporation