Top 10 Challenges You Can Solve in Transformation Sprints

05.09.22 11:01 PM By Lars Lin Villebaek

What Other Organizations Choose to Prioritise, 
(Or Miss!)

Based on our project data as well as global surveys from leading research, 

we help you scope & position your transformation projects to solve frequently seen, high-impact issues in client organisations.

Explore the top 10 opportunities in the major business challenges by unfolding the tabs below.

Executive Awareness

"It's very difficult to fix things we cannot see or that fall outside of our awareness".

Back in the days, Copernicus and Galileo helped people to see that our world is not flat, not is it the centre of the universe, as was previously believed for centuries. As we speak, the James Webb telescope is revealings parts of the universe, that have remained hidden from the capabilities of the Hubble telescope the past 30 years. This is the modern day Copernicus and Galileo.

When we confidently claim a status of "expert", and that a transformation Sprint cannot teach us something new about what today may become tomorrow, think about the abundance of what we don't know, and also how little of "what has been known so far in history", that may no longer hold true in the future.

Is VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, an apt description of the current state of the world? Would you agree the pace of change in the world is accelerating? Leaders may have stopped questioning this when Covid-10 hit their business in the past couple of years. But what else is changing the world as we know it, including Your business domain? Is it time to prepare for more change in the years to come?

The opposite of Volatility is Stability -Would you say your business environment is stable?

The opposite of Uncertainty is Certainty -Would you say that you have a good grasp on what the future holds?

The opposite of Complexity is Simplicity -Would you say organisational life is getting simpler?

The opposite of Ambiguity is Predictability -Would you say markets, customers, competitors, and governments are acting in predictable ways?

An Awakening Keynote -optionally followed by a transformative experience for the workshop participants, is an eye-opener for senior leaderships as well as for everyone else attending.

Make sure to invite your ecosystem, business partners and others who need a wake-up call too!

How to Leverage Exponential Technologies

Exponential leaders understand that technology is a force that transforms scarcity to abundance. Technology is creating a world of abundance in almost every major arena, including (but certainly not limited to) energy, knowledge, transportation, computation,  education, and healthcare. Once these industries transform from scarcity to abundance, their products and services become cheap—or free—and their quality often goes through the roof. Exponential leaders understand that we’re getting closer and closer to an abundant future. The world is becoming better at an extraordinary rate on almost every possible measure. These leaders also know that scarcity-minded, closed business models will ultimately fail, while open platforms will ultimately win.

But does your organization also understand HOW Exponential technologies work? How to leverage them best for your particular use? What are the most suitable and transformative technologies you cannot afford NOT to get into your execution engine, or into your innovation lab at least?

Many corporations and governments are too slow at getting their hands dirty and learning from their own experiments. So they try to acquire tech startups to play catch-up. But this strategy often fails, unless you are a tech giant that is constantly vacuum clearning the market for talent and new tech services.

There is no way around it. Every organization that accepts the new realities where technology transform domain after domain, must grow their technology muscle and talent pool, to learn how technology will be a force of growth, rather than a disruption to your business.

Let us design your technology discovery phase and bring you through a Sprint, that shows you exactly also where and how your organization should prioritise your time, money and Human Resources. We can bring in experienced tech entrepreneurs and consultants to show you the fast(test) lane to running your own experiments with tech, or doing it in partnerships.

Educating Senior Leadership in Exponential Frameworks & Industry Transformation

First, a few definitions:

Digital Disruption: Increasingly pervasive and inexpensive digital technology causing widespread industrial, economic, and social change. This explosive change has occurred only in the past decade or two

Digital Transformation: The migration of enterprises and societies from the Third to the Fourth Industrial Revolution by having digital technology become the backbone of new products and services, new ways of operation, and new business models

One of the high level questions we often get in this discovery and learning stage, is "How does ExO fit into all the other frameworks we already use?". In the last section below (Why Digital Transformations Fail), a conversation is summarised in which, the participants together proposed the following explanation:

Design thinking powerful for bringing up the big ideas but at risk of staying at post-it notes, 100000 post it notes but nothing happened
Lean Startup principles are for building MVPs, a practical environment to take the ideas to something practical
Agile: once you validated your initiative, build it in an iterative, customer-focused way as soon as possible, bring product to market
ExO: how do I create an ecosystem to help solve my problems -with transparency so everyone can see what is going on. Bringing technologies and capabilities in while allowing disruptive models to test in the market
Without ExO you are not going to get things done due to immune system, politics etc

Let us know in the comments below how you position ExO in comparison with the other important frameworks we leverage in innovation and transformation projects?

Lets have a quick look at some of the
Key frameworks that are relevant to share with executives and anyone participating in a transformation journey (books available from
Exponential Organizations:
MTP: “As Robert Goldberg says, “MTP pivots you from incrementalism to exceptionalism”

Exponential Transformation (book):
Awakening Workshop (and related workshops)

Some notes for inspiration on educating groups of senior leadership:
Democratizing change. To address the thinking, that when adopting transformation or large performance improvement efforts, you could focus on only a handful of things. Today, when you look at companies that have done a great job of changing their performance and sustaining it, there are often hundreds, if not thousands, of initiatives involved. Research suggests that any individual can successfully drive only one or two initiatives. That means you need hundreds or thousands of people involved in the broader transformation effort. Mobilizing that level of your workforce requires democratizing the change.
It must be a priority to have an execution engine in place that will support that scale of change. Companies need to track those hundreds or thousands of initiatives all the way from an idea to the bottom line.

In large-scale transformation programs, the tone is set at the top!

Executives should also be ready to lead from the front and be the face of transformational change. Leaders cast a long shadow in their organizations and are effectively always on stage. Your organization simply won’t mobilize around the transformation unless they see the executive team’s personal commitment to its success.

Another aspect of the leader role to consider, when realising what our role is as an executive in the new era of employee engagement. Do you trust your laders and managers during a crisis? Agility PR Solutions report shows that 32% of US employees had confidence in their leaders. The rest did not. 

Recent pandemic-inflicted leadership challenges forced organizations to take extraordinary measures in real time, with zero planning. Things are changing drastically and dramatically, leaving no industry across the world unaffected (Forbes, WSJ, others).

Every leader must switch from survival mode and reactive management and utilize the experience to prepare for the future.

As Albert Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Indeed, today’s leaders require a new mindset to think beyond business-as usual

Developing Strategy for Disruptive Innovation & Transformation

There are many ways to approach the work of drafting a new strategy for a business, a government entity, or any other type of organization.

But the risk is high in all cases, that the decision makers, board members, executives, government officials and others, prioritise what seems to be risk reducing strategies, which is often how "doing what we know" feels like.

But in more cases than not, it is more risk reducing to systematically run small, fast experiments to learn the "brutal" truth, to find the real answers rather than going with our gut feeling.

To get out of our comfort zone, it may be easier for everyone to move forward with the proposed transformation Sprints (or other processes), by actually staffing the teams doing the work by someone coming from outside of your leadership team.

As you will find out from several of the other challenges described around here, you need your leaderhip onboard and involved to support, sponsor, open doors and see the work through to the end. But bringing fresh minds in with other perspectives is often a great way to 10x your strategy work and taking it towards abundance, rather than back towards scarcity.

We propose conducting the strategy work with dedicated teams assigned for the job (Sprint), and that everyone in the team is there for a reason. They present back to the decision makers, who are involved and constantly kept up to date throughout the process, to avoid our "immune system response" to kick in and kill new ideas and initiative pre-maturely. Let the data from the experimentation speak!

You may find helpful guidance and inspiration in my LinkedIn blog post here for how to build teams that can build Exponential Organisations

While you are there, hit the Connect button if you like. I definitely want to stay connected with you.

Identify Innovative Opportunities for CORE & 10x Initiatives for EDGE

This is a specific, highly actionable request, that is a great match for the 10 week ExO Sprint process. Exactly why Accenture Brazil brought ExO to Visa Brazil in 2017. Click the two case study slides below to open them for easier reading. Today, there are both core and edge initiatives implemented (and funded as new global Visa products and new blockchain business) to show how the ExO Sprint makes a huge difference when 10x initiatives are most needed and time is limited.

Solving Macro Challenges Through Collaborative Ecosystems

Visa Brazil, who you just saw mentioned in the challenge above here, leveraged their second ExO Sprint to solve one large scale community problem.

Back in the days of the Sprint, buying a ticket for a different mass transportation line in São Paulo, Brazil, often meant getting off your first bus/train, get in the line for a new ticket machine, buy a new ticket and get on your next ride. This was a $200 mio problem every year.

But the competition between the technology/solution vendors as well as the competition between the transportation providers, always got in the way of collaboration towards one solution "to rule them all".

The solution started materialising when the Visa Sprint teams started applying the Community & Crowd Attribute on the problem. If a community is growing in society, and that is where you anchor the problem solving, then chances are significantly better of seeing all types of stakeholders gathering around a Massive Transformative Purpose, for the benefit of society and their economy.

The problem got solved and we trust ticketing is a much more seamless experience today for commuters.

What macro challenge are you in need of solving? 

Exponential Growth Roadmapping

The already delivered transformation projects have been 7 productive years of putting tools and exercises together for proper exponential roadmapping work, as well as planning for the capability building any organization will need to get started. Here are a few resources.

Workforce Development, Capability Building & Exponential HR

Human Resources is almost always a key partner, and sometimes also a sponsor, in transformation programs. Obviously.

The below is a slide that usually makes it's way into the content stack we use with our clients.

Because the enabling of human desires and aspirations is what will unleash the key values of most products and services.

Seeing everyone excited, engaged and proactively working in the best interest of the future of the business, is easily achieved as you facilitate the early phases of an ExO Sprint or workshops with some of the same exercises. This is a low-hanging fruit, that you achieve in a few hours. To HR, this can be a rarely seen, and very motivating experience (too). Make sure HR is a key stakeholder and always invited and present at live exercises.

We have learned over the years, that these are Capabilities many organisations are looking for, or will develop anyway during transformation work based on the ExO methodologies. Open up this list. Which ones will you opt for?

Finance for an Abundant World (And What to Talk to Board Members About)

Topics usually found relevant to engage in by Finance executives and other financial sponsors of transformation work:

How Innovation Accounting (which is often new to us) compares to Execution/Operations Accounting (which we are all familiar with)


Milestone based release of budgets to autonomous teams (such as Sprint teams).

The ExO models and frameworks are also studied with great interest by financial stakeholders. 

Setting Yourself Up for Anti-Failure (Why Digital Transformations Fail)

Intentional Transformation of large organisations is challenging. Most attempts do not succeed (according to all research we have seen so far, 70% of all digital transformations fail due to lack of discipline according to the book highlighted below). But disruption from the outside of our business happens without any need from anyone to lift a finger.

According to a 2021 Corporate Longevity Forecast by Innosight, at the current churn rate, 75% of the S&P 500 firms in 2011 will be replaced by new firms entering the S&P 500 in 2027. Technological, economic, and societal shifts are paving the way for smaller, more agile companies to scale and disrupt existing organizations at an exponential rate.

How do we keep ourselves relevant as an established business? What will make us succeed and what can make us fail?
Leaders looking to bring in coaches or consultants to help design and navigate a transformation journey look for someone with real hands-on experience from leading transformation. There are lots of good sales people out there, making promised but without the ability to demonstrate real experience.

Someone who has the badges and "battle scars" to prove he has done it, is Tony Saldanha, former executive at Procter & Gamble who ran the company's famed multi-billion dollar Global Business Services (GBS) and IT operations division for all business units. While at Procter & Gamble, he led digital transformation projects across the US, Europe, and Asia. He was named on Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Professionals list in 2013. This section on what Why Digital Transformation Fails come from the work of him and his colleagues. The book of the same name below is all about that and comes highly recommended.
In a call with Tony and his companion, Brent Duersch, in October 2019, they shared some of their key lessons learned.
Here they are in a simplified bullet form:
  • What Tony wish he had known… 
    • Real digital transformation is 10% digital and 90% transformation (how do you get the rest of the company to adapt)
    • When you think you have a success initiative and you come back to your organization and they say oh go away
    • Salim at Yahoo could not get anything done. The core was a roman army with spears and shields, spearing you regardless of what direction you come from and your best intentions.
    • Brent: still has battle scars from working on his edge initiatives
      He wish he had know how much resistance he would be facing later in the process
    • Michael Alvarez from Boston Scientific joined our call. "Knowing they had to go outside of their own business to get the help they needed on the tough ride: Two key points: Discipline necessary and the difficulty of the culture. Boston brought open-mindedness to actually implement change. The incremental innovation is easy but the 10x is really hard."
    • Get started is the most important step to take, says Tony Saldana
      “I have not budget, I have no time..:” No, you have too much money and time. The disruptors often does not have money and time so they are not waiting for someone to give them a mandate.
      You have to assume the mandate, take charge, figure out how to do this
      “We actually do not want P&G money, we will use our ecosystem to do the work for us, we have cool ideas for a startup and they can have P&G as a customer, come and work on this idea with us”.
  • Implementation at scale (Tony):
The Silicon Valley model is about creating a supply and wait for the demand.
We need to start with innovation demand and then go find the supply.
95% of our experiments (projects) will be a VP or above level strategic plan of must-do items -but you can still run into the corporate immune system.
  • The immune system is designed to keep stability but you need to change the reward systems. Involve people too early and they will reject ideas or too late and they will kill the initiatives. Accepting that this is a strategic imperative for the top boss and there is a way to do it without upsetting the organization.
  • Michael: Have buy-in from the top for funding, have someone of influence engaged on a day-to-day basis, skin-in-the-game. Otherwise it is hard to maintain momentum in the post-sprint change process.
  • Start with business opportunities, not with technology. Do not start with the tech and then search for a problem to solve. Danger of not showing results! Making change happen outside of the lab will gain you credibility with your business partners. One success lead to the next one but the first one is critical.
  • Do the disruption on the edge, because you need a higher pace of metabolism than you have in the core, where the metabolism is slower (fight for funding, go through processes) than the outside world. Jack Welsh in the 2000 annual report said the moment your metabolism in the company is slower than the outside world, you are dead. It is not a question about if but when. -and keep incremental innovation in the core.
  • Yahoo Brickhouse was put in the media so it was no longer allowed to fail given all the press and then the immune system have ammunition to go after you.
  • Walmart in 1990 had a geo stationary satellite control center in their datacenter. Someone had the vision to do launch geo stationary satellites for credit card transactions and real time inventory that gave Walmart 15% edge in margin in a 1-2% margin market and the rest of the industry took 1,5 decade to catch up.
  • When you take your eyes off the ball, that is when you get passed. The tone is set from the top, investing in the people giving them tech skills, invest in technology. MTP + End State goal is to be kept in mind always.
  • How is ExO mindset instilled deeply: P&G picked people who had been good at running operation and who had the right mindset brought them into a two year rotation. They understand the customer, the customer problem, and are being set up for success by their credible background and knowledge so when they say “I found a way to eliminate invoicing or 10x improve the invoicing process”, the customer will listen…
  • No more shiny features, you need a purpose behind your organization to win the support of the market, same uniform approach inside and outside of the organization builds trust through the transparent approach.
  • The emotional connection with actually working as an organization to make a strong impact on the world makes it very engaging for the staff
  • P&G (Brent): Open Innovation in the ecosystem they built, they decided to share their problems and opportunities with their ecosystem and were surprised how many tech companies, VC’s, Universities who were interested in the problems they had and who wanted to collaborate on solving these problems. A significant network was grown over 3-4 years because they were willing to share their problems with the world and “what was the worst thing that can happen by doing it”…
  • Michael Alvarez from Boston Scientific: he is most proud of the initiatives that had an end state that brought everyone including the experts into dis-belief. That is a motivator to prove them wrong.
  • The Sprint process hacks large company culture. The process can be improved but it is proven.
  • Stress happens when we do not know what to do next. Let the next steps tell you and focus on trying it…
  • Transform the core of your operation into a fully digital backbone.
  • Make digital the “living DNA” of your organization
  • Rather than get frustrated or discouraged by lack of …good insights… progress.. double down on them
  • Apply a disciplined checklist model (aviation industry inspired)

Companies either transform or die in industrial revolutions, that has been true in all previous industrial revolutions we have had, although the technology drivers of change are different
Digital transformation is our current generations’s attempt to transform in the face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
As many as 70% of all digital transformations fail due to lack of discipline in defining and executing the right steps for digital transformation to take off and stay ahead (some numbers indicate it can be up to 84%)
It is possible to apply the proven checklist methodology from the airline and medical fields to improve the 70% failure rate.

The goal is worth while the hard work to make transformation happen, and it not only the existential threat to each individual companies and their employees but the power to create new and better realities, life changing new products and services and leaving the world in a much better place than when we started.

End of the conversation. Let's have a look at the 5 stages of transformation that Tony book describes (in great detail).

Transformation Stage 
Stage I Foundation: Automating internal processes for future transformation foundation
Stage II Siloed: first mover business functions start to use disruptive technologies to create new business models
Stage III Partially Synchronized Transformation: Top leadership recognises the disruptive powers and defines a digital future state. The organization starts rowing in the same direction -but the digital backbone is not yet in place or the enterprise has not completed transforming into it. Agile culture is not yet sustainable.
Stage IV Fully Synchronized: Digital platform across the organization or new scalable business model has fully taken root. But still only one technology or business model change away from being disrupted.  You will need digital capabilities AND an agile innovation culture to survive continuous disruption
Stage V Living DNA: Transformation becomes perpetual.

You maintain ongoing industry trend leadership because you are disciplined in constantly innovating and setting industry trends. Not just a market leader but a disciplined innovator.

With that, enjoy the videos below, where you meet Tony Saldanha as he describes his lessons learned and the material you find in his book.

Figure 5 -The 5 Steps Model, from Why Digital Transformations Fail.