Change Management Shifting From Cost-Cutting to Growth

Although companies remain cost conscious, they are putting much more emphasis than in recent years on growing market share and preparing for the future, and their change management efforts reflect this. According to an Economist Intelligence Unit survey, the three main goals of corporate change initiatives over the next year are increasing revenue (cited by 55% of respondents), preparing the organisation for the future (52%) and cost reduction (50%). The research is summarised in “Leaders of Change: Companies Prepare for a Stronger Future”—the third in a series of change management studies published since 2008 by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Celerant Consulting.


These priorities differ from those voiced by corporate executives in the two previous surveys on change management, where cost considerations dominated, notes the study. In the 2009 survey, for example, 66% of respondents cited cost reduction as the primary goal of change initiatives, while preparing for the future (46%) and increasing revenue (37%) lagged behind.


“Executives have moved beyond strategies for surviving the economic downturn and are increasingly focusing on expanding market share,” says Gilda Stahl, editor of the report. “They see the economy improving and want to capitalise on it. The sort of changes needed to do this will require different leadership skills and approaches than in the recent past."


Other findings of the survey include:


    * Sales and marketing functions are in the front line of change. According to 41% of survey respondents, sales and marketing were the most common areas to experience change in the last year. Since these functions are first to detect upturns in demand, this finding can be attributed to the shift towards a more optimistic view of growth prospects—and the need to prepare the organisation to take advantage of it.


    * Most companies are still remarkably unsuccessful at change management. Respondents say that on average only 56% of change initiatives are successful, even though more senior executive time (cited by 63% of respondents) and spending (47%) than previously are being devoted to these efforts.


    * Lack of senior management commitment is a leading obstacle to change. Respondents at companies with the fewest successful change initiatives complain that senior management are the source of the biggest bottlenecks. They also cite lack of senior management commitment as the largest barrier to change (40%).





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