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What Everyone Gets Wrong About Change Management

Studies and analysis that we have conducted show that most corporate transformation efforts are either derivatives or combinations of five prototypical quests:

  1. Global presence: extending market reach and becoming more international in terms of leadership, innovation, talent flows, capabilities, and best practices
  2. Customer focus: understanding your customers’ needs and providing enhanced insights, experiences, or outcomes (integrated solutions) rather than just products or services
  3. Nimbleness: accelerating processes or simplifying how work gets done to become more strategically, operationally, and culturally agile
  4. Innovation: incorporating ideas and approaches from fresh sources, both internal and external, to expand the organization’s options for exploiting new opportunities
  5. Sustainability: becoming greener and more socially responsible in positioning and execution
Each quest has its own focus, enablers, and derailers, and each requires the company to do something more or different with its operating model, customers, partners, internal processes, or resources. “Going digital” can support any of the five quests, and all of them call for discipline.

It can be difficult to choose the right quest. Should the company expand into new regions, get closer to customers, innovate with more partners, get faster and more responsive, or become more sustainable? Executives sometimes say “all of the above”—but that’s too much to handle at once. The right quest should be a compelling and uncontested priority. In some of the cases we analyzed, companies straddled quests (customer focus and agility, for instance, or innovation and sustainability). That can work as long as the components are fused into one cogent focus.

With multiple organizational challenges jostling for attention, top teams are liable to disagree on the transformation priority. That’s why we created a 15-question audit.

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