Insider Business Club: shaping business growth

Damian Wild, Chris Edwards and Jean-Anne Stewart

Is the pace of change spiralling out of control for many executives?

Richard Gleed, associate partner, IBM

A number of the comments picked up in our recent global CEO study reflect the
accelerating pace of change and particularly the development of technical change
and a lot of social and economic change. For a CEO grappling with that, it is
very challenging.

One of the questions we asked was: ‘What level of change do you expect going
forward?’ That is going up.

The next question was: ‘What level of success have you had in the past in
dealing with change?’ And that has gone up ­ but not by as much. So the gap
between the two – ie the gap between people who are expecting substantial change
and people saying they have successfully coped with change in the past ­ has

It’s gone up from about 8% in 2006 to 22% globally in 2008. If you do a cut
of the UK results, the gap is higher, at about 30%.

That’s consistent with other research we’ve done which says that companies
have varying levels of success in actually coping with change. So we live in a
world where you need organisations to be adaptable and able to manage very
significant change pro-grammes. A lot of organisations struggle with doing that

Do change programmes designed to equip organisations for the future live
up to expectations?

Chris Edwards, professor, Cranfield School of Management

I think that there are many examples of change programmes not delivering the
benefits that they potentially could. Often, people don’t clearly articulate
what they expect the benefits to be. They have general statements, or visions,
but they don’t tie them into practice and ask: ‘What precisely do we expect to
get out of this?’

They don’t define what those benefits are going to be very clearly and they
don’t metricate and evaluate them. That whole story of developing the business
case for the change is really badly done.

People talk about spending 5% of the total project costs before you get to
the business case. But, in practice, I don’t see that at all. The business case
and benefits are not always thought through and the actual resources required
are not considered in detail. So the business case is a little bit glib and
problems occur further downstream.

A central feature in that is that we’ve cut down on the people in
organisations. We’ve cut down on the staff to such a level that everybody I come
across is doing two jobs.

So the long-term things, the creation of tomorrow, isn’t a priority,
particularly when you are moving towards a recession. When I ask: ‘Who is
responsible for creating tomorrow in this business?’ the answer I sometimes get
is ‘everybody’. Of course, that tends to mean nobody, or the chief executive ­
who is responsible for everything in the whole world anyway. So there seems to
be no central focus of somebody; this notion of a transformation director,
somebody who is bringing together all the resources to create tomorrow.

How can a commitment to CSR help transform companies?

Jean-Anne Stewart, director of studies, corporate programmes Henley
Management College

One of the aspects we’ve found recently is when people are trying to recruit
high-calibre graduates, the younger generation coming through are asking these
organisations about what they do with CSR. They are probing quite deeply

This is happening at the same time that we have a shortage of these people
because the demographics are now changing. With many organisations trying to
recruit high-calibre people, those with a good education who companies would
like to recruit are really pushing on that. And, certainly, some of them from
top universities are not joining organisations if they do not feel their CSR is
up to scratch.

I think we are seeing a new generation coming through who don’t like to see
people being exploited for cheap goods for the West and they are certainly more
aware of that. They will obviously push back on to organisations and that
certainly makes them take notice.

Chaired by Damian Wild

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