Why ‘change’ is the new watch-word for bosses

While UK bosses accept that a transformation culture should be at the heart of their business plans, many are still playing catch-up, writes Dan Matthews

Once upon a time a business was a business and that was that. If you ran a bank, you ran a bank and that would be the end of it.

The same went for a shop or accountancy practice or a consultancy. Businesses were solid, static entities that moved slowly and changed rarely.

Today the situation is very different. Driven by fast technological upgrades and cultural fluctuations, businesses are more fluid than ever before and many are having to anticipate or even drive these changes just to stay relevant.

Speed of communications and democratic marketing platforms with cheap entry levels such as social media mean start-ups can challenge global blue chips for leadership in innovation, while new products, services and systems are blipping in and out of existence all the time.

It makes the idea of business transformation an important one. Companies need to be flexible in their approach, creative in their product development and marketing, and should adopt fluid working practices throughout their corporate structures to guarantee ongoing relevance.

Change on the agenda, but not acted on

Research out today by Google for Work and Raconteur shows the extent to which business transformation has moved up the agenda, and yet few organisations have acted so far.

The survey of 247 senior UK directors of companies of all sizes asked how attitudes are changing.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the vast majority of respondents agreed with the statement that “the most successful companies today are those willing to harness the benefits of transformation”.

Oddly, then, only 16% claimed to be “pioneers” in this field with an “agile and collaborative” working culture.

Weirder still, 62% – nearly two-thirds – of businesses said their success was contingent upon transformation and that it was vital to them remaining competitive. A further 27% said this would be the case within the next two years.

The gap between what companies see as a primary route to success and the number of them following the path is stark.

When asked to explain the mismatch, the biggest reasons given by executives was either a “lack of funding” or a “cultural aversion” to business transformation and fluid working environments.

Others said that while technologies had been adopted and the business model had been reworked to a degree, their organisations had been slow to implement change across the board and, as a result, were yet to experience the full gains of transformation.

It’s not just about being ahead of the curve

Luckily, according to Google executives (who know a thing or two about transformation), businesses don’t have focus all their energies anticipating new things.

An alert, yet progressive, approach is probably best says David Keene, head of marketing for Google for Work in Northern, Eastern and Central Europe.

He says: “With the pace of change accelerating, businesses shouldn’t focus that much on trying to predict every trend but build the internal capability to easily adapt to the marketplace.

“Having the right technology which makes it easier to connect, communicate and collaborate in real-time at all levels keeps employees motivated and plays a key role in this journey.”

So we don’t all have rush out and buy truckloads of smart watches for our interns, but companies do need to reflect the fact that a change culture is here to stay. At least until the next big transformation comes along.

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