Forget the Industrial Revolution, we are now facing the Transformational Revolution.

Forget the Industrial Revolution, we are now facing the Transformational Revolution.

The question is: Are you building the capability for the opportunities this presents or are you simply just trying to survive?

The world is changing dramatically. 

We are going through interesting times. We are seeing many challenges to what we thought were the norm, energy prices tumbling, and technology advances bringing new ways of how we use and generate energy –  electric driverless cars being one example. Advances in renewable technology, coupled with the demand for non-carbon alternatives are making these options more realistic. Currently China and other Asian counties are reliant on the West or Russia for their oil and gas sources. Imagine a scenario where China finds a way to exploit the shale resources it has or invests in renewables (and storage) to have a viable way of producing the energy it needs.  

Not only will technology change the way we transport ourselves, it will also change the way we work. We have all heard about big data: this is changing the face of businesses and even professionals are no longer safe. Could lawyers one day be replaced by  data analytics? There is also a big difference in how the different generations are now working.  Millennials and their bosses face and experience different challenges. Certainly, how millennials work now will drive the leaders of the future. 

Is this recognised? Are we actually taking notice of these radical changes?

I ran a survey on what traits are key for future leaders. Over 75% rated ‘adaptable to change’. What was also striking was the divergence in thought between the millennials and the other generations.

Are leaders and companies currently good at managing change? 

Kotter, the expert in change management, assesses that 70% of transformation projects[1] fail to deliver their transformation needs. That’s only 30% that deliver some or all of the benefits and these are special projects that the organisation is focused on. 

How good are we at managing change as the world evolves around us? If you look at family businesses, less than one third survive the transition from first to second generation ownership and another 50% don’t survive the transition from second to third generation. [2]The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of leading US companies has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today, according to Professor Richard Foster from Yale University. Consider companies that were seen as innovative. Companies such as  Nokia, who failed to take on the challenge of the next generation of phones and Kodak who did not anticipate quickly enough the change to digital cameras, smart phones and photo sharing and the corresponding decline in photo printing. 

It is clear that there is work to do and it seems that change is happening faster than it ever did, so being better at adapting and finding new opportunities would be a competitive advantage.

Most corporates utilise “change methodology” for their projects and employ change agent teams to implement – but, as Kotter states, this isn’t successful.  In my view this is because all too often change has become “mechanistic”, “commoditised” and is a tick box OR the programme and any subsequent change takes so long that the change is becomes no  longer relevant. Consider the massive IT programmes that took so long to build that by the time they were implemented they were no longer relevant.

So what do you think? 

Is it time we looked at change more strategically and looked at building change capabilities in organisations rather than doing transformations or change management projects?

It’s a question we need to start seriously considering.

Charlotte Starkmann is a business transformation expert, who works with companies to improve their way of operating and be more successful in today’s competitive business world 


[1] Kotter International

[2]  Forbes magazine http://www.forbes.com/sites/aileron/2013/07/31/the-facts-of-family-business/#64e6a15c46e7