How Does Change Happen?

How Does Change Happen?

There are two main ways that transformation happens: as a major change programme with a set end goal and as an ongoing series of "continuous improvement" changes that each alter a small aspect of the organisation.

Transformation Programme

A transformaton programme happens when a significant change is needed that cannot happen without impacting a large proportion of the business. This might include implementing a new CRM or ERP system (impacts on sales, manufacturing, suppliers, legal, finance) or adapting to a new regulatory environment such as the current data privacy move from DPA to GDPR (affects every aspect of the business where personal information is held and has potentially massive legal ramifications).

Transformation Programmes can be disruptive, may span years and need to be constantly assessed for relevance. However, they represent the simplest approach to delivering a major change that needs to bring lots of different departments together.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement happens when an organisation is constantly re-evaluating itself and adapting to changing conditions. This is a very agile approach that allows businesses to respond very quickly to shifts in the market, new competition and so on. It also works well for smaller regulatory changes and for implementing incremental savings.

A high profile example of continuous improvement is the British Cycling team - in 2010 the team was in the doldrums, performing OK but never excelling. Dave Brailsford took over the team in 2010 and, two years later, Team GB took 70% of the cycling gold medals at the London Olympics. Brailsford did not achieve this by implementing one major change - he looked at each and every aspect from rider nutrition to exercise regimes to the design of the bike right through to the type of pillow that gave the best sleep: each of his changes may only have achieved a small performance increase but one percent here and two percent there rapidly added up to race-winning advantages.

The same effect applies in business - consitently achieving one percent improvements won't make a huge difference at first but the cumulative impact can be massive.

Which One Is Right For Me?

There is no one right answer to this as it depends on your particular circumstances. If your organisation needs to make a major change to face a brand new challenge, or if it has stagnated for a while and it will take too long to catch up with incremental change, a transformation programme is probably required. However, if the overall business environment has not changed significantly and the way you do things is not fundamentally wrong, an incremental approach may be best. 

However you choose to deal with your current challenge, we recommend that you also implement a long-term continuous improvement programme. This will help you maximise your performance over time, learn to enbrace change rather than fear it and build in agility to deal with future challenges.