Harvard Business Review (HBR) has been tracking corporate change efforts for more than a decade. In 2019, they began developing a system to help companies measure their capacity for change. They refer to it as a company’s change power.
From their research, HBR identified nine common traits and abilities that enable companies to excel at change.
The Elements of Change Power
Nine traits and abilities help companies excel at change. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses in these categories allows you to determine your capacity for change and to create a blueprint for increasing it over time.
|1. Purpose||Creates a sense of belonging; guides decisions and inspires action.|
|2. Direction||Translates your purpose into a plan; clarifies where you are going and how to get there.|
|3. Connection||Taps into the social side of change; creates networks of influencers and fans.|
|4. Capacity||Defines the limits of change; allows you to absorb more change.|
|5. Choreography||Helps you be more dynamic; adjusts change priorities and sequences moves.|
|6. Scaling||Creates a virtuous cycle; spreads innovation and amplifies impact.|
|7. Development||Prepares you for growth; builds learning and change capability.|
|8. Action||Builds momentum; fosters a can-do mindset and a bias for change.|
|9. Flexibility||Helps you stay in front of change; redefines how you work and even what work is.|
The nine traits fall into three categories:
- Necessary for leading change (purpose, direction and connection)
- Necessary for accelerating change (capacity, choreography and scaling)
- Necessary for organising change (development, action and flexibility).
HBR found that a company’s change power is a strong predictor of its performance based on nearly 2,000 employees from 37 large global organisations representing a variety of industries.
You can self-assess your change power by rating the degree to which the above 9 elements are present at your company, using a 5-point scale from Strongly Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (5). Add up all 9 scores to get your unique score out of a possible 45 points. (The higher the score, the higher the change power.)
Based on their change power survey, HBR also found that most companies fit a pattern corresponding to one of four common archetypes: In search of focus (37% of companies), stuck and skeptical (20% of companies), aligned but constrained (24% of companies), and struggling to keep up (19% of companies).
To better understand your organisation’s change archetype, consider these questions from HBR.
What Kind of Company Are You?
In search of focus
- Are your teams uncertain about where the business is headed?
- Is there an ongoing debate about direction?
- Do your efforts feel disjointed?
Stuck and skeptical
- Do new ideas get stuck where they originate?
- Do people across the organisation feel disconnected?
- Do results take longer than they should?
Aligned but constrained
- Do you feel as if you’re moving through mud?
- Do you worry you don’t have the right talent to deliver?
- Do you struggle to get your arms around everything that’s going on?
Struggling to keep up
- Are your teams weary?
- Do you seem to be losing the battle for energy?
- Are you slow to make decisions and adapt your approach as conditions change?
To run your self-assessment on the four change archetypes, respond to each question with a 5-point scale from Never (1) to Always (5). Where there is a grouping with higher scores, that is likely to be the archetype to which your company belongs.
Based on your self-assessment, you will have a baseline from which to improve. There are actions that you can take now to repair and build change capability in your organisation. Our team would be happy to talk to you about the changes you’re undergoing and how our programs can support your change journey.
David Michels and Kevin Murphy. How Good Is Your Company at Change? A new system for measuring (and improving) your ability to adapt. Harvard Business Review, July–August 2021.