The phrase â€˜Business Changeâ€™ is well established and common parlance these days in the world of medium to large sized organisations. In a sense, there is a business change ‘industry’.
But what does the phrase really mean?
Does it mean… change for the better? Change for the worse? Or even just change for changeâ€™s sake?
Itâ€™s a peculiarly nebulous and directionless term.
â€œItâ€™s obviousâ€ some would argue, â€œitâ€™s change for the betterâ€.
But industry analysts report the rate of failure of business change programmes as typically in the range 60 to 80%. In other words, the odds are heavily against success. Which in turn suggests that it often turns out that â€œchange for the worseâ€ could be the more accurate description.
And if the odds are so heavily weighed against success, then the charge of â€œchange for changeâ€™s sakeâ€ could well be justified.
Leaving the usual outcomes aside for a moment, letâ€™s go with the intention of a business change programme as to introduce change for the better in some way,
Then… letâ€™s replace the idea of â€œbusiness changeâ€ with the notion of business improvement. That is, rather than introducing change for changeâ€™s sake, the aim is to improve the way an organisation performs its business functions â€“ business performance improvement.
Importantly, we now have the notion of direction; a positive direction, improvement.
We also have the beginning of the idea of improving performance from some current level… to some new, desired level within a certain time scale.
We can establish a measurement scale and use it to clarify, define and quantify the performance aims.
Then we can say, â€œwell, yesâ€¦ thatâ€™s the desired new level of business performance. Thatâ€™s where weâ€™d like to be, but we could accept a bit less than that, and we would still have succeeded.
So letâ€™s define a minimum improvement level for this business performance improvement initiative.
For example, maybe the organisation wouldnâ€™t be commercially viable below the â€˜failâ€™ level.
In the other direction, upwards, there can be too much of a good thing. In other words, there could well be an upper limit to the performance improvement, beyond which we deem undesirable.
It could be for example, we couldnâ€™t finance or resource too high a performance level in the business.So there could be a maximum, upper performance level at one end. A minimum acceptable level (fail) at the other, and a desirable (target) level at some point in between.
And thatâ€™s just the start. In pursuit of clearly communicating the improvement aims, we can take these ideas a lot further â€“ but thatâ€™s for another blog post.
Given the clarity, measurability and specificity we can bring with a â€˜Business Performance Improvementâ€™ approach, proposals for â€˜Business Changeâ€™ can look decidedly fluffy! Where would you invest your money?