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Business Change for Change’s Sake

The phrase ‘Business Change’ 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 change’s sake?

It’s a peculiarly nebulous and directionless term.

“It’s obvious” some would argue, “it’s change for the better”.

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 “change for the worse” could be the more accurate description.

And if the odds are so heavily weighed against success, then the charge of “change for change’s sake” could well be justified.

Leaving the usual outcomes aside for a moment, let’s go with the intention of a business change programme as to introduce change for the better in some way,

Then… let’s replace the idea of “business change” with the notion of business improvement. That is, rather than introducing change for change’s sake, the aim is to improve the way an organisation performs its business functions – business performance improvement.

Importantly, we now have the notion of direction; a positive direction, improvement.
Business Improvement - Desired Performance Level
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, “well, yes… that’s the desired new level of business performance. That’s where we’d like to be, but we could accept a bit less than that, and we would still have succeeded.

So let’s define a minimum improvement level for this business performance improvement initiative.

Business Improvement - Performance Fail LevelIf we score above this level,  it’s acceptable; falling below it, would represent failure – a “fail” level.

For example, maybe the organisation wouldn’t be commercially viable below the ‘fail’ 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 couldn’t finance or resource too high a performance level in the business.Business Change - maximum performance levelSo 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 that’s just the start. In pursuit of clearly communicating the improvement aims, we can take these ideas a lot further – but that’s for another blog post.

Given the clarity, measurability and specificity we can bring with a ‘Business Performance Improvement’ approach, proposals for ‘Business Change’ can look decidedly fluffy! Where would you invest your money?

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