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Corporate Transformation
By Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas

Some companies succeed. They adapt to changing circumstances, and they remain relevant and vital. Their people manage change, compete and win.

Other companies struggle and stagnate. They adopt fashionable approaches. They buy the latest technologies. They introduce generic or re-engineered processes, and they are advised by leading professional firms. Yet they still fail.

Have you ever wondered why some companies are less successful than others in similar circumstances? What are these people overlooking or doing wrong? What do the winners do differently?

To answer these questions a research programme led by the author has examined the corporate experience of over 2,000 companies for more than a decade. Research teams have examined key processes such as those for winning business, building relationships and creating and exploiting knowledge.

The outcomes achieved by survey participants are ranked from the most to the least successful, and the approaches of the ‘winners’ or most successful are compared with the ‘losers’ or least successful to isolate the factors that make a difference. The results summarized in: ‘Transforming the Company, Manage Change, Compete and Win’* suggest most of the critical success factors are attitudinal and behavioural.

Encouragingly, there is enormous scope for improvement. Typically, even the most successful companies are only very effective at less than a half of the critical success factors. This suggests there is enormous scope for improving the performance of key processes.

Let’s look at some overall differences between the behaviours of those in key positions who fail and succeed respectively at bringing about a fundamental transformation of their organizations.

First, we will examine the losers. They are indecisive and oblivious to the needs of others. They are cautious, wary of commitments and fail to inspire and motivate. They are also reactive. They respond to events and often fail to anticipate the need to change.

Losers are indifferently led. Boards confuse operational and strategic issues. They offer bland rhetoric and spin rather than a compelling vision and clear direction. When they do act it is often in peripheral areas. They overlook what is important and the biggest opportunities for performance improvement.

Losers hoard information. They are reluctant to delegate and trust. Although driven by their own agendas they often end up playing other people’s games. They adopt standard approaches and are rigid and inflexible. They imitate and copy others rather than think for themselves.

Losers are great talkers. They mouth generalizations and confuse activity with progress. They are complacent, secretive and defensive. They try to do everything themselves and they resist new and external ideas.

Losers train by sheep dipping. Individual needs are not addressed. Immediate priorities take precedence over longer-term aims. A combination of attitudes, approaches and priorities locks change losers into a negative spiral of decline towards commodity product supplier status.

Winners in the challenge to change, transform and re-invent are very different. They recognize that change can be stressful and can disrupt valued relationships. They only alter what they need to change. Those affected are told why change is necessary.

Winners have a longer-term perspective. They become trusted business partners by enhancing their capabilities, deepening relationships, developing additional options and remaining relevant.

Winners are confident, positive and pro-active. They articulate compelling and distinctive visions. They build and release talent. They equip their people to make whatever changes need to be brought about.

Winners explore, pioneer and discover. They encourage enterprise and innovation. They trust other people, and share information and opportunities with them where this is likely to prove mutually beneficial.

Winners address the specific realities and practicalities of what they need to do to manage change. They inspire and motivate. They avoid wasted effort and concentrate upon the areas of greatest opportunity. They understand their customers and put themselves out to develop tailored responses to their requirements and bespoke offerings.

While open to ideas, winners select people, business partners and opportunities with care. They are persistent but pragmatic, and determined but adaptable in pursuit of their aims. They take calculated risks, experiment with new ways of working and learning, and create new knowledge, options and choices.

Winners value relationships. They empathise and invite feedback. They question and challenge, and listen and learn. They collaborate with complementary spirits who share their vision and values. They enter into partnering arrangements based upon openness and transparency.

The boards of change winners are competent and confident. They avoid the distractions of trappings. Their game is to inspire, enable and support growth, development and transformation. They cut through blather and hype to get down to the fundamentals of what needs to be done.

Winners prefer simple solutions and direct action. They think before they act, push back the boundaries of what is possible and become sought after business partners. Effective change managers avoid diversions, panaceas and single solutions. They focus on activities that deliver the results they seek.

Change, renewal and transformation should be regarded as normal activities. Work with colleagues to foster winning attitudes and behaviours, and ensure a balance between change strategy and capability. All the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle required for successful transformation and sustained competitiveness should be in place.

Check that colleagues are clear about what they are trying to achieve and are visibly committed to agreed objectives. Make sure that people understand what they need to do and are enabled to act. Ensure barriers to change are identified and tackled. Problems will arise. Their absence could indicate a lack of ambition. Learning from them and celebrating success help to sustain momentum.

Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas
Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas
About the Author:

Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas is an experienced chairman of award winning companies and consultant. He has advised over 80 boards on how to improve board and corporate performance, leads the world's largest winning business research and best practice programme, and has reviewed the processes and practices for winning business of over 50 companies.

Following marketing and general management roles Colin became the world's first Professor of Corporate Transformation and more recently Process Vision Holder of major transformation projects. He is the author of over 30 books and reports, including ‘Individuals and Enterprise’ (Blackhall Publishing, 1999), 'Shaping Things to Come' (Blackhall Publishing, 2001), 'Transforming the Company, Manage Change, Compete and Win' (Kogan Page, 2002 and 2004) and ‘The Knowledge Entrepreneur’(Kogan Page, 2003). Colin has spoken at over 200 national and international conferences and corporate events in over 20 countries. He can be contacted:

Tel: 01733 361 149
Fax: 01733 361 459
Email: colinct@tiscali.co.uk
Web: www.ntwkfirm.com/colin.coulson-thomas

Transforming the Company: Manage Change, Compete & Win
Colin Coulson-Thomas shows that to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality, business people must make far-reaching decisions about the value to them and their companies of particular theories, past assumptions and traditional approaches. Based on original research, the first edition of this was ahead of its time and predicted many of the current management trends. The author now brings the text bang up-to-date for the 21st century. This second edition of Transforming The Company shows how to turn theory into practice by highlighting the obstacles and barriers that confront companies when trying to bring about change. For management at all levels faced with this task, this thought-provoking book will inspire and enlighten.

The Knowledge Entrepreneur: How Your Business Can Create, Manage and Profit from Intellectual Capital  by Colin Coulson-Thomas

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The Knowledge Entrepreneur: How Your Business Can Create, Manage and Profit from Intellectual Capital
In many companies knowledge management has focused almost exclusively upon the packaging of existing knowledge. This book is designed to help readers boost revenues and profit by significantly improving the performance of existing activities and also creating new offerings that generate additional income. It shows how practical knowledge-based job-support tools can transform work group productivity, and reveals the enormous scope for addressing contemporary problems such as "information overload" with imaginative responses. Additional information includes: a list of possible commercial ventures; detailed checklists that can be used for identifying and analysing opportunities for knowledge entrepreneurship; and exercises for assessing entrepreneurial potential and "scoping" possible products and services. The free CD-ROM packaged with the book gives examples of particular knowledge-based job support tools that have dramatically improved desired results in crucial areas such as winning more business.




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