Four Keys to the Door of Success - The Four Thrusts Driving Corporate Renewal

Companies, big or small, attempt to reinvent themselves to improve growth or even ensure survival. Some are more successful at corporate renewal than others - why? INSEAD Professor Quy Huy presents "The Four Thrusts Driving Corporate Renewal" - a compelling yet refreshingly practical approach to corporate change. Managing renewal as an integrated process with focus on realistic goals, he shows how, if just one of the four thrusts is neglected, success can be jeopardized. A must read for all change managers.

by Quy Huy
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Much ink has flowed across countless pages to describe and plot the ways to corporate change success. Consultancy fortunes have been made, CEOs come and gone, and some companies who failed to make the leap have simply disappeared from the corporate map. While there is no doubt that companies have to move with, or even ahead of, the times, there is plenty of debate about the best way to do so. INSEAD's Associate Professor of Strategy Quy Huy raises a clear voice of reason to give a blueprint at the same time profound in reach yet simple in approach.

In this chapter, Professor Huy explains the "Four Thrusts Driving Corporate Renewal" with direct links to real-life change endeavors of some of the world's corporate leaders - GE, British Airways, IBM… No airy intellectualism or hyped-up catch phrases here - just understandable and applicable theory set on a backdrop of real situations and people. Based on six years of field research including interviews with hundreds of managers, Huy suggests that leaders who are ambitious enough to undertake corporate change could see it further energized through the activation of these four thrusts:

The Instrumental Thrust - deals with real actions necessary in corporate turnaround to shake off initial impending disaster, thereby getting ground-level buy-in for long-term renewal. This thrust somewhat negates the need for the grandiose sweeping 'vision' that people find hard to understand, nevertheless implement, but focuses on getting a few positive and visible things done to get the ball rolling.

The Cognitive Thrust - change leaders get down to explaining exactly what needs to change and why. If employees and managers need to behave differently to produce a different result, then it must be clear which result and how to know when they have succeeded. As much as people are involved in the problem solving, solution implementation and success measures, the better the outcome - propaganda and military-style lesson learning are not going to do it.

The Emotional Thrust - taking the change leader to listening mode. Imposing change on any group of people more often than not causes negative emotional reaction. Denying peoples' emotionality in relation to change is damaging but unfortunately this is an area where the change leader often fails. Recognizing and sensitively dealing with peoples' emotions during change can help even the bitterest of pills go down and setting a scene where people feel considered and important is crucial to change success.

The Moral Thrust - here the change leader's own values and behaviors are brought to the front. The so-called 'walk-the-talk' when a leader applies the company's change ethic and values to him or herself and his or her own way of working, either restoring or retaining trust. How to bring about more effective change through the change leader's own transformation and the active living of values such as integrity and fairness.

Profound and lasting corporate renewal means fundamental changes in mindset and new task competencies and learning are not usually sufficient to meet the intense demands that change brings. For people to be able to 'make the leap' within the corporate framework, they need to know that 'somebody' is there to catch them on the other side. This 'somebody' can be their own emotional well-being, understanding and confidence in the change process and what it means in concrete terms. This does not usually stem from the corporate vision statement but more from the visible, consistent and coherent application of change at all levels of the company - ideally framed into the four thrusts. To quote Professor Huy, "Corporate renewal is less about brilliant ideas and more about harmonious execution…"

Chapter from: Next Generation Business Handbook: New Strategies from Tomorrow's Thought Leaders. Chowdhury Subir (ed).

John Wiley & Sons, 2004

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