Forewarned is forearmed: companies about to embark on a programme of organisational change (and it is much in the air these days) might first take heed of research by management consultants Kinsley Lord. It has studied the experience of introducing change at 23 leading UK companies, ranging from Ford to Forte, and its report identifies several pre-conditions for successful transformation. Devotees of the philosophy of starting from the ground up will be surprised. For, says director Gareth Rees, the starting-point in many cases should be at the other end: with the board, that is. "Several organisations," he warns, "had failed to get their top team in shape early enough in the process and later stumbled as a result". He adds: "In many cases change would have been quicker if only they'd been a bit tougher". Board level re-structuring was also instrumental in relaying to employees a new set of priorities - as one participant observed, "It wasn't until we made some changes in board membership that people realised the changes were for real". Others frequently faltered by letting the change programme take on a life of its own, outside of daily business priorities. In such cases, momentum became difficult to sustain and control and the impact of change was severely weakened. The most heartening finding, claims Rees, was that change wasn't simply a reaction to austerity - "Companies weren't just changing to get costs down but because they had realised the need to be more agile". In the course of research, Kinsley Lord also found many managers to be quite isolated and lacking in sources of real advice. As a result the consultancy is setting up a regular "practitioner's forum" where 20-30 chief executives can meet and discuss mutual issues relating to change. "The emphasis will be on learning rather than sounding off," stresses Rees.
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