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Memo to the C-suite: You are not the main driver of change

Many executives believe change is driven from the top down. Our research tells a different story.

Overview

The C-suite often gets lauded for an organization’s success, yet our data clearly shows the most important role for implementing change lies with business leadership. In essence, business unit leaders are the linchpin that connects the top and bottom of the organization. From the top down, they translate the corporate vision for the workforce of the future into terms staffers can understand and embrace. And from the bottom up, they ensure the teams below them are well led, receive the communication they need, and have the accountability, positive emotions and resources necessary to do their jobs well.

DOWNLOAD MEMO TO THE C-SUITE: YOU ARE NOT THE MAIN DRIVER OF CHANGE [PDF]

Key Findings

In our research into insight-driven change, studying nearly one million change journeys across 150 global corporations, we found that:

  • Business leadership has, by far, the most significant impact on business performance as well as a substantial effect on the benefits realized from a change program.

  • All the other major drivers of change (teamwork, accountability, skills and staffing, etc.) are themselves driven either primarily or indirectly by business leadership.

  • The lowest performing change programs (bottom 25 percent) actually have strong leadership capability at the top. The problem is that the capabilities of the business unit leadership are only a fraction of the C-suite. In contrast, the highest performing change programs (top 25 percent) have strong, consistent capabilities in leading change across all levels of leadership.

  • A 30 to 40 percent improvement in the level of business leadership is often required to bring off-track change back on track.

Myths of Change

In our Myths of Change podcast series, Accenture Strategy managing director Warren Parry debunks a few myths of change and offers suggestions for helping the workforce of the future effectively implement change.

LISTEN TO OUR MYTHS OF CHANGE PODCAST SERIES

Recommendations

To be a catalyst for organization change and enable the business leadership to drive change forward, the C-suite needs to:
  • Set the vision and create the environment for change, removing roadblocks that get in the way of widespread emotional commitment.

  • Ensure the right business leaders are in place, with the comprehensive set of skills needed to work with the C-suite, team leaders and teams to drive change. This can involve making tough talent decisions and replacing leaders who have repeatedly had a subpar track record.

  • Build change capability across all levels of the organization, and leverage business leadership to achieve this.

"30–40 percent improvement in the level of business leadership is often required to bring off-track change back on track."

CULTURE CHANGE INSIGHTS

Understanding what drives culture change can make all the difference between business transformations that fail and those that succeed. Diana Barea, managing director in the talent and organization group of Accenture Strategy briefly discusses culture change on The Business Debate. 

"The highest-performing organizations go through 30 percent to 50 percent more change than lower-performing organizations and they go through change at a faster pace."
DIANA BAREA
Managing Director

Big Change, Best Path

Accenture Strategy managing director Warren Parry has authored a new book titled Big Change, Best Path: Successfully Managing Organizational Change with Wisdom, Analytics and Insight, which explores an analytical approach to driving successful organizational change.

In the book, Warren challenges many of the long-held myths of change management, and shows how an entirely new way of managing change is now possible—from empirical benchmarking, to predictive approaches that highlight actions needed to keep a change program on track, to data visualization that shows how each part of an organization is responding.

This book presents a new vision for how organizations can become more agile and resilient in a fast-changing environment.

LEARN MORE

Authors
Warren Parry
Warren Parry
Managing Director – Accenture Strategy,
Talent & Organization
 

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Nicholas Whittall
Managing Director – Accenture Strategy,
Talent & Organization
 

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