How do you sustain long term change in a business?

Time For ChangeInteresting enough, only a quarter of employers achieve long-term gains from change management initiatives, according to a Towers Watson study. The study blames a lack of long-term success on companies’ inability to prepare and train managers to be effective change leaders. It found more than half (55%) said their change management initiatives met initial objectives, but only 25% are able to sustain gains over the long-term.

These initiatives can range from programme or policy changes to business transformation and mergers and acquisitions. “Most companies are having a difficult time keeping the momentum of their change management initiatives going,” said Nicola Cull, a senior change management consultant at Towers Watson.

But for mainstream companies, sustainability remains a disappointment: worthwhile thinking on products and services has not translated into increased sales. Change is so much easier for businesses if it comes from the marketplace and is represented by fundamental shifts in consumer values and needs.

Positioning for these changes requires companies to act today to address areas that are likely to become consumer concerns, to build brands that are more resilient to the changes ahead. For those companies wishing to be in the vanguard there is a clear need to promote behavior change and establish new rules in the marketplace. Brands need to play a bigger role: they are the most powerful tools companies have.

The big questions are how and when, to do it in such a way that you gain the rewards of leadership.

Linking the broader corporate intent with the plans and direction of its brands is one of the biggest challenges for many companies. Short-term commercial focus continues to dominate category and brand decisions. But good brand practice today is about building for the future as well as the present. To endure, brands need agility. Those that are building equities on more sustainable principles now may just be the ones that thrive and dominate in the future.

First, you should constantly explore your company’s capabilities. Which of those capacities will serve it well in the years ahead and which won’t? A careful analysis can help you to identify which of them to retain, which to jettison, and what new capabilities might strengthen your company’s position in the marketplace.

Second, you will want to look for trends that will shape the services, programs, and products you offer to your target market. You can identify key trends by listening carefully to the evolving needs and goals of your customers. When they express a new need or goal, you can then develop new offerings proactively that will fulfil them. You can also identify trends by following the latest news and developments in your target markets.

Third, it is likely that, in the process of creating a sustainable business, your company establishes itself as a leader in a particular market that generates a considerable amount of your customer base and revenues. At the same time, it can be risky to focus too much on one market. What happens if that market collapses for some reason? Just as with financial investing, as you build your business, you will want to diversify your markets, so that if one market slows down, you can pick up the slack with customers from another.

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