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Accenture Strategy report uses predictive analytics to alter our views on change management

By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager

Accenture Strategy has amassed the largest dataset on change management ever compiled with more than 150 organizations participating. “Turning Change Upside Down,” erases the notion that change is both chaotic and unpredictable using insights from 850,000 individual employees over a 15 year period. Warren Parry, managing director, Accenture Strategy, has 20 years of experience helping global clients navigate complex organizational change, and he has authored the book, Big Change, Best Path, which includes his advice for companies facing change today.

What are the faulty assumptions and outdated mental models that have dominated thinking about change management?

Warren Parry

Warren Parry

Many business leaders assume change is unpredictable and chaotic, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to begin with implementation of change initiatives. Managers worry about both the organization itself and how the change will affect employee engagement and performance. We’ve spent the past 15 years working with corporate leaders to identify these concerns and create processes to help navigate and manage these inevitable concerns when implementing change programs.
How are data and analytics changing that?

Now that we have compiled the largest organizational change management dataset ever, companies are able to take the guesswork out of managing change, analyzing and mapping against these patterns to detect the early warning signs of plans about to go off track and then correct in real time. Use of predictive analytics aids in decision making and highlights paths that will help achieve desired business outcomes during change programs.

Can you supply a brief overview of the Accenture Strategy report: “Turning Change Upside Down?

“Turning Change Upside Down” highlights research on 250 major change initiatives at 150 organizations, including dozens of Global Fortune 500 corporations. As part of this research, we collected information from 850,000 employees at various levels about their experiences with change programs, including acquisitions/mergers, restructurings, technology implementations and cost reductions. We then used this data to debunk some common myths leaders have about organizational change management and provide insight on how to produce successful outcomes of an organization’s change program, thus improving performance and realizing intended business benefits.

What myths are debunked by the report?

People often believe that too much change, too fast, is destructive, but according to our data, the highest-performing organizations actually thrive on change, and the faster the pace of the change, the better. The report also dispels the notion that change initiatives fail because of the change itself; rather, it’s often because of existing problems in the organization, such as a dysfunctional culture or poor management. This was true of 85 percent of organizations studied, which were found to have underlying organizational issues at the beginning of a change initiative.

 What does the report suggest?

The report suggests that managers look to hard data to better understand and manage what works and what doesn’t when leading large-scale organizational change. Our research also supplies leaders with the knowledge of the most critical drivers to improving business performance: business leadership, good systems and processes, clear vision and direction and high passion and drive. In order to keep change initiatives on track, executives need to remember that “software” issues, including poor leadership, staff discontent and lack of buy-in with the corporate vision often cause change initiatives to go off track.

 What’s in the future?

In the future, we recommend continually building change capability into the heart of the organization, instilling a “fitness for change” in employees to achieve and sustain high performance over the long haul. As constant change becomes more engrained in the way in which companies operate, we encourage businesses to take advantage of insight-driven approaches and use analytics to better manage change programs.

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