transformational change managementA recent survey of top executives suggests that half of all companies are not prepared to handle transformational changes even when such changes are achievable.

The report, “Transformational Change: What Works – And What Can Doom the Initiative,” was done in partnership between Forbes Insight and Medidata.

More than 100 top executives were surveyed, including 55% of C-suite level executives across a range of industries. All executives worked for companies that earn annual revenues of $100 million or more. Thirty percent were from companies with at least $5 billion in revenues.

In addition to the survey, Forbes Insights conducted one-on-one interviews.

According to 37 percent of survey takers, regulatory change is the chief driver for a radical company makeover, followed by increased competition and new and changing technology.

Placing the right people in charge is the most important factor when implementing a master plan for change, according to 88 percent of executives surveyed. Adequate resources and the ability to compile necessary data to support the plan also are critical, the survey found.

The biggest challenge to change is conflicting visions within a company, followed by a lack of internal talent capable of implementing a transformation.

Borders and Circuit City as well as the steel and textile industries are examples cited in the report of failed efforts to adapt to change. IBM, however, has navigated change over many decades since its founding in 1911, shifting from production and distribution to a service provider business model.

The survey found executives almost evenly split philosophically on their overall approaches to change. Just under half of executives said they would empower individuals within the company to make their own decisions within defined limits.

Nearly 53 percent opted for tighter controls by setting rules for individuals to use while navigating through change.

Overall the survey highlighted key lessons for achieving the desired goal of adapting to change. For instance, companies must unite on a single vision and work out conflicts that can undermine efforts.

It also is critical to articulate why change is needed and what the outcome should be. Communication is vital to explaining and re-enforcing the goal.

Also, assigning the right people and giving them resources and incentives is essential. Companies must define measurable, realistic goals and understand that change takes time.

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