The ‘why’ of organisational change

Organisational change is a broad term, describing a process that is triggered by many different factors – a company may choose to undergo a dramatic and significant shift in its direction or purpose, or focus on more gradual, incremental changes. It may also be a process that a company doesn’t choose, but is instead forced to undergo by the arrival of new business models, implementation of new tech or a change of leadership.

Harvard Business School breaks down organisational change into two different paths – adaptive (small and incremental) or transformational (exactly as it sounds – larger scale and scope). Any change that takes place within a company lies on the spectrum between these two positions. The reasoning is that leaders must tailor the process along these lines to fit certain contexts and challenges. It is vital that companies retain institutional wisdom of how to manage change, both adaptive and transformational, especially in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Is your organisation ready?

Defining the change, and the motivation behind it, is essential. It is equally important to assess and overcome any resistance to change. Resistance could be related to human action, originating with employees and stakeholders, but may also be the fault of outdated processes or systems. A clear definition – that is aligned to your company’s goals – should be the first course of action. This should also be tied to an impact assessment of the process you are about to undertake.

It is essential that the process also be accompanied by a strong strategy for change communication, possibly led by a designated team. This will help cascade the message to employees and stakeholders, and in turn also give them an outlet for communication.

The potential failures of organisational change management have been well-documented. Gartner have found that 73% of change-affected employees reported increased stress levels. Harvard Business Review, after analyzing a number of change management studies, reported a 60-70% failure rate, a level that has remained static for several decades.

Rather than abandoning conventional wisdom over change management, Harvard Business Review points to managerial capacity as a factor. Their argument is that whatever changes a company wants to implement are far more likely to be successful if leaders and managers work with the advice of HR experts to develop skills and take on accountability. It is more likely that the objectives will become embedded as a new and common practice.

An industry leader’s perspective

Camilla Treschow, a member of Continental Search Alliance and experienced recruiter specialising in cybersecurity as the founder of CSA-CPH, says that ‘it is our experience in Continental Search Alliance from working with large enterprise companies that most managers and organisations forget how many change processes often take place at the same time in a company and thus how many changes the individual employee is continuously exposed to.’ She says that it is essential to create an overview of how many change projects – small and large – that are currently being implemented in your organisation.

‘Take into consideration that we as humans have a natural aversion towards what is new and things that break with our habits. Successful change management processes require a thorough understanding of human reactions and behaviours.’

Final Thoughts

Change – whether adaptive or transformational – is primarily about either fostering growth opportunities and ensuring the strength of your company; that it remains adaptable, flexible and at the cutting edge. Leaders can actively seek to drive change from within, but often dramatic, large-scale changes are forced upon organisations and even entire sectors and industries from an external source and should be prepared for. The COVID pandemic is one such example of an external force inflicting great change, one that not all companies were able to survive. It’s imperative that preparation for change should be one of the highest priorities for management.


Continental Search Alliance recruits for mid-level to C-suite executive positions from scalable startups to the world’s largest tech firms, combining tech and digital expertise with extensive reach across EMEA and APAC.