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How good is your company at change?

Although most businesses will have experienced a need to evolve to some degree during their lifetime, until a couple of years ago very few would have undergone major change. Since Covid-19 and now the war in Ukraine, change is almost the norm. Despite this, many boards would hesitate to claim they do change well.

Determining your capacity for change

Last year I read an article in Harvard Business Review which mooted a new tool for measuring a company’s capacity for change. The system rates businesses using nine separate metrics. These elements are purpose, direction, connection, capacity, choreography (nothing to do with dance), scaling, development, action and flexibility. Some organisations will be strong in certain areas but lacking in others. Those weaker areas may affect how they cope with change – in other words, their resilience.

Improving resilience

The tool mentioned above is one way of identifying areas for improvement in a company’s processes and culture. Once the leadership of an organisation understands how these various elements influence resilience and adaptability they can feel more motivated and empowered to look at the way their business operates and how it treats its people.

What changes will prepare you for change?

The past few years have taught us that change can happen at any time and that it is not always something we can prepare for, particularly in business. Companies have been used to running change programmes and hiring in teams to help them deliver transformation projects, yet rarely have they considered how agile they are when faced with unprecedented and unexpected change. The economy had gone through a relatively stable period prior to the pandemic and now faces a string of uncertainties caused by conflict, climate change and rising supply chain costs. Suddenly we are moving from one period of change to another with very little time in between.

The Harvard Business Review article described four different types of companies, each of which has a slightly different mix of the nine elements mentioned earlier. The largest of these is what it called those “in search of focus”, which it said accounted for 37% of businesses. These companies are often energetic and innovative, but they lack clear direction. The model advises leaders in these boardrooms to focus on the big picture to improve purpose, direction and connection. It encourages them to stay focused on the best initiatives and to be prepared to say ‘no’ to others, even if they seem like good ideas. Most pertinently of all, at least from my perspective as an employment lawyer, is a suggestion that companies can improve their focus, and therefore their resilience, by creating a sense of belonging within their own organisation and empowering agile teams to deliver their chosen initiatives.

This final point distils much that I have spoken about in the past. Prioritising employee wellbeing and creating a culture which includes  a real sense of a common purpose, where everyone feels valued and can own and can  deliver upon shared values. That is a powerful way to prepare for whatever might appear around the next corner. Boardside is on it – watch this space!

Richard Port is a leading employment lawyer specialising in advising boards and those who sit on them. He can be contacted by email at