Chapter 2 What Is Organizational Capacity for Change?

It is not the strongest of the species that will survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Charles Darwin

The only person who likes change is a wet baby.

Price Pritchett

If the leader’s new mandate is to prepare for change in the future while delivering results in the present, then what specific preparation is required? My central thesis is that the strategic leader’s preparation for the future entails building organizations’ capacity for change, and that is the focus of the remainder of this book. In other words, this book is about helping executives fulfill the strategic leader’s new mandate.Bossidy and Charan (2002).

The business press is filled with many recent and ongoing stories of organizations that failed to adapt and change to an increasingly fluid and unpredictable environment. Indeed, a widely cited statistic is that “more than 70% of all organizational change initiatives fail.”Higgs and Rowland (2005), p. 121. Nonetheless, one of the arguments why senior executives are worthy of the lofty compensation packages that they currently command is based on the widely-held view that effective leaders and change agents are rare, but essential to cope with the volatile and hypercompetitive environments that many organizations find themselves in today.Kaplan (2008), p. 5.

In response to this pressure to change, scholars and consultants are increasingly focusing on the nature and dynamics of organizational change in an effort to distill lessons learned from previous successes and failures, and provide guidance to change agents to improve their future success rate. Notably, in a recent online search of articles written on “organizational change” in the last 20 years, I discovered that there were more than 25,000 articles published in a prominent online search engine named Proquest.ProQuest Research Library (2010). This suggests to me that the topic is of great importance to those seeking to change organizations, but that much that is written about organizational change by organizational scholars is not improving our success rate. In sum, there is more to be learned about this important subject and this book attempts to fill that gap.