Dr Zara Whysall, Research & Impact Director at Kiddy & Partners May 11 2023

How to achieve - and sustain - rapid business transformation

In the second blog in our series, Zara describes her research process and talks about the 5 key principles of rapid evolution.

Rapid evolution describes the leadership of rapid yet sustained growth or transformation, enabling an organisation to progress further and faster than others in their sector.

Our research into rapid evolution sought to identify the organisational characteristics that underpin rapid evolution. We did this by undertaking a wide-ranging literature review, synthesising academic and industry analysis of organisations' response to external demands and market changes over the last 10 years. Then, we conducted a deep dive analysis to identify and examine the factors that differentiate between those who manage to achieve sustained success over time and those who don't. In particular, we aimed to identify and unpick the specific leadership behaviours that drive it, and the type of organisational culture needed to instil it.

The 5 key principles of rapid evolution

1. Change becomes who you are and what you do.

To keep up with the pace and extent of change, organisations have to embrace the concept of 'change before you have to.' Wait until the need for change is obvious and it will be too late. Instead of a one-off event or programme, change needs to be hard-wired into your identity; how we operate, continually adapting, testing and flexing.

2. Think big but act small.

The companies in the biggest danger of stagnation or decline are those that are already relatively successful. These companies don't fail because they're bad at what they do, but because they're great at what they do. Protecting that past legacy becomes the primary focus. Rapid evolution organisations realise that to remain successful they must take risks and evolve, giving people the freedom to invent and experiment.

3. Fast, fast, slow.

Sustainable growth cannot be achieved by simply trying to do more, pedal faster. In fact, most high-growth organisations don't stay in the high-growth phase for long. The secret is to be clear about where pace is needed versus time to reflect, reconsider or embed. It's not one pace, it's a variation of pace. 

4. Less is more.

As organisations grow, they become less agile. Bogged down with bureaucracy and complexity, they don't change as fast as the market, technology or customer expectations, and fall out of favour. Effective growth leaders resist this to stay light, focused and uncluttered. 

5. Tension creates energy for change.

Forward movement requires a degree of tension. Too much creates dysfunction, but without it, we linger in our comfort zone, and the world moves on around us. Positive tension can come from a range of sources; from your knowledge base, when you broaden your horizon and spot differences in what you currently know and what you need to know, from a diversity of people, when a broader range of perspectives reveals realities that you had neither imagined nor planned for. 

Five key tensions have emerged as we have looked at the characteristics of organisations that were able to achieve rapid evolution and sustain this over time, compared to those that weren't. Over the coming weeks, we'll take you through each of these in turn, and look at what the risks could be if you aren't able to balance these tensions. 


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