How People and Organizations Prosper . . . And Why Most Don’t

We live in a world of accelerating change. In today’s uncertain and fast-changing environment, success depends on our ability to learn and adapt faster. For the last several decades, the pace of change has been quickening. We experience our shifting world on many fronts. Change is all around us, from innovative technologies to information explosion. From political instability to economic uncertainty. From social trends to cultural dislocation. Our world is rapidly evolving, faster than in previous decades and centuries. And no one really know where it is all headed, but for sure we are both the spectators and the actors in this monumental and historical shift.

Every person, team and organization is somewhere along a continuum between reacting to and leading change. Where are you in that continuum? . . . More importantly, in which direction are you heading? Are you reacting, responding or leading change? Your answer determines how you will fare in changing times. It is well known that it is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.

Most people and organizations are barely able to react to the external forces shaping their industry. They are changing, but slower than the external environment, so they inevitably become less competitive and relevant over time. At some point, they go out of business.

Other companies, more nimble and responsive, are doing a fine job keeping up. They are actively making quick adjustments and adapting to the changing landscape. They manage to remain competitive and viable as their industry changes. These companies if well managed, grow at the industry’s pace and ride the ups and downs of the broader economy.

Few people and organization are able to thrive, set the pace for their industry and boldly innovate. These innovators, move faster than the external pace of change. They create the future that we all live in, and they are able to seize opportunities, rip the benefits, lead and prosper.

The point is quite clear. Our ability to learn, adapt and innovate with changing times is vital to remaining relevant. Our capacity for change could become a decisive factor on our future and fortune. However, there is more than merely changing for changes sake. Not all change results in progress.

While change is inevitable, growth is optional. Some changes are clearly an improvement, while others, are obviously not. In fact, much of what is changing in the world today is not for the better. So, how can we change for the better?

To ascend, change must result in a sustainable improvement. We studied the essential differences between the people and organizations that ascend and those that merely change. If you knew what to look for you could recognize the course you and your organization are on, and then steer in the right direction. The key is to know what to look for. The key is being able to recognize the pattern of change. Can you tell the difference between the two?

Merely changing fast does not lead to success. Everyone around the world is changing, but only a few enterprises, teams, and individuals rise, even from the depth of adversity, to a higher level. Some people and organizations excel even in difficult times. Most don’t. The vast majority of change initiatives end up in disappointment. Understanding what makes the difference between the groups that fail and those that succeed has far-reaching implications for all of us.

Searching for answers, we embarked in a study of over 50 organizations undertaking major transformations in the last fifteen years. Against the odds and facing sizable perils, the remarkable rise of the most successful researched companies reveals a set of principles and practices for successful change.

The research shows that leading successful change, at work and in our lives, is simply a choice to act on proven principles. Organizations and individuals must look to those who have been successful to learn proven principles for successful change. The most successful organizational transformations have followed a distinctive pattern—a steady course of iterative improvement, we call the Ascent process.

The Ascent process describes a step-by-step course for long-lasting and positive change, based on the path of many successful leaders and organizations. When applied correctly, this approach delivers wins that can be leveraged into significant long-term gains. Above all, the Ascent process shows how individuals and organizations can master change to help them overcome the difficulties and seize the opportunities from change.

By Juan Riboldi
Ascent Advisor, President and Principal

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