Putting it into practice: the acid test of strategic change

David Wilson
David Wilson, Professor in Organisation Studies and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship

I’m very pleased to have recently joined the Open University Business School and I am looking forward to interacting with you at this event to discuss a research passion of mine, namely the successful implementation of strategic change. Together with insights from our guest speakers, senior managers who come from a wide variety of organisations, we hope to reach out to our graduates, students and partners, and engage them in a dialogue about strategic change and its successful implementation.

Much of the management literature has concentrated on the behavioural aspects of change, such as individual perception, anticipation or resistance, but has neglected to recognise that change is an integral part of organisational strategy, governance and its resources.   It is these factors which form the distinctive competences and features of an organisation and which can impede or help successful implementation.  Some factors are more influential than others and I argue that the preoccupations of the last decade – and longer – with cultures and structures of organisations as key to successful change implementation have been over-emphasised.  What matters most is the knowledge base, or intellect, of the organisation.

On 11 July, I will lead an interactive day, looking at a wide range of key factors such as organisational structures, cultures and design; governance and the role of the Board as well as the contribution of intellectual capital as a key organisational resource.  The aim is to help those with strategic responsibilities for implementing change and learn more about what makes some changes more successful than others.

Implementation – putting it into practice – can be seen as the acid test of strategic change.  Without successful implementation, even the most innovative ideas can run into the quicksand.  Commercial organisations can quickly lose their competitive advantage by struggling to put changes into practice and public sector and non-profit organisations can become rule-bound and resistant to change.

I hope you find this an engaging day, with plenty of discussions and that you are provided with motivation, knowledge and insight to take back to your own roles and organisations.

I very much look forward to meeting you during the day.

8 thoughts on “Putting it into practice: the acid test of strategic change

  1. “What matters most is the knowledge base, or intellect, of the organisation” I see this day in day out but struggle with an articulation, can’t make the day could you point me to further literature or research.

    1. Hi, thanks for your interest. We will run a post event webinar in late July which we hope you could join. Further details will be published online after the event. Please watch this space for information and further literature.

    2. There’s a whole load of literature which clusters around the “knowledge based view” of the firm. Also the literature in strategic management known as the “resource based view” of the firm views intellectual capital as a key resource. Also relevant is the literature and research on “dynamic capabilities” (meaning firms build in assets such as knowledge that they might not need today- but will tomorrow). Along with my colleague Simon Collinson we conducted research on Japanese organizations showing that they lost their competitveness as they lost their dynamic capabilities (published in the journal Organization Studies in 2006). There is also a great book (perhaps not the easiest read) by the late Max Bosiot called “Knowledge Assets”. Hope that gives you a steer.

  2. David, thank you for pointing toward the 11th of July. I have worked in the public sector for many years and agree that intellectual capacity and knowledge base are strong capabilities, within which I would also include the ability to ‘look ahead’ (often ignored). However, what I tend to find is this internal capability is overlooked in favour of external consultants. It would be interesting to ask whether implicit in your comments is a view that we should rely less on consultants and more on our internal capabilities?


  3. Hello Garry – not explicitly, but consultants often can only offer very broad advice and this is almost never tailored to the particular organizational context. Home grown talent (or recently recruited ‘for a purpose’ talent) is always a better bet. It is worth also noting that consultants are excellent analysts of problems – but not so many are excellent at helping implementation. On your ‘look ahead’ problem – that is spot on. One of the points I make is that a strong knowledge base enables the organizaiton to look ahead (asking ‘what if’ type questions, or even building realisticscenarios). Hope that helps? Most organizations take the easier route and reorganise following a consultant’s intervention.

  4. Thanks David, and I have to admit to using a hybrid approach of in-house and consultants. The latter to add external perspective, and sometimes to give external credibility to initiatives.

    regards Garry

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