By Daniel Hunter

Business leaders in the UK have admitted that companies are failing to keep up with the increasing rate of change they face, placing businesses at risk from factors such as reduced turnover and hostile takeover.

With an economic climate that remains threateningly unclear, the findings of the Fit to Change report, carried out on behalf of Fujitsu, call into question UK plc’s ability to adapt and succeed in the uncertain environment they operate within today.

The study, which included interviews with 150 c-suite executives and input from the Fit to Change panel, reveals that two thirds of executives believe that the current rate of change, driven by factors such as customer demand and new competitive threats, is too quick for UK organisations to keep pace with and 57% agree that an inability to respond rapidly and effectively to change is one of the most significant risks their organisation faces today.

“Only 32% of those in private sector firms are at all optimistic that they are actually 'fit to change'. In a world that is changing more and more rapidly, these are highly distressing numbers,” Professor John Kotter, Harvard Business School said.

It went on to reveal that:

• Business planning cycles are reducing - five years ago 43% of respondents believed they could plan with certainty two years ahead. Only 21% believe that is still possible today

• Today, 33% believe they can plan one year ahead, and a quarter feel it is only possible to plan ahead six months with any degree of certainty

The most likely consequences of failing to adapt to change are financial. Overwhelmingly, 96% of executives believe decreased turnover would be a consequence of not reacting appropriately to change. Similarly, respondents felt that the ability to get finance would be severely impacted by a failure to appear responsive to the market. 62% believe that a drop in share price would be a likely outcome and 59% fear hostile takeover.

Customers are the biggest driver of change — 83% of respondents felt they were a significant factor — clearly reflecting the increasingly demanding consumer that businesses are tackling today. However, it was also the factor that business leaders felt their own organisation was least able to respond to effectively, revealing the biggest pressure point for businesses today.

“The hardest task for CEOs today is to strike the balance between responding to external change and allowing change to happen around you while you stay true to your long term plan," commented Duncan Tait, CEO, Fujitsu.

"Being Fit to Change is about understanding the environment around you and arming your organisation in advance with the tools it needs to be able to respond quickly — and at its pinnacle it is about being the player driving change in your sector.

“This is a topic that is at the core of Fujitsu’s own strategy right now. We are evolving to meet the need to change and to remain competitive in a market we have operated in for 40 years.”

To tackle change successfully, respondents were clear that strong leadership is the key ingredient — 97% felt this. Additionally, the capacity to change and available resources topped the list of ingredients required to be fit to change. However, when comparing the ingredients that business leaders believe are essential to being fit to change with those they believe are most lacking across UK plc, the gaps occurred in three areas — a robust ecosystem of suppliers; a long term vision and the right technology solutions.

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