Hard Facts behind the Soft Stuff
Why do so many organizational change programs fail? And why are so many “excellent” organizations unable to stay that way? These questions have preoccupied us for some time, and have been the focus of much of our work as leaders of McKinsey & Company's Organization Practice. To answer them, we sought to amass as much evidence as possible by undertaking extensive research and assembling reliable data on the factors that enable and sustain positive change.
When we reviewed the classics of management literature, we found that most were based on relatively small samples of companies and executives. It dawned on us that the organization we both belong to, McKinsey & Company, has a much greater global reach than it did in the early 1980s, when our fellow firm members Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote and published In Search of Excellence. We wondered what we might be able to learn if our research efforts were able to tap into McKinsey's presence in 99 offices in 57 countries. By drawing on the firm's unrivaled access to senior leaders at some of the most important organizations in the world, we would be able to gather information and test hypotheses on a scale beyond anything ever attempted before.
The Quest Begins
With access to such a vast pool of high-quality data, the first challenge was to decide what to ask. How could we investigate what creates organizational excellence and sustains it over the long term in a way that would yield ...