Innosight launched its U.K. Transformation Champions 2023 report in September with an event at the London Stock Exchange, attended by business leaders from over 50 top British and global companies. The panel featured Anna Manz, CFO of the London Stock Exchange Group, and Lloyd Pitchford, CFO of Experian, and was moderated by Innosight’s Scott Anthony. They explored how six U.K. companies – Drax Group, Greggs, Experian, PearsonPets at Home, and LSEG – outperformed their peers in the FTSE 350 index by demonstrating strong leadership, active portfolio management, technological adaptation, and strategic repositioning of their core businesses. Here are some key takeaways:

1. Change is a constant – and it’s accelerating. Disruptive forces for change, which include digitization, demographic shifts, and deglobalization, are reshaping industries and introducing both new opportunities and distinctive challenges while creating an urgency to match pace with the market. As a result, companies need to shift from short-term forecasting to long-term strategizing to maintain their competitive edge. Sustained superior performance, thus, hinges on a company’s ability to innovate over time.

“The world is moving so fast,” said LSEG’s Anna Manz. “I mean you yourselves know the pace at which data is becoming more valuable. And we knew that we really needed to rethink that.”

“Over the last 20 years, as technology has advanced, the pace with which you can do things digitally has accelerated,” said Experian’s Lloyd Pitchford. “So, what we had the opportunity to do was to grow into that digital ecosystem.”

2. Culture and mindset matter. Organizational culture is critical to enabling transformation. The panelists discussed the value of creating a learning-based culture that emphasizes employee empowerment and continuous improvement. They advocated for agile methodologies as the preferred strategy for managing change, highlighting benefits such as robust momentum, adaptability, and a learning-focused mindset. They also underscored the need for quick wins, noting the need to celebrate progress over perfection and view failures as opportunities to learn and correct course.

“Once you’ve decided that you need to change, I think there’s almost a relief in the organization,” said Pitchford. “Most of the people can see it, they’re living in the organization, they’re dealing with it every day. And being able to tap into that and galvanize it, I think is easier than you think.”

“What’s been the most fascinating and joyful thing to watch has been the little wins for each team that gives them confidence and finding the mechanics to make sure that we’re haloing those to build that organizational confidence,” said Manz.

3. Structural changes matter too. At the same time, successful transformations require structural changes that complement adaptive ways of working. Key performance indicators such as customer-centricity and employee engagement and the role of leadership in fostering an experimental environment for adaptation were highlighted by the panel.

“Ultimately transformational change doesn’t come up about unless you’re unhappy with where you are today,” said Pitchford. “You have to get alignment across the leadership of the organization that something has to change in order to deliver those habits. And that’s actually the starting point.”

“If you can create an environment of confidence and the process and metrics to chart your progress, I think that is what creates that feeling of a winning organization,” said Manz. “So, you’ve set your metrics. As you see your progress towards them that’s what builds this virtuous circle of a confident organization that feels it’s empowered and enabled to deliver that change.”

“The zone of productive disequilibrium is where you have people comfortable with being uncomfortable, where they’re running today and dreaming about tomorrow, where they’re breaking systems while they’re running systems,” said Innosight’s Scott Anthony. “We can say that a paradox holds us back, that these are tensions, and we can’t do anything in front of it. Or we can choose to look at it as a unique opportunity to reframe, reimagine, to navigate disruptive change and own the future, which these organizations and the others in the transformation report have done.”