The success or failure to manage change is the biggest factor separating great and poor-performing organisations, a study has found.

According to research from Roffey Park, the executive education and research institute, there is a direct link between the way organisations manage change and their financial and strategic success.

In its annual Management Agenda, a survey of more than 900 managers, the institute found that more successful organisations allow client need, efficiency and quality to drive change, as opposed to simply cost, and they are also better able to deliver change fast and effectively.

Jo Hennessy, director of research at Roffey Park, said: “The relationship between change management and performance suggests organisations should pay more attention to both the drivers and process of change to maximise performance. They should avoid change that is driven by internal politics or driven solely by cost and focus on changes driven by customer needs.”

She said this link suggests organisations should pay more attention to the strategies that they adopt in a tough economic climate and they should avoid strategies simply driven by short-term cost savings or “battening down the hatches”. Organisations seem to be better served by continuing to innovate and looking for new market opportunities, she added.

A gulf between success and poor performance is highlighted by the correlation in certain behaviours. For example, more underperforming organisations said they were focused on core business (56 per cent) than was the case in well-performing organisations (45 per cent).

Just 30 per cent of underperforming organisations said they worked in partnerships, compared with 49 per cent of well-performing organisations. And just over a fifth (23 per cent) of underperforming organisations are investing in leadership development, compared with nearly half (49 per cent) of outperforming organisations.

Only a quarter of underperforming organisations are investing in sustainability, compared with nearly double this (49 per cent) in outperforming organisations.