The only way to deal with change is unleash it
When “the world has moved on” but your business hasn’t
Businesses are put at risk when external factors (e.g. customer needs, demographics, technology, competition, public policy, etc. ) change but internal factors (operations, strategy, business models, systems, capabilities, culture, etc.) stay the same. As Stephen King says, when “the world has moved on” but your organization is still “business as usual”, things (e.g. business models, profits, customer satisfaction, solvency, etc.) start to break.
What exacerbates the situation is today the world is “moving on” faster than ever. Organizations need to be responsive, adaptive, and dynamic to meet the challenges of today’s accelerating marketplace and continue to meet customer needs.
“Strategery” and other temporary fixes
None of this is new information to business leaders. Fortunately, the MBA industry has furnished the modern executive with a hefty strategic toolkit to deal with change. So we sharpen our pencils, go reread Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”, put our best minds together, and indulge in vast amounts of “strategery” around operations, systems, finance, product, marketing, etc. We engage consultants to help us restructure our companies and/or investment bankers to help us acquire new divisions. We hire new people. We fire old people.
The problem with simply applying strategy as we know it, is that it ignores the value of the human network at work. If anything, it cripples the value of this network. In order for internal change to keep up with external change, your people have to change what they are doing, the skills they are learning, and who they are working with.
Modern organizational structures are still not good at enabling such changes because of their dependence upon “command-and-control” mechanisms. This can be problematic because when disruptive innovation occurs or the market context accelerates, a 1–3 year strategic plan can become irrelevant in a matter of months. Strategy and business restructuring can only go so far. Companies need an extra edge if they want to be dynamic enough to deal with today’s speed of change.
To have a dynamic organization, you need dynamic people
What organizations really need are dynamic people or, better put, they need their people to be dynamic. Organizations need intrapreneurs and initiative-takers. They need people willing to try something new and have the internal connections and support to pull it off. They need individuals who can inspire co-workers to go above and beyond!
Underneath the ordinary day-to-day routines, job descriptions, and management miscellanea, these people already exist in your organization. That said, they’re on a very short leash and lack the permission and encouragement to go across organizational boundary lines to do extraordinary things. They are dynamic people, just not at work.
5 tips to unleash your agents of change
Mahatma Gandhi would likely approve of the following liberties we’ve taken with his words:
“Be the change that you wish to see in [your organization].”
The best people in your organization want to make an impact. They want to help evolve your organization, be customer-centric, and win! Here are a few simple steps you can take to encourage people who want to be the change you need in your organization:
Provide transparency across departmental lines regarding project opportunities, learning & development opportunities, needs, and resources. Provide time to appropriately allocate towards non-core activities.
Foster a culture of helpfulness and service oriented toward “internal customers”.
Roll out a peer-based learning/mentoring/upskilling program.
Encourage cross-functional collaboration by publicly highlighting and rewarding the best cross-functional teams.
Hold managers accountable for developing their people via experiential learning, project work, and relationship-building outside of their departments.
“PEOPLE are the people that are going to help you...” — Gary Vaynerchuk
As you put people in a position to evolve themselves and their roles, they will become the change agents your organization needs as it moves into the future.