Tag: change

Is It Time To Get Out Of Your Current Business?

is it time to get out of your current business

We know that a number of businesses will not make it but a number will be asking themselves the following questions:

What’s next?

What’s the cure?

What can we do to stay to keep our heads above water?

For many, the initial knee-jerk reaction is not actually a reaction at all. The temptation is to hold on to the past as much as possible and pray that the storm blows over.

Are you or fellow board members saying any of the following?

“We just need to wait for the market to recover, and then it is business as usual!”

“The trouble is a blip, let’s just wait and see.”

“It is too risky to act on incomplete information. Let’s allow things develop — we can always take action later.”

This desire to hold on to the past, to endure whatever the harsh environment has to offer, is well known to social scientists.

Summarising a 2010 study, Social Psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson wrote:

“People who saw a painting described as having been painted in 1905 found it far more pleasing to look at than people who saw the same painting described as created in 2005.

Students preferred the course requirement described as the status quo over a new version (regardless of whether the new version meant more or less coursework).

People who were told that acupuncture had been in existence for 2,000 years expressed more favorable attitudes toward it than those who were told it existed for 250 years.

Study participants were given a piece of European chocolate. It was described to them as having first been sold in its region either 73 years ago or 3 years ago. Guess which group rated the chocolate as better-tasting…”

As far as organisational change is concerned, there are three primary emotions at play. These are cynicism, fear, and acceptance. Two of these are negative and one positive. Surveys following organisational change put the negative emotions top of the list. Positive emotions are nowhere to be seen.

So it would seem that we have an inbuilt desire for things to stick around as long as possible and avoid change because of the negative emotions that it conjures up.

We all want to last, continue and get back to  “business as usual.” We want to hold on to the world just the way it is.

This is exactly where the problem lies and why so many of our transformation efforts fail. It is the desire to stick with the status quo that kills our businesses.

Whyis this? As with life in the natural world, sustainability is not a driver for survival. But change is!

Every day, things change. We breathe in and out, becoming a different person with every molecule of oxygen that enters our bloodstream (it is said that every day you are guaranteed to inhale at least one of the molecules of air that passed through Genghis Khan’s lungs!).

The seasons and weather change, crops grow.

We survive the ups and downs of the stock exchange and commodity markets. Nothing is constant. Change is unrelenting. So if hanging on is not the best strategy for our businesses, what can we do?

The secret lies in working out what our business is exactly. You might produce cardboard boxes on a production line but is your business one of production or packaging? You need to distill the essence of your business idea (maybe focus on the packaging) and throw away everything else.

If you get this right then you can reinvent your business over and over again according to changes in markets, customer buying habits, etc. Our fictitious box making company could become experts in sustainable (or recyclable) packaging solutions for the automotive sector.

Focus on knowledge and core skills as well as what product or service you actually provide.

Instead of desperately trying to stay in your current business by all means possible, it is time for you to get out of the business and get into a new one!

How Innovative And Flexible Is Your Business?

how innovatve and flexible is your business

To be innovative we must be flexible and embrace change. Innovation is a special type of change program. It has many other attributes that make it deeply fascinating and sometimes difficult or impossible to grasp, but change is what it is.

Sometimes this change is fast and sometimes slow, but change is a competence and managing change can be learned, developed and practised.

The thing that trips us up most often is that we get no practice, we have to improvise. Most of us would not stand up at a comedy club and improvise a 10 minute set. But our bosses expect us to do this and we gladly assume the role.

Of course, we can never practice the stages of change without actually changing. But in our businesses, we crave stability. We either change once in a lifetime or we keep doing so in a way that we don’t have time to bed in the changes that have been made.

Worse still, we invent an innovation program that changes rapidly. This results in bewildered staff, unhappy sponsors and management shaking their heads at the hastily drawn up Key Performance Indicators.

Even in changing business environments businesses make the assumption that volatility will be low.

For obvious reasons, the least volatile part of a business is related to finance. For example, consider the process of budgeting. The budget is usually set once a year and tinkered with occasionally. Often budgets are reused. It might not be efficient to use zero-based budgeting (budgeting from scratch) but how often are the inputs to a budget reexamined?

But what happens when there is volatility in the marketplace? Commodity prices can rise and fall quickly. Recently we have seen fuel prices affect the costs of all goods that need to be transported. Crop failures can push up food prices and regulatory changes can force huge burdens upon us all.

What would you do regarding your finances if the cost of fuel rose by 50% due to events in the Middle East? What would you need to do and how fast could you do it? Would it spell the end anyway?

Some businesses do conduct some scenario planning or create a series of ‘What if?’ statements so that they have some idea what to do. This is a little like leaving instructions for a simple board game. What happens when the board game is different from the one mentioned in the instructions?

To be truly agile (nimble, flexible, innovative or whatever adjective you favour), a business must create a system that reacts automatically to its surroundings rather as a chameleon does in nature. You might find it useful to take a look at the following two posts No More Change Programs – Meet The Super Chameleon and Innovation Constipation – Are You Suffering?

How do we create this elusive flexible or innovative business? Well if you are starting a new business you can start as you mean to go on. Although whoever is providing startup funding might take in interest in why you are doing something that does not obviously have a ROI (Return On Investment).

If you are a larger business then they are ways of making the necessary structural and cultural changes. The businesses that have been doing this for years make it look easy. It is not! However, once you have mastered this (a bit like riding a bicycle) then things get easier.

If you want to know more or would like some case study material then please get in touch.

So your homework for today is to answer the following:

How does your company cultivate change and reinvention capacity in its people and managerial processes? What currently works? What can be improved or replaced?

Can The Public Sector Leopard Change Its Spots?

Can the public sector changeI went to an event very recently where a number of public sector and not for profit organisations were shouting very loudly about the joined up way in which they were working together and the great benefits that were being delivered to their customers.

On the face of it, this was exciting news but was everything as it seems? I can hear readers now thinking ‘he is going to have a go at the NHS’. Well in a way you would be right and in a way wrong. It is brilliant that service deliverers can improve and extend the range of services and observe genuine results.

So where is the problem? Well, the biggest one comes when someone reminds us that ultimately these organisations are spending our money. One of the people present who commissions services provided compelling evidence that these services were being effective. Commissioners have predictions for future service demand. This helps to ensure the amount and type of services required are actually there. The commissioner stated that demand was increasing much less than predicted which implies that prevention is working.

Well, that’s that then? Not quite. A gentleman asks politely but in a very ‘civil servant’ type of manner, what evidence he can put on the table at a meeting he is going to attend the next day. He wants facts (and lots of them) as do his colleagues (anyone with the word ‘Manager’ in their job title). We have a whole raft of people whose job it is to justify and account for spending.

The organisations are delivering new or altered services (great) but underneath they are fundamentally the same. This is a little like saying that a supermarket chain is changing and supporting the environment whilst all it is doing is stocking some local potatoes and getting rid of some plastic packaging.

We should remove whole swathes of middle management. We could then fund many more services if we could only change the way in which these organisations work. The public only turn their attention to accountability when the services they seek are not there. When GP visits are easy to make, when libraries are still there and functioning well, when refuse collections do not result in piles of waste on the street, we are all happy.

For a small example of how this can work see my article Ban The Boss – see the BBC’s Business Doctor at work. Its an hour long programme but well worth it.

How visualisation could have helped the Brexit debate

Use visualisation in your change programmesThere are still many conversations going on about the recent referendum. Regardless of who was right or wrong, how could the whole process have been improved. How could we make sure that voters had a better understanding of what they were voting for? How could the politicians have better communicated their ideas to us all? Maybe visualisation could have helped?

One possible answer is visualisation. This does not mean we all have to meditate whilst listening to whale noises. It simply means that someone needs to create a descriptive representation of what they are proposing. What would life be like, feel like, smell like. What would day to day living be like, how would things stack up for workers, teenagers, the elderly or unemployed. The aim is to create something that everyone can relate to.

Those campaigning in the recent debate could have created a vivid model of the future that they were proposing. Also, the electorate in general could also have used something similar to work out what sort of future they wanted and then matched this to what they were being sold by the Remain or Leave campaigns.

Such methods are positive, building methods and may have prevented some of the negative campaigning. It is also much easier to see any common ground between your ideas and those espoused by others.

So how can we do this? Story, modelling, music, video, metaphor are all useful and one or two could have been used effectively rather than shouting at each other.

A simple example is house hunting. We can all wander around with house particulars featuring dimensions, details of kitchens and man caves etc but it soon becomes apparent where we can compromise or build so that there is a vision that everyone is happy with.

Why We Hate Creativity

Why we hate creativityImagine This

Imagine for a minute that your top management have asked me to radically change the way you work. This is because I persuaded them about my philosophy of using Creativity as a serious business tool. Management sent the following email to you and your colleagues on Friday afternoon.

Dear Colleague,

Our company is going to adopt a radical business model that will help us to be more efficient. We wish to get products to market faster but above all remain ahead of the competition. As a result there will be some changes to the structure of the organisation as well as the introduction of new management and business tools. Consequently, for many of you, there will be changes to the IT services provided by our IT department.

All affected staff will receive comprehensive training commencing on Monday morning. Please read the attached notes for your personalised training programme. 

We are all excited by the forthcoming changes and we hope that you will be too

Yours,

Your Senior Management Team
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