No more change programs? Really?
You are thinking that I must be out of my mind. Of course, a business needs to change according to the various market and competitive conditions that it faces.
A business does have to change but I believe that it is perfectly possible for it to change itself. Why is this not a popular point of view? Well, many businesses do not believe that they can stand on their own two feet or have not yet acquired the know-how to do this.
Secondly, there are a number of very large consultancy companies that stand to lose a lot of revenue from managing change programs.
So how can this be done? Well, it is a process that I call ‘Creating The Super-Chameleon’. Everyone knows the classic trait of a Chameleon, which is to adapt to its surroundings, to blend in. Well, I advocate creating a super chameleon, one which adapts automatically, but also one which stands out.
Such a business will adapt to market and regulatory conditions, create new products, services and processes as necessary and also change its structure when it no longer is appropriate for the business that it is in.
So far so good but how on earth can this be? The answer is (conceptually at least) very simple. The answer is ….. Innovation.
I don’t mean new shiny gadgets or electronic wizardry, but a change to behaviours and organisational culture. Such behaviours exist in many social enterprises or businesses where employees have a stake in the company. Sadly most of our larger enterprises have yet to see the light.
One of the initial issues is that this idea appears to clash with the concept of Lean which is popular just now. Many bosses, in an attempt to please shareholders are cutting costs. The more flexible organisation will, of course, have a certain amount of overhead costs.
It is also true that the workers at the ‘coal face’ often have a better idea of how to remove cost or improve performance than those seated around the boardroom table. Senior managers will say that workers do not have sight of company strategy and so do not fully understand what has to be done.
So, get some of your workforce involved!! For a good example of this, I suggest reading ‘Maverick’ by Ricardo Semler. This is just part of the story.
This is too small an article to provide a complete blueprint but below is a list of things that you need to consider. Break them down into their constituent parts and they are all possible to achieve.
Your list of things to ponder should contain:
- Removing as many of your hierarchies as possible. By all means, employ skillful Leaders and Managers but do not add layers simply because your managers need managing. Your Chameleon works on lines of communication not lines of control, so the flatter and more open your business is, the better it will work.
- A method of scanning the external environment and feeding the data directly into the decision-making process.
- Some idea of the skills and knowledge within the company that is currently not used (e.g. someone with an HGV licence, skills in mechanics or welding).
- A method of identifying and diagnosing ‘problems’
- A method of gathering ideas and know-how and generating new ideas and know-how and storing it for future use
- A mechanism for disseminating and gathering information (a bit like the ripples on a pond but going backward too)
- A mechanism for allowing play/prototyping so that any new ideas can be tried quickly without the need for committees etc.
- A method of spreading this new way of working (linked to number 6 above) according to your business sector and company size.
There are many more things but the thing to remember is that each of these will be different according to the type of business that you have.
Beware of blindly copying what most call ‘best practice’. I know of many successful companies that are visited by those wishing to achieve the same success. They copy the open-plan offices, cool meeting rooms and expensive technology but miss out the unseen and most important aspects (culture, behaviour, etc) as well as not understanding the context in which all of these factors operate.
If you like the sound of this way of working or want to measure the potential of your business or organisation to innovate then please get in touch.