How Well Does Your Company Deal with Change?

If there is one thing we’ve learned about over the past couple years, it’s how quickly things change. Our lives can look very different from one season to the next, with anything from our daily routines to our country of residence open to change.

But it’s not just our personal lives that face the unknown. Our businesses can transform overnight in ways big and small. A survey by Gartner found that 88% of organizations encouraged or required employees to work from home in 2020 in a huge example of how dramatically companies have to deal with change.

Long before 2020, business leaders have been advocating for resilience in the working world. Simon Sinek’s bestseller, The Infinite Game, describes how to build a company that responds to change. The book features Sinek’s mantra of finding “Existential Flexibility”: the ability to pivot or transform while following the organization’s ultimate purpose.

Sinek’s insights are worth heeding: dealing with change isn’t just important, it’s essential. Today we’ll be exploring how you can ensure your own company is ready to adapt for the future.

How often do you review your processes?

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Not quite.

Old adages are often a source of wisdom, but what if there’s something out there that would save hours of company time, increase profits, and you aren’t even close to adding to your company?

Let’s take online banking as an example. When the idea of handing over our most secret details to the internet came about, much of the population balked at the very suggestion. The first example of internet banking as we know it today came via Microsoft in 1994, and 100,000 homes started using it. Now, though, most of us have access to our banks in our back pocket, as reports show 89% of US bank account holders use mobile banking.

If we’d not taken up the change, we would still be making long trips, suffering long waits, and experiencing all-around inconvenience over the quick banking experience we enjoy today, so why should our business processes be any different?

Review processes frequently and diligently. Listen to people who make suggestions for improved processes on the fly and schedule time at least once a year to review.

A clock that's been taken apart piece by piece. All of the pieces and cogs are laid out neatly together on a bright pink background.

How well do you conduct ongoing research?

This is not an excuse to obsess over competitors. That may feel like research, but there are many more valuable things to be found out there!

Instead, we encourage you to reach out to your target customers. Whether it’s paying for online surveys that gather information or reaching out to contacts directly, people respect companies that clearly want to grow.

Don’t forget about past customers. Where could you have done better, and what was it they liked about you? How did they find you? Would they recommend you? Who would they recommend you to? If this isn’t part of your process already, make sure it is now. You can even add these questions to a questionnaire that gets sent as soon as a client project is complete for ongoing feedback.

Yes, competitor analysis is important, but you are not trying to engage your competitors: you’re trying to connect with your customers. Make sure that’s clear in what you do.

Do you empower your employees to give feedback?

Just as interviews should always be seen as a two-way process, feedback should never be from the top-down only.

There are some excellent examples of organizations that do this already. The UK’s National Healthcare System constitution includes “Everyone Counts” as one of its six core values and is the eighth biggest employer worldwide. The organization applies this to both patients and staff, in an environment that values the opinions of the most junior and senior employees equally. At its most acute, it means a student nurse can speak up and save a life.

Failed Silicon Valley unicorn, Theranos, did the opposite. It’s common for tech startups to have staff sign NDAs so that secrets never leave the building, but Theranos went further. Employees couldn’t even speak to each other, so the faulty technology Theranos peddled was never remedied.

The outcome? Internal chaos, a failed product, deceit from senior management, and a disaster only resolved when whistle-blower Tyler Shultz came forward.

The message is clear: bottom-to-top communication is vital. Without it, problems are not heard and solutions are not found. We’re used to trusting company leaders as the most capable, but researchers find as many as 3 in 10 managers have a fatal flaw they’ve got no knowledge of. Employees lower in the rankings but have greater access to the core product of a business have insights that allow for powerful change.

A typewriter on a pink background. The paper inside the typewriter is a bright aqua blue, with no writing on it yet.

Takeaways:

  • Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to mean your company is at permanent risk
  • Strong companies ​pivot and adapt to the future
  • Review your processes frequently and don’t be afraid to take on new tools that could boost your business
  • Carry out research by surveying your past and future clients first and foremost, before considering competitors
  • Encourage employees to speak up; if they know something is wrong, they should be empowered to share it and be listened to

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