Change can be tough, whether in a company or in one’s everyday life. People get comfortable doing the same thing all the time and may feel that change will require them to act drastically different. But in a company, if your organization is attuned to change and builds change management into the its every day processes, change can be invigorating, exciting, and rewarding for your organization.
We recommend that companies expect change to happen and develop collaborative, ongoing, and proactive processes that incorporate a cross-section of people from all levels of the organization.
How do you know when your company may need to change? Here are 10 of the most common signs:
10. Demand for your products/ services are trending downward
9. The company valuation or stock price is slipping
8. There are vital new competitors ready to steal your market share
7. New technologies are available that can improve your offering but you have not yet adopted
any of them (before your competition does)
6. The economic conditions in which you operate (state, country, international markets) are
5. New rules or laws are pending that will impact your business
4. People in the organization are working in silos with little information exchange
3. Those closest to the products and customers are not being included in next-phase strategy
2. There is disproportionate power in one aspect of the organization
1. The company doesn’t have sufficient funding or resources to grow.
If any of these things are happening, adopting a proactive and collaborative process for managing change will likely be your best way forward. This is especially important when the change you need may be sweeping and strategic, because everyone in the organization will be impacted. All those who have been engaged in designing the change are most likely to feel like part of it and be invested in its success.
If none of these ten things are happening to your company, then it is possible you simply may not be seeing it. Today’s business context is constantly changing, especially with the dizzying pace of technological leaps which will continue to accelerate through the 2020’s. The good news is that many of the forces that make change necessary are also opportunities you can leverage to improve your company’s products and services.
If your sales are slumping, it is a sign you may need to get back in touch with your customers to understand what else they are buying instead, and improving upon the alternative. Also, the abundance of new technologies now available, such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and augmented reality may not yet seem to be relevant to your company or industry. However, they just might be worth exploring, enabling you to deliver your product in a totally new way.
One critical aspect of being able to manage change thoughtfully and on time is to expect circumstances to change continuously. As Rita McGrath recommends in her fantastic new book, Seeing Around Corners, managing change can involve designating a person or group within the organization who is responsible for identifying early warning signs and evaluating the need for immediate or longer-term action. Professor McGrath calls these moments Inflection Points, that is, changes in the market or emerging trends that can help or hurt a company. She observes that companies that notice inflection points before they happen have the opportunity to capitalize on the moment if they are prepared; and those that do not anticipate the change will likely lose out.
Marketplace pressures may not be the only incentives for an organization to change. Other types of changes may need to occur due to internal or organizational issues, such as an overbearing manager or a lopsided contribution of one segment of the business versus all the others. Such challenges are often too difficult for those within the company to resolve the situation without the help of an outside objective advisor or consultant to manage the process.
Whether managed internally or with outside help, we have seen that a collaborative approach is most likely to enable the successful integration of a new process, priority, or technology. My colleagues and I have helped manage change in all kinds of organizations and have seen that, when diverse opinions are embraced and forward-thinking is embedded into the company, managing change is a constructive process that enhances the culture and the longevity of an organization.
Both internal and external pressures may incentivize a company to change in some way. We hope and encourage companies to view such inflection points as opportunities to build bridges between people in the organization and to develop creative new ways to serve clients and markets.
About the Author
Kate Sackman is a partner at Advantary, LLC and active in Advantary’s Executive Capital practice, which works with executive teams and boards to improve communication, collaboration, culture, and trust to drive your team’s productivity and profitability. Kate’s core purpose is to partner with companies to empower people and activate the best in themselves and their organizations.
Prior to joining Advantary, Kate founded and led companies in media and in medical imaging and software. Most recently she served as a Professor of Entrepreneurship and as the Director of Venture Programs at Florida International University (FIU), where she taught and mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs and startup companies. Her expertise is in growth strategy, marketing, branding, communications, financial modeling, and new product innovation.