Perhaps it is human nature, but we tend to eschew change either in our personal habits or in business settings until we are faced with mortality.
In organizations, most significant change occurs during times of crisis when the threat of extinction sufficiently motivates individuals and groups to consider changing long-standing ways of doing things. The crisis brings into stark focus the fact that it is easier and less costly to accept or embrace change than it is to suddenly become extinct. Unfortunately, by the time this clarity is achieved at the top leadership levels, it is often too late.
As difficult as it is to follow the news everyday, we are living and working through a period of time when the extinction of firms and industries is taking place in front of us, like some business simulation game gone horribly wrong. The game unfolds like this: focus only on short-term results, add in a measure of personal greed, consistently make the wrong decisions and act shocked as the results spiral out of control to the final act….a low probability of success, last ditch effort gambit (or bailout).
For some, the distance from the top of the Mount Olympus to the graveyards and swamps below is fast and furious. The suddenness and rapidity of the fall is shocking, but perhaps easier to digest than those firms that have systematically planned their own demise step-by-step as they move from Masters of the Universe to what will soon be footnotes in our history books and business texts.
As in life, there are no guarantees of survival…there is no prescriptive formula that says “if you do X then you survive and prosper,” but there are methods to improve your odds.
How to Improve Your Odds of Survival
- Senior leaders must embrace the fact that survival and prosperity occur only at the pleasure of customers. Instead of giving lip service to the importance of customers, you need to develop systems to constantly seek out, understand and translate into actions the Voice of the Customer. This is remarkably difficult to do in practice and requires for many an impossible shift in culture and values. Nonetheless, you must change or die.
- Senior leaders must embrace the fact that without motivated, dedicated employees they have nothing. There can be no doubt that satisfied, engaged, respected, informed employees are essential for survival and success. Why then are our systems and our managers and leaders so often at odds with what it takes to create an environment where employees will gladly give their best. The poor leadership habits that are vestiges of another era must change or you will die.
- Call it total quality, performance excellence or whatever you want, but you must embed the notion of high performance and all that it takes to achieve it into the DNA of your organization’s culture. Success can breed success or it can give birth to complacency. An unyielding focus from the firm’s leaders on creating a high performance culture is required. This means that the fire-fighting mentality must stop, clear performance/quality priorities established and the systems developed to allow these to succeed and for people to learn in the process. You must change to create a learning organization or you will die.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Change or die. It’s that simple.