Adapting your organization to new tasks, budgets, or any other new situation is always challenging. The ever-increasing rate of needed changes seems to be today’s gospel. That however has not changed the most common understanding, that if only we find the right solution this time, we will be safe from the threat of change in the foreseeable future. Strangely enough that never seems to be the case.
Tempo, Tempo, Tempo
No matter what you do, if you do it quicker than your opposition, chances are you will win. It is true in sports, it is most certainly true in maneuver warfare, and it is true in most markets as well. If you get your new product out quicker you will most likely be ahead of the competition. If you find a faster way to make budgets and write offers you can save on staff. Let’s face it – speed is a winner.
Don’t rock my boat
Change is challenging to all people. It creates uncertainty, new hierarchies, different dynamics, and forces us to adapt. We have all felt it and stacks of books have been written about this – it’s a fact. That is why most people, as a gut reaction, would just rather just be without. We can be persuaded, look at the numbers and see the logic in the change, but we know what we have – as opposed to an uncertain future. As a manager you know people probably won’t like it, it will take a lot of your time leading them through and managing the change process, and therefore you will try to avoid it (even if you won’t admit it). That is why we most often look too deep and too hard for the silver bullet, the mother of all changes the one that means we don’t have to change again.
We are willing to run risks, spend cash, and allow years long implementation time just investing in the hope, that this time we will get it right. And that is where we go wrong! We need the change because the world is changing fast – we need quick fixes, something that will work right now. When you are under fire, you don’t go back to the planning room and rethink your doctrine – you act, adjust and (hopefully) win.
Plan for chance
Change is a given, plan for it. All organizations and processes should be created with change in mind. Make it flexible – you know you will need to change it. Practice changes on all levels. Use different working methods for different projects, your employees will learn and get used to it. Change the little things often (when needed of course). Small changes are easier to cope with, your employees will see that changes are not always worse than an overdue dentist appointment, and you as a manager will improve in deciding changes and leading people successfully through.
“Space we can recover, lost time never”
You should rather make an adjustment to your organization that will work ok tomorrow than something which will be great next year. Chances are something else will have changed and it won’t be so great anyway. Accept that your solution is not perfect, as long as it works. You want a permanently working organization. Huge reorganizations create a large drop in productivity, which you basically have to earn back later. Smaller changes will only provide minor drops in productivity and have a shorter payback time. Your goal should be to keep your company running at permanently above 95% efficiency and never drop below 90%.
Adjust the system
When a good team isn’t playing well the coach makes adjustment. You sub a player here and there, tells one player to be more aggressive and perhaps another to rebound the ball more – but you don’t change the entire system. You take the best pick from your playbook and adjust it. What I have described will help you develop a flexible playbook, which is what you need to face tomorrow’s challenges. Once in a while you will need to add a new play to the book – but you will never throw the book away and start all over. That is adjusting the way you play instead of changing the entire system.