Quit Looking for the Case for Change
A CEO of a manufacturing company recently reached out to discuss his proposed case for change. “Case for change” is a phrase used by many in change management who argue that people will only buy in to altering current work methods if they understand the reason for it. This CEO wanted confirmation that the case he intended to make to his organization made sense to me.
There are two primary reasons why any business would change: Fear, or Opportunity. Facing neither, leadership would have a tough time getting employees excited about change for change’s sake.
My question is simply this: Today, how can any manufacturing business in North America not see a multitude of both threats and opportunities?
Absolutely nothing is static. Not technology, not generational values, not market expectations, not speed, nor anything else. If everything around us is evolving, why would we need to search for a case for change?
I understand choosing not to overwhelm an organization. That is a requirement of success. Listing 100s of threats and opportunities would not be helpful to engaging employees, or other constituents. The goal is to keep the business moving, not to freeze it.
The case for change a given manufacturer chooses to make has two primary parts. The first is to ensure that the entire organization is aware of external innovations. The second is to prioritize the elements of fear and/or opportunity that the business will leverage.
Doing the second without doing the first is problematic.
Create a fully cross-sectional committee to identify 10 – 15 impactful factors around your business. Feed thinking by describing a few examples yourself. Amazon next-day-delivery could be one, Spotify another, and autonomous vehicles as a third. Describe how you see the real change underlying the illustrations you share and how it could impact your business. Discussions of changing customer expectations, distribution models, business models or lifestyle preferences may emerge.
Ask the committee to identify other examples along with why employees or suppliers should care. That may require some research. They can then prioritize the influences they select.
Now use a discussion-oriented communication method to instill broad awareness of these factors one by one. Do so bi-weekly or monthly – for education and deeper thinking practice as much as anything else. Full participation is important.
In doing this the entire company will develop a realization that stagnation is not an option, and that slow improvement is not one either. You will discover what evolution and revolution your employees value in their lives. Acceptance that big thinking is elemental to keeping the organization healthy will grow.
The case for change surrounds us. It is not episodic. It is continuous and growing. It is not a management edict.
When every corner of your organization has internalized important observed changes in the business and personal environment, the need for change becomes widely accepted.
It is then only “why this change now?” Through the prioritization process it will become clear there may be no single right answer to that important question. The only bad choice is to do nothing.
The CEO and I agreed he should personally execute the first examination so that he is acutely aware of and thinks deeply about revolutions in the business environment outside his industry. His previously myopic view had to be lifted.
As a leader, take the first step, either yourself or with your organization, and do so soon. None of you can afford to waste time.