Preparing For Change

Practice makes perfect. We all know that to be largely true, so let’s use that axiom to prepare our businesses for change.

Your organization likely assigns people to departments based on their incoming skill sets, and then to specific roles. Most rarely stray from that initial assignment. The average employee can become expert in a small window of knowledge and skill using that method, but your organization is then filled with people who only know one small area and one historical methodology.

Insist that starting on the first of next month two members of your leadership team switch roles. You might be one of those leaders. If you recoil in horror at the thought of your director of engineering switching roles with your director of supply chain, you’ve just proven the point.

True “A” players listen, learn, and lead. Those are skills not confined to whatever education they received one, or 30, years ago.

By insisting they switch roles, each will gain a very different perspective on the organization, the products and services, the markets, and the organizational potential to deal with change. The switch could last six months, or five years. The point is that each needs to gain different perspective, different ways of looking at the same question, and be forced to think differently about why and how things are done.

Also do that at mid and lower levels of your organization. Certainly I don’t advise playing a version of musical chairs with enough chairs for all. We want to introduce controlled chaos, not wild chaos. Select a few key individuals in each arena, and switch their responsibilities.

How does that prepare your organization for change?

Simply, by inducing it.

The longer people have had a single area of responsibility, the more invested they become in “the old way” of doing it. Gaining comfort with the unknown is a crucial step in any claim to agility. Agility has to exist throughout the organization in the form of thinking, openness, creativity, and approach to risk.

You know another slap in the face will hit your industry soon. You do not likely know where it will emanate, nor when it will appear. The more stagnant your organization — often confused with stable — the less you will recognize its approach.

Practice dealing with change. Take time to identify what worked and what didn’t. Take time to integrate lessons learned, and especially, the limitations to those lessons. Not all lessons learned from history will be helpful in the future.

It is the recognition of, the absorption of, and the reaction to an externally driven change that separates the successful from the faded. By practicing those competencies with internally driven change, we can develop the skills that real change requires. And those real changes are foisted on us by the world around us, not by the calendar or “when we’re ready.”

Prepare now, so you can see and ride the wave then.

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