In this post, we’ll examine change. Change can be tough. It can be challenging. But is change always a bad thing? Is it possible that small changes, made intentionally, can have a big impact? The answer that one, of course, is yes. In this post, we’ll give you five concrete examples of how small changes can provide a big boost in productivity.
But first, we’ll look at how change can impact organizations on the macro scale. Then we’ll shift gears and examine how micro changes, made intentionally, can have a staggering impact on the bottom line.
Why Change Matters
In a rigid framework, managers are likely to leave resources, employees and other key assets as they are. This is a conservative approach that aims for dependability. The theory goes like this:
If we keep our best people in key positions they know well, they’ll continue performing as they always have.
However, human beings need to be challenged to reach their peak potential.
In a time of crisis, a rigid approach may well help you ride out the storm. A rigid framework promotes a stable organization that tends to be secure—as long as the key players remain in place. And therein lies its weakness: any amount of change is detrimental to a rigid system.
Too much rigidity in an organization can lead to barriers in development in several ways. Here are but a few:
• Employees may feel reluctant to put forth new ideas
• Managers may be reluctant to let go of under-performing employees for the sake of the status quo
• The organization may be slow to adapt to changing market conditions; it may be less resilient than it otherwise would be as it cannot quickly adapt
But what if, instead of resisting change, the organization was to embrace it?
In today’s ultra-competitive, rapidly changing marketplace, any CEO hoping for the pace of change to slow is in for disappointment. The reality is, the word is changing faster than ever before, in new and exciting ways. The optimal approach may well be to embrace this change and to look for opportunity within it.
In this section, we’ll look at three major ways that the world is rapidly evolving.
Imagine if COVID-19 had hit 20 or 30 years ago. Our society would struggle mightily to get by. Arguably, it would be much harder for governments to enforce social distancing and shelter at home orders. Why? Because people wouldn’t have the social outlets they do today. We have Skype, webinars, YouTube, Netflix and all manner of online entertainment and tools to occupy us.
Technology, on the whole, makes processes more efficient. Without this change, executives would still be dictating letters to typists. Business leaders would still be holding employee meetings in large business halls instead of online. Restaurants would still be keeping track of inventory on pen and paper instead of via sophisticated POS systems.
Social media allows businesses to communicate with customers in a more intimate and natural manner than ever before. Intranet allows employees to work more efficiently, easily accessing pooled resources. Webinar software can allow you to speak to all of your employees at once.
But it was the companies who anticipated these changes 20 years ago who profited the most.
Use Change Strategically
#2 Customer Needs
Just a few years ago, customers knew that they had to come to you during business hours. But today, if a customer wants to order sneakers or food at 3am, they can do that. They no longer have to spend time and money driving to a big box store or restaurant.
Consumers today have access to innumerable products and services via their smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. As technology improves, customer needs and wants change too. This doesn’t have to be a negative, though. Changing consumer tastes can mean new demand for a product or service you’re well-positioned to provide.
#3 The Global Economy
During times of global economic growth, companies should look for ways to expand. But expansion brings risk. During times of economic shrinkage, companies become more conservative with their risk taking. But avoiding risk can be risky in and of itself. Either economic reality has benefits and drawbacks, and both can bring opportunity.
Therefore, a rigid approach to either may not be ideal.
Use Change Strategically
If change is inevitable, the optimal approach may be to incorporate it into the corporate structure intentionally. Intentional change in your organizational structure can provide many benefits, including:
• Allowing employees to learn new skills
• Allowing employees to express their creativity, which may lead to lower stress levels and greater productivity
• Can improve employee morale, which may increase employee buy-in
• Providing redundancy and resilience to the organization
• Allowing you to stress test key positions, processes or personnel
However, when mixing things up, it’s important to get employee buy-in from the start. If you’ve run a tight ship in the past, your people may be reluctant to speak up. Here are a few ways you can get buy-in right away.
#1 Show Them the Vision
Don’t make changes willy-nilly. Tell employees what’s changing and explain why. Make the contrast clear between where you are right now and where need to be in three, six, or twelve months. Explain to employees how you plan to get there and what changes are required for that to happen.
Make it clear how you plan to measure success and how the change will positively benefit them.
#2 Know Your People
When building new teams, demonstrate to your people that you know and understand them. Create teams wherein each member complements the next. Assign people to tasks that play to their strengths. This will increase employee confidence and motivation.
#3 Follow Up & Provide Feedback
Employees will be more eager to embrace change if they know they’ll get feedback along the way. A surefire way to encourage procrastination is to assign a series of tasks with little or no feedback between them. Always check in with your team. Let them know what they’re doing right—and what they’re doing wrong.
Tiny Changes Add Up
So far, we’ve looked at how macro changes can have positive effects. Now, we’ll turn our focus to micro changes. Think of these as small swerves, or course corrections that can, over time, have a hugely positive impact.
#1 Write Everything Down
Use a modern online tool like Zoho or BaseCamp to put all of your instructions, directives and other data into one place. This prevents a lot of ‘he said, she said’ back and forth and increases employee efficiency. Along the same lines, if you haven’t created a company intranet, you should do that now. An intranet allows employees to access key company documents with ease. Creating an intranet can reduce a lot of inefficient chit chat. This chit chat starts as a question like, “Hey, do you know how to do x, y or z?” But often, it quickly devolves into pointless water cooler discussion.
#2 Use Scheduling Tools
If you use sprints, agile practices or some other productivity methodology, you should complement it with online scheduling tools. These tools are designed from the ground up to help you be more productive. What you pay in a monthly access fee, you’ll quickly recoup in terms of increased efficiency. With these tools, you can give key players access to the projects they need access to. You can also restrict access. For instance, you can set things up so that only you can make changes to existing projects. Or, you can empower trusted employees to manage the system for you.
#3 Reach Out to Brand Ambassadors
Use a service like Mention or Google Alerts to find out who your biggest online advocates are. Reach out to those folks and strike up a working relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean paying them to continue to endorse your product. But fostering a relationship with your most enthusiastic customers is never a bad idea. If you haven’t done much on social, now is the time to get started.
#4 Encourage Sick Employees to Stay Home
Fostering a company culture wherein sick employees feel they should ‘push through’ is generally a bad idea. You may see a short term boost in productivity. But that will invariably fade, and you’ll be left with poorly rested, sickly employees who have no energy or passion.
#5 Find New Ways to Express Your Brand Promise
What do you offer to customers, really? Nike offers both high quality gear and status. BMW offers performance and exclusivity. McDonald’s offers fast, inexpensive food that tastes the same in Japan as it does in Texas. What do you offer?
The more ways you find to express your brand promise, the better off you’ll be. Whether that’s by offering new promotions or by bringing new products to market, always look for ways to remind customers of who you are what you stand for.
When New Coke flopped spectacularly in the ‘80s, the Coca-Cola Company didn’t dig their heels in. They didn’t insist that the American palette change to accommodate the new drink. Instead, they remembered their brand promise and brought the original formula back.
Change can be scary, and sometimes a new product will flop. But on the whole, change can keep your organization agile and make you more resilient. Perhaps more importantly, change is inevitable anyway. The optimal approach may be to embrace change voluntarily and strategically.