Many companies resist it.
Others moan about it.
But only a few embrace it and leverage it as a competitive advantage.
Specifically, the ability to prepare, respond and adapt to changing environments quickly, decisively and more successfully than most.
Most of the time, change is voluntary, and we have the luxury of selectively implementing change on our own timelines. But again, that’s “most of the time.”
COVID taught us otherwise. COVID forced us to make immediate and substantial changes to every part of our business, and those who were too slow, paralyzed by indecision, or never planned for “what if” scenarios felt the most pain.
In many ways, your organization’s change-agility could be a powerful, and perhaps even unmatched competitive brand advantage, depending on how well you’re set up for it.
How to create and implement a change-agile company culture
We’re all aware that change is imminent and unpredictable, yet few organizations take the time to create the infrastructure for navigating through change successfully. No matter how prepared your company is to weather the unforeseen, consider implementing the following change strategies to optimize your ability to persevere the next time a storm hits your company and industry.
- Debrief your team whenever your company weathers a storm. If you haven’t done so already, carve out some time – whether it is three hours or three days – to do a performance assessment of how well your company navigated through COVID. What immediate and critical changes were made? How did they play out? What would you have done differently? How did you lead your team through the chaos and uncertainties that stretched on for days, weeks, and months? What did you learn about your people? How will you be better prepared in the future? What were the good decisions you made and what were the bad? How did you communicate and manage your relationships with customers, suppliers, resellers, distributors, sales reps and other channel partners? Use what you’ve learned to create an action plan for the next time a similar incident happens. Better yet, debrief your team on the last few storms you endured to create unique action plan for each.
- Keep an eye on trends in the manufacturing industry to anticipate the need for change. You know the saying: Some people make things (change) happen. Some people watch things (change) happen. Other people wonder what (change) just happened. Which one are you? How many companies were in a state of denial, and even resisted the power and influence of social media in business? (I’m baffled by how many industrial companies still don’t have an active LinkedIn corporate page and content strategy.) Devote time to discussing trends taking place in the manufacturing industry and how you can benefit from them. There are plenty – digitization, automation, workforce, training, supply chain, customer (buying), distribution, marketing, etc.
- Empower and delegate. If you micromanage, don’t trust your people to make key decisions (or require them to request approvals to make needed changes or decisions), you do so at your company’s peril. It’s a fact that the person or group of people who are closest to a problem are in the best position to solve the problem, and solving problems requires change. Of course, mistakes and bad decisions will be made, but there is no better way to learn, and you’ve made them as well. If you hired smart people, empower them to do their jobs.
- Develop and foster a change mindset within your organization. You can do this by encouraging your people to take advantage of emerging technologies and trends, implementing an All Ideas Matter (A.I.M) program by soliciting ideas for continuous improvement and driving the theme of change in your communications. Hire people who are agents of change and consider training people to recognize opportunities for change.
- Minimize the fear of change. Not only do some people dislike change, they fear it. Change disrupts. Change requires learning something new. Change requires additional work. When people see change coming, they wonder how it will affect their income, job security, how their performance will be measured and how it will affect culture. Read my article on A 5 Step Process for Minimizing the Fear of Change. Managing these natural fears will be critical to becoming a change-agile company.
Aside from the ability to adapt to major disruptions in business, customers and channel partners place a lot of value on working with companies that have a change-driven mindset. A change-agile company is innovative, proactive, adaptable, flexible and is structured to endure setbacks.
Change-agile companies always seem to have something new and exciting going on and have measurably higher chances of survival in the most challenging of times.