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Stable Change

3 September 2008 No Comment

Boredom never seems to be a problem for business owners. If anything, the list of ideas, opportunities, competitors, technology, and challenges is never the same one day to the next. Change is constant, sometimes vexing. How do you most effectively harness that momentum to accelerate your business instead of being tossed about like a sparrow in a hurricane?

Let’s look at four places along the path between you and your customer.

  • Foundation – core values, mission, and offerings of your company
  • Operations – activities and systems used to create and deliver your product or service
  • Market – set of messages and channels that let you interact with prospects and transact with customers
  • Customer – the ultimate decision maker who purchases your product or service

Your values, mission, strategy, and culture are fairly well fixed; any changes come after long deliberation. Your customers, as a profile, are also constant. Of course any individual customer may come or go; as long as you have offerings that satisfy certain needs you will have customers with those needs responding to your offering.

The market changes constantly – competition, economic conditions, globalization, demographics, technology– and you have no control over those. You may need to change how you connect with customers, where you get your raw materials, or decrease your processing time, or any number of things.  Do your customers want to order online? You need to build an e-commerce facility.  Is the economy shifting gears? Increase business development activities and cut costs.  Is your industry affected by new global competition? Create some localized value.

The only place left where you can adjust is within your operations. If it were just a matter of buying new machines that would be easy. You install them, the bank finances them, and the boost in efficiency drops to the bottom line. Of course it’s not that simple.

People can be resistant to change because it’s difficult, upsetting, unsettling, uncertain, scary. . .or not. Look at the most dynamic companies and you’ll see the people drive instead of drag. What is it that has them accelerate and leverage change instead of fight it?

The keys to a change based culture are:

  • Everyone knows exactly the foundation and the ultimate purpose they’re serving.
  • Between the foundation and the market / customer there will be constant adaptation.
  • All stakeholders are expected to be proactive in advancing the company.
  • Employees have (or can invent) a growth path for themselves as the company evolves.
  • The work, management, recognition, compensation, and training are built on this premise.

How do you get from here to there?

  • Get in the change habit. Involve everyone. Think about causing instead of reacting.
  • Don’t worry about doing a gigantic reorganization to fix everything at once – it will never get started.
  • Don’t be afraid to redo. It’s easier to try many little things and adjust what doesn’t work than to figure out in advance which ones will.

What to do now:

  1. Make sure you are completely clear about your Foundation and Customer. Write it down on a 3×5 card. If you can’t, you aren’t. Then and only then make sure everyone else is equally clear.
  2. Look at every step from the creation to consumption of your product or service; you will notice some things out of alignment.
  3. Find something small to do differently – and do it, don’t study it. Stop doing something unnecessary, start a good idea, or increase something that’s working well.

Think small. If you can find a one percent improvement each week you’ll triple in about two years. Now that’s change.

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