Wednesday, 28 February 2024 04:38

How to run your business when the only constant is change

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Prepare your company to absorb shocks and turn them into opportunities during 2024’s predicted mix of rapid disruption and cautious optimism.

As 2024 unfolds, we all know that the only constant is change. Yet, time and again, we see companies that are unable to manage change fail in the marketplace. According to a recent report, “more organizations are failing when it comes to business outcomes during times of change” than ever before.

Adding to this challenge is the continuous and rapid acceleration of change in our world. In 2023, we saw major shifts that will affect businesses for decades to come. Companies continue to reconcile and reimagine remote and hybrid working models, deal with ongoing economic uncertainty, and face the fallout from a never-ending string of catchy, but disruptive workplace phenomena, from the Great Resignation to quiet quitting to the Great Rethink. And then there’s generative AI—a deeply disruptive change agent whose full impact we’re just beginning to conceptualize.

To survive in this environment, every organization in business today needs to do more than prepare for the possibility of change. They need to create structures and mindsets that can continuously absorb shocks and turn them into opportunities. These companies will not only manage through change, but be the standout examples that can thrive and grow in 2024’s predicted mix of rapid disruption and cautious optimism.

It’s not enough to have an organization aligned around what is, but to develop a culture that imagines what could be. To do so, start by asking these two fundamental questions.

Is your business model designed for the age of change?

Old business models were not structured to operate at the speed of the digital age. Even systems that were in place to manage change were built around a single, rare, one-off event. We haven’t evolved our organizational models to meet the speed, scope and number of changes that companies now face on a daily basis.

The speed and reach of customer feedback is a good example of this. Gone are the days of customer feedback slowly traveling up the command chain. Today, customer feedback is instant and impactful. Customers now have the power and tools to immediately report about their experience and broadcast it to the world, whether that experience was good or bad. The onus is now on businesses to have the appropriate communications structures and cultures in place to empower frontline employees to make brand-aligned decisions, rather than wait for headquarters to react.

Is your growth plan too rigid for rapid response?

More and more, companies are faced with the opportunity (or necessity) to make quick decisions based on fluctuating circumstances. These decisions can have significant impact on business strategy as well as performance, and more risk-averse leaders may chafe against too much change, too quickly. But while sticking to a core strategy is obviously important, neglecting opportunities for growth could be lethal. To make room for change, company structures must be flexible enough to support both a stable core business and the real-time opportunities that arise.

To turn the tides of rapid change in your favor, build resilience and values-driven agility into your business structure so your team can thrive in any environment. Here are three design principles to help you make the strategic shift:

1) Follow an 80/20 rule to maintain stability and flexibility. Plan 80% of your operations around your core business to focus resources on maintaining your bread-and-butter offerings. Save 20% of your operations’ resources for exploring new opportunities and responding to the unexpected.

2) Maintain a diverse talent mix. The profile of teams suited to optimize the core business may be different from the profile of the team that assesses and tests new opportunities. Always maintain a mix of talent to create a well-rounded team that covers both.

3) Stay true to your values. Companies that lead with and live by their values can create a consistent environment during times of change. Your values become the bedrock that allows employees to make decisions and take risks without the weight of heavier oversight. The greater capacity your organization has for employees to participate in problem-solving, the greater your organization’s resilience to micro and macro change.

The rate of change is so fast today that it may feel impossible to keep up. But there are a few key factors that can spell the difference between success and failure. Building values, flexibility, and resilience into your company culture and operations and engaging diverse teams can help you not only weather the storms of change, but begin to thrive in new and unexpected ways.

Elaine Mak is chief people and performance officer at Valimail.


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