Updated: Jun 9, 2022
There’s a lot of debate going on at the moment about the best way to modernise* business practices for the new era of work. Most of it seems aimed at large enterprises and boils down to advising enterprises to be more agile.
However, most businesses in NZ are not large, and many of the techniques that are suited for major enterprises can be massive overkill for smaller organisations. That’s not to say that companies employing around 50 staff don’t have significant complexity, but it’s reasonable to conclude that the vast majority are already fairly lean and agile. They need to be to survive.
We identified four things that we believe are common across all enterprises, and will make a difference. Concentrating on these can be a great way to make significant improvements.
1. A sense of urgency
John Kotter has defined a sense of urgency as “a gut level determination to win and win now.” This drives people to look outward, specifically to focus on their customers. Complacency or false urgency results from an inward focus on your own organisation.
We often think of a sense of urgency in terms of a burning platform. That’s a terrible metaphor for business since it’s unlikely that anyone leading a business is ever really likely to face fire and death the way the workers on Piper Alpha did in 1988 – which is where the phrase originates.
A true sense of urgency motivates people to come to work and improve things every day. A false sense of urgency leads to anxiety, frustration and anger. Sound familiar?
2. Something that is different and interesting
Good luck trying to get people to adopt something new that is of no interest to them. Not everyone is enthusiastic about so-called upgrades to their systems. The experience of most people when their familiar technology is changed – even something as simple as a new laptop – is more likely to be one of disruption and frustration, at least until they get used to it.
People tend to support things they have actively chosen. That’s why everyone loves their own smart-phone – it was their choice, and they will be tolerant of its inevitable flaws. We all know the person that enthusiastically shows off their latest tech toy at the weekend barby.
It’s worth investing some time in figuring out what people are interested in, so that they can apply that same enthusiasm to the change you want to make.
3. Engaged hearts and minds
Simon Sinek urges us to start with why we are doing something rather than what we are doing.
Innovators and early adopters only make up around 15% of any population, but they massively influence the rest. They will only do that if they are engaged, and they will only be engaged if the change affirms their beliefs and values.
When the why is absent, imbalance is produced and manipulations thrive - Simon Sinek
4. Enthusiastic internal leadership
Sinek also points out that our rational brain doesn’t control most of our decisions. Most of us need some kind of guidance.
A lot of organisations look to external experts to provide that leadership. This is the “tell us what we should do” model.
Even if the advice given is right, unless whoever is sponsoring the initiative within the company is completely onboard with the vision for the change, no amount of external advice will make it happen.
An enthusiastic sponsor will convince their peers and marshal the resources (including the money) required to make the change.
There is no one silver bullet that guarantees a successful change, but you can minimise the risk of disruption to your operations by ensuring these four challenges relating to people are considered.
*modernise may sound like a quaint term, but isn’t that what people really mean by transformation?
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