The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “Change is the only constant in life,” and that is true more than ever in business. The pace of change seems to be moving faster than ever, and organizations of all sizes are struggling to stay ahead of the change or even keep up.
Compare the 2015 Fortune 100 list to the 2005 Fortune 100 and you’ll notice a handful of organizations have moved significantly or completely dropped off. Organizations that had settled in and secured a high ranking spot for several decades are now obsolete. On the flipside, organizations like Apple, Amazon and Google quickly rose up the ranks over the past 15 years, disrupting industries and challenging competitors along the way.
It’s pretty clear that companies who have kept their head in the sand and resisted change are dying off.
Creating an organizational culture that embraces change and views it as an opportunity is very challenging. Leaders get stuck in their race to deliver quarterly results and short term wins. Teams are reluctant to change because it means they have to think and act differently than what they are used to. Organizations don’t have the luxury of reacting to innovations and market disruptions. Leaders have to stay ahead of the curve, and to do that, they need to create a culture that proactively thinks about and embraces change.
Right around the time I joined Meridian I came across a quote by General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Shinkseki said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” That message resonated with me, so much so that I printed it out and stuck it on my door.
Creating a culture that embraces change
Undergoing change for the sake of change isn’t the right approach. Creating a culture of change starts with an understanding of where you are, where you want to go, and how you can communicate that to your team. Change requires you to take inventory of your workforce and their skillsets. Ask yourself: what are the skills we need today, tomorrow, and 12 months from now? How are the changes in our business impacting those skills? Are there areas within your business that lack vital skills? Are there people with untapped potential you can take advantage of? What are the new skills spearheading innovation in other organizations?
You can’t expect your employees to acquire new skills and talents on their own, you have to help them along the way. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing them to your competitor who will. Your workforce is your biggest asset, and investing in their training and development is one of the biggest ways to foster innovation and new ways of thinking in your organization.
Change and innovation don’t happen overnight, and they certainly don’t happen without careful, thoughtful planning and the right company culture. If people are pushing back on change initiatives, you might want to kindly remind them that they’ll probably like irrelevance even less.