“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives” Alvin Toffler
You may have heard the saying, “if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got!” This is not a view I subscribe to. Your circumstances are a product of both your behaviour AND your environment. Outcomes will change if either of these change. My former partner and good friend Paul O’Byrne would constantly look ahead and anticipate how the changing world demanded a new approach. He had a dynamic view of life. He saw it as an ever changing journey. He was exceptional (in so many ways). Most of us are creatures of habit preferring to put our heads in the sand like the Hem character in the book and video “WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?” by Spencer Johnson. Change and innovation may feel risky but change is inevitable and innovation essential. Not changing may be far more risky!
How we see change depends on whether we are the person making the change or the person being changed; whether you are active or passive. Dumping your girlfriend or boyfriend feels very different to being dumped!
This month the obk mba group looked at organisational change. This is a natural follow on from the subject of leadership studied last month. Leadership is critical in leading an organisation through the changes it needs to improve or survive. John Kotter’s 8 point checklist for leading change originally articulated in his popular HBR article “Leading Change; Why Transformation Efforts fail” and more recently in the popularised business book “Our Iceberg Is Melting”, provides us with a simple and practical framework for assessing and improving the likelihood of implementing change initiatives. This is a must read for anyone trying to change their business model or trying to implement a paperless office!
Implementing change is challenging in itself but perhaps the bigger challenge is identifying and facing up to the imperative for change. How often do we “smell the cheese” to use Spencer Johnson’s analogy? How often and how well do we review the changes impacting our “world”? For example, the accounting profession has seen opportunities following a shift towards cloud based accounting and business systems. The significance of these systems is not that clients can now use cheap software as many would have you believe, but that the accounting profession can more easily collaborate with clients to deliver value without the prohibitive friction of data transfer and synchronisation. Many see these changes as a threat while others see the same changes as opportunities and are quick to embrace the new ways of working.
While we don’t advocate copying the competition or even benchmarking, you do have to keep your ear to the ground. Some small businesses become insular and unaware of the changes that are impacting their industry until it’s too late. Sometimes it helps to go to conferences; meeting competitors and reading trade magazines. Sometimes this means looking outside of ones own industry to learn and implement new ideas. Famously an airlines looking to improve plane turnaround times at the gate sent their people to watch Formula1 pit stops.
Finally change sometimes also needs courage. In 1997/98 Obk went from 500 to 50 clients in a conscious effort to change its business model and to serve fewer clients better. Fortunately for me I was in business with the fearless Mr O’Byrne. So the question for us all is the question he was fond of asking; “If you weren’t afraid what would you do?”
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