Business Accelerated: How organizations can successfully embrace change
Community Live 2019 Special Edition: based on FinancialForce President & CEO Tod Nielsen’s keynote presentation.
In the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, Aaron Burr keeps asking Alexander Hamilton the same question: Why do you write like you’re running out of time?
Maybe it’s because Hamilton has so much to do and say, and so little time to accomplish it all.
Sometimes, we all feel like that. These days, it’s not just business that is moving at warp speed. It’s the whole world that is accelerating—seemingly beyond our control.
That makes it more imperative than ever to learn from Hamilton—to focus our energies so we can do more work in less time with greater efficiency than ever.
Speed is the new currency, yet both people and businesses are having trouble keeping up. That’s because with greater speed also comes greater complexity. Change and complexity are increasing in every part of our lives.
In fact, there are more choices than ever, further complicating matters. Of course, choice used to be a positive thing. But now, there are seemingly endless choices. Take enterprise applications, for instance. Today, there’s a plethora of cloud applications for the enterprise—and frankly, it’s driving many enterprise IT departments crazy.
Why? Because many business teams are going rogue, implementing scores of cloud applications in their organizations without first asking the IT department for approval.
Enterprise IT departments are learning that change happens quickly, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. So, in a world that moves at Mach speeds, what does it take to effectively manage change?
In the 1990s, change management meant one thing: Don’t change anything!! Today, however, we exist in a world of FOMO, where everyone lives in fear of missing out. Whether it’s the newest iPhone or the latest Tesla software update, we just can’t wait for the next cool thing to arrive.
Some changes are easy to grasp, like the invention of the automobile or television. But other innovations can create confusion as it takes time to fully comprehend their impact.
Every organization, for example, has employees who have been doing things a certain way for years and years, and don’t want to change. But the reality is that change is inevitable. In fact, it is a necessity. Those who don’t change are destined to be left behind.
Without change, we become stagnant and stale. We fail to adapt.
The reality is that change management is an essential state of mind. As Winston Churchill famously stated: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
And that’s exactly what the best companies do – they keep changing and help their people change with them.
Take the iconic Swedish furniture store IKEA. IKEA’s strategy used to be big box outlets situated just outside major urban centers. The focus was on in-store experiences, including huge inventories on the floor and even a restaurant serving Swedish meatballs.
But then IKEA changed everything. Today, the company is all about boutique stores in city centers featuring onsite consultants to help you design your home and pick the right items. There is also a new emphasis on service and delivery, so you don’t have to rent a truck to get your furnishings home. Even those famous meatballs went away.
When it comes to change, every organization has two main constituents: upper management and end-user employees.
Senior managers, for their part, need to understand the business challenge or opportunity associated with change. They also need to know whether the proposed change aligns with the overall business strategy. Finally, they are cost-sensitive, so they need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
You also have to bring your end users on board. Especially when introducing new technology, end users can feel excluded from the process, like their opinion wasn’t considered in reviewing or adopting a new tool. They can also feel overwhelmed by having to learn a new tool while also keeping up with their day job.
So how can you get end-user buy-in, while also making senior management happy?
Start by defining the reasons for change, including the consequences of not changing, and the benefits of succeeding. Next, implement a change plan and work toward clearly defined milestones and business outcomes, step by step. Celebrate the early wins and continually drive participation and teamwork through friendly competition and even gamification.
In an ever-changing world, businesses need to accelerate in order to adapt and grow. The good news is that it’s never too late. Once you take that first step toward transformation, you’re already ahead of the curve. And once you fully embrace change, you’ll never run out of time.