The times they are a-changin’

John Ferris Leadership, Strategy

There is one constant in this world: change. It’s echoed in the conversations I have with leaders on a daily basis – the speed of change is getting faster and faster. It may take different forms (technological, social, global economic, disruptive business models, the nature of the work), but in any form, disrupts the business world as we know it.

In the end, it’s the job of us leaders to create an internal capacity to change that is equal to or (ideally) greater than the speed of change outside the walls of our organizations. That way, we’re prepared for change in any form it may take.

Try this: it’s a very simple assessment that helps you quickly gauge the ability of your organization to keep up with, and stay ahead of, industry change.

  1. First, assess the industry’s current speed of change (where 1 = very little or no change in the industry, and 10 = a rapidly changing industry). Write that number in the large circle;
  2. Then, assess the organization’s internal capacity to keep up with change in the industry on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 = no capacity to keep up with industry change, and 10 = well-equipped to keep up with industry change). Write that number in the internal (smaller) circle:

Speed of Change graphic

If your company’s internal capacity to change is lower than the industry’s speed of change, it’s time to evaluate inside the walls and develop a plan to strengthen the organization’s internal capacity to change. If your capacity to change is better than the industry’s, congratulations: you have the opportunity to dominate.

(I would also suggest having members of your leadership complete the assessment. In the end, the value is the discussion — and this may lead to some very interesting discussions.)

Creating an ongoing engine of change is the best way to ensure longer-term growth and innovation. The organizational capacity to change, pivot, adjust, and execute will allow you to respond to and anticipate anything that comes at you.

As leaders, there are three key areas of focus to help bridge the gap:

  1. Break down barriers. A no-tolerance policy for silos, politics, and bureaucratic, meaningless systems set the tone in an organization. Prepare your leaders for a state of change as the norm. If those leaders aren’t on board, find others who are.
  2. Engage employees. Never underestimate your employees. Get them involved in developing solutions to the big problems that are getting in the way of growth. Share your version, where and how they fit, and how they can help – and then give them the freedom to get it done.
  3. Take action. Start with smaller changes to develop the organization’s “change muscle”. Fail fast, fail cheap. Gradually increase the scope and depth of those changes, and watch the organization transform.

Average will not change the world. Creating new ways to compete and lead in your industry (and truly in any industry) requires change. The times, they are a-changin’ — and it’s time to harness the power of change to break the status quo and lead your organization to transformation and growth.