How to ensure your company is ready to adapt to change

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The only inevitable thing in business and in life is change. It is, without a doubt, something you and your business can’t avoid. Change will happen, and hopefully for the better. And although you can’t prevent change from happening, you can ensure your company (and staff) are prepared for it when the tide of evolution rolls into your business.

The year 2020 was a perfect example of how the inevitability of change can force the hand of nearly every business on the planet. For those who weren’t able to quickly adapt, that change spelled doom. For those businesses that were built for agility and pivoting, the change may have affected them, but it didn’t take them down.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what your business is, from South American software development to manufacturing, retail, the service industry, and everything in-between, every sector was vulnerable. Nor did it matter the size of a company. Change happened and, in some cases, it was relentless.

So what can you do to make sure your company is ready for when the next big change happens? Let’s take a look at some of the more important ideas.

Encourage a culture of change

This is probably the single most important thing you can do. As the leader of your company, it’s on you to help your employees be adaptable. If you spend too much time focusing on a rigid process or staff hierarchy, things will become quite challenging when change looms in the distance.

Instead, you must develop a culture of change in your business. Tip the apple cart, so to speak. Do your research and find out how other companies have successfully pivoted and see how you can impediment some of those strategies. The more creative you can get, the better.

Even better, ask your staff to get involved and make suggestions as to what your company can do to change and evolve. You might create a fluctuating chain of command, where various team members take on different roles at different times. Just remember, because change tends to instill fear in your staff, it might take a while for them to acclimate to it.

Welcome failure

This one is hard because no one likes to fail. However, failure brings plenty of learning opportunities with it. You’ll probably learn much more from your failures than you will from your successes. After all, success can be fleeting, but failure will have lasting implications. This is much different than merely accepting failure. When you welcome failure you understand its temporary nature and the lessons it offers.

One way to ingrain this into your company is to use failure as a means for employees to determine the lessons to be learned. When a project fails, have your staff submit their ideas on why it happened and how to avoid it in the future.

The key is, don’t fail at failing.

Add feedback loops

Your company needs to integrate constant and consistent communication, which comes from nearly every corner of the business. From managers, executives, developers, testers, end-users, factory workers—everyone, from top to bottom—needs to feel as though they have a voice and can use it to offer feedback.

This can get tricky, as those farther down the hierarchy tend to feel like they aren’t empowered to communicate with those above them. You need to remove those barriers, such that every employee can offer feedback. After all, the more you know about the entire process, the more apt you’ll be to affect change. And make sure communication (from all levels) happens quickly. Don’t wait until a product launch to listen to feedback. You should ensure feedback happens in real-time, as the development process occurs.  

Focus on your process

Speaking of the process, this is where your focus should be. If you focus all of your energy on the outcome of the process, you’re already behind the curve and will be unable to quickly pivot. Why? Because you’ve become blind to everything but the results. If you’re focused more on the process of achieving goals instead of the goals themselves, you’ll be better prepared when it comes time to alter the process.

If you fail at this, your business will have a very hard time shifting the process to match the new world order.

You must know the process in and out, backward and forward. Remember, it’s all about the journey, not the destination.

Be accountable

From the top-down, you must foster accountability. When something or someone succeeds, they need to be celebrated. When something or someone fails, it needs to be clear why it happened. However, it’s important not to turn this into a blaming game. Remember, you’re welcoming failure, so it’s all about learning from why the failure happened.

What this will generate is a level of trust between your employees that you’ve never experienced. When it becomes clear that accountability doesn’t endanger one’s job, staff will be more willing to accept their failures and learn from them.

This, of course, also means those at the top tier of the hierarchy must be held accountable as well.

Depend on analytics

If you had to adopt only one idea from this list (although you shouldn’t only limit yourself to one), it probably should be this. You need analytics. Data is your friend, and the more of it you have the better off you’ll be. You need to employ analytics so you can begin predicting your company’s future. Instead of relying on “gut feelings,” you should place your bets on cold, hard facts. With in-depth insight into data, you will be better able to adjust the strategies you use.

Here’s the thing: Don’t just depend on external data (such as data about consumers and other businesses). Add data from within into this mix. Information from and about employees can make it possible for you to better predict how to keep your staff happy and functioning productively.

A happy and productive staff is one better suited to change.

To make this work, you might need to hire a data analysis specialist, someone who can turn the data into useful graphs, charts, and reports, so you can then make informed decisions on how your company can more easily affect change.

Conclusion

Change is hard, there is no doubt about it. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. With a bit of upfront work, you can ensure your business is ready to bend and not break when those winds of change start blowing. And if you fail with one of these ideas, learn from it.