Change happens. And businesses need to be able to change with new regulations, new technologies, new opportunities, new stockholders, new visions and even new employees.
The challenge has always been to manage current business, expectations and processes while preparing to launch the new part. While some describe it as building an airplane while you are flying it, others might describe the behavior of the business as ‘flying by the seat of your pants’. And we all understand that good decision-making rarely comes from doing everything on the fly.
The success of managing change lies within the skill of the organization’s leadership. Those continuing the current business model, need to understand the new vision and see the role that they are to play. The enthusiasm for the current book of work cannot wane under the spotlight of the new shiny to-be-determined new toy. Those maintaining the current work need to be able to articulate the future business to customers, vendors and investors who may be understandably anxious about their future relationships.
The most successful transitions happen when leaders first educate themselves, recognizing that skills and attitudes are the easy things to develop in both themselves and the troops, while attitudes and character take time to build. Leaders need to face forward and be unafraid to make decisions even if those choices turn out to be mistakes or miscues. Mistakes don’t have to be final but delaying decision-making tends to be the most expensive and un-recoverable choice leaders can make.
The most successful leaders are those who serve. In the 1980s Dr. Edwards Deming taught managers that the job of leadership is to enable those closest to the front lines to do their jobs well. The idea of servant leadership has returned to the workforce in managing changing environments. But in its current iteration, this leader of change sees his/her staff in a truly positive way. The expectation is that nobody comes to work to do a bad job, mistakes are honest attempts to be successful and there is a trust between leaders and front line that you will learn to adapt, share values, communicate and build a future together.
There is also frequently a need to enlarge the circle of resources while you are building an airplane in flight. Consultants who are prepared to shadow the front lines, constructing the new environment and supporting the transition from the old model to the new business opportunities can become a cost-beneficial way to transition an organization. Whether that means you layer in skilled hands on the front line, or layer in a supportive crew to begin the arduous task of changing the corporate messaging and branding, it is smart to look for the consulting partners who will learn your culture, your vision and your goals and then help to infuse that into your new scope of work.