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8 Easy Ways to Embrace Change

Mediocre companies struggle with change. Great ones evolve to meet new challenges. Here's how they do it.

"Nobody likes change except wet babies." 

I actually heard a consultant say that to a group of managers at Rubbermaid, all of whom laughed and nodded their heads in agreement. This was right before the company tanked and an acquirer snapped it up.

In today's business world, it's not good enough to "manage" change.  Instead, you've got to love change and that's only possible if you know how to adapt to change and use it to your advantage.  Here are the new rules:

1. Have a long-term vision but short-term plans.

It's a truism that "failure to plan is planning to fail." However, while having no plan will indeed get you nowhere, planning too far ahead (as in more than a year) is wasted effort.

Even if you've got a very clear picture of where you want to get to, your focus needs to be on your next few steps.  Gazing at the horizon is a good way to trip over the first bump in your path.

2. Decide quickly rather than thoroughly.

Today's business environment is too volatile for you to take time to ponder all alternatives before making a decision.  Instead, you've got to think creatively, press to a conclusion, and then act promptly.

Remember: It's always better to make the "wrong" decision quickly and then adjust tactics than to make the "right" decision when it's too late to matter.

3. Build small, autonomous teams.

Because they have less bureaucracy, small product-focused teams make it harder to hide problems. This creates an early warning system so that you can fix it more quickly when things go wrong.

For example, if you see a team struggling, you might shift resources to get it back on track or alternatively shut the team down before its failure damages profitability.

4. Draw on your team's collective wisdom.

While it's essential to make decisions quickly, that doesn't mean making them arbitrarily. Employees have a right to influence and discuss any decision that's going to affect them.

However, after the decision is made, the time for debate is over.  Even employees who think a decision is wrong should do their best to make it the right one.

5. Keep assignments fluid and flexible.

Conventional wisdom says your organization should be an orchestra, with the boss conducting the employees, each of whom has a well-defined part to play.

In today's fast-moving markets, though, it makes more sense to think of your organization as a jazz ensemble, where everyone knows the basic song, improvising as needed.

6. Throw away those org charts.

Pop Quiz: Organization charts are the business equivalent of:

  1. navel-gazing
  2. deck chair-arranging
  3. tetris-playing
  4. all of the above

Employees should be constantly forming and reforming into teams that accomplish tasks at hand, not wasting time in political struggles over some boxes on a screen.

7. Alternate between crunch and slack.

Sometimes, your entire organization will need to go full bore, with everyone working around the clock to see that a deadline is reached.  Being permanently in "overdrive" however, burns everyone out.

To be effective, crunch times must alternate with corresponding slack times, where it's OK to goof off or even just stay at home and chill.

8. Demand achievement rather than compliance.

Back in the day, employees went to work in the morning and left in the late afternoon, Monday through Friday, like clockwork, except for holidays and vacations.

Today, you want employees to get things done rather than just warm seats, which means letting the employees decide when they're needed in the office and when it's better to work remotely.

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Last updated: Mar 26, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.




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