The Status Quo Kills Companies. Here's How to Enact Change
Are you trying to lead your company through a big change, but some employees are dragging their feet?
Liane Davey, the vice president of team solutions at Knightsbridge Human Capital and author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done, says if your employees, partners and fellow executives are unwilling to change strategies, it may be a sign that they are bias by the status quo.
"If your ideas are met with choruses of 'that will never work,' 'we can't take that risk,' 'let's just stick with the plan,' your teammates are likely falling prey to a common decision making bias that former Rotman dean Roger Martin refers to as Underestimating the Risk of the Status Quo," Davey writes in Harvard Business Review. "If your team's strategy can be summed up by the English wartime slogan 'Keep Calm and Carry On,' you need some new approaches to tackle their resistance."
Davey says that many teams debate the risks of new strategies, but seldom debate the risks of not changing. What's the risk to your revenue stream if your company doesn't try anything new? If you don't think that's an important question, you need to open your eyes. "Armed only with the risks of changing, it's natural for the team to shy away from decisive action. Unfortunately, failing to assess the risk of the status quo does not mean the risks won't materialize--it just means you won't be adequately prepared when they do," Davey writes.
Before your business becomes irrelevant, check out Davey's suggestions in how to manage your team's status quo bias below. The next time you're debating whether to change, or not to change use these four tips to make sure your bias is not blinding you.
Take a close look at your strategy.
What is your company doing right now? Davey says to bring the strategic planning conversation back to your current strategy. "Frame the conversation in terms of changes in what customers need or want. If the customers haven't changed much, point to changes in the competitive environment that make your strategy less sound today than it was when it was developed," Davey writes. "Mine societal, economic, political, regulatory, and technological trends to identify any external changes that necessitate a shift in your strategy."
Create a risk profile.
If your team isn't budging, develop a risk profile for your current strategy--just like the one made for the new strategy pitches. "If you have assessed the risk of your strategic options in terms of brand risk, operational risk, market risk, and so on, do the same for the current strategy. An apples-to-apples comparison will allow the team to make a more balanced assessment of the best course of action," Davey writes. "If reputational risk is high in the proposed strategy, but equally high in the existing strategy, it's not a legitimate criterion on which to make the decision. Focus the team on the incremental risk of the new options and highlight any places where the proposed strategy is actually less risky than the existing one."
Build research boundaries.
If your partners and other executives are asking for a ridiculous amount of information on what will happen with the new strategy, it's a sign of stalling. People are indecisive, but you need to make fast decisions in business. Davey says you should erect boundaries by asking questions like, "How much do we need to know before we can make a good decision here?" or "What would it take for you to have 80 percent confidence in this path?" "By calling attention to the indecisiveness and helping your teammates get more comfortable with acting in the absence of complete information, you are more likely to get traction to move beyond the status quo," Davey writes.
Squash turf wars right away.
The dynamics of refusing to change strategies may come from self-interest and territory issues. "It is a delicate situation when new products risk cannibalizing existing businesses, but that's the reality of innovation," Davey writes. "If you're seeing protectionist behavior on your team, invoke the best interests of the organization." Are your competitors changing the industry? What changes are coming to your market? Will your old standby product or service be irrelevant soon? These are the questions you need to ask. Who knows, maybe changing your company's strategy or product could create a whole new industry.
WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com
Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.