It's understandable why former GE CEO Jack Welch is often seen as something close to a god in the business world. After taking the helm of the once lumbering dinosaur, he transformed it a dynamic, relevant and profitable powerhouse. Throughout it all, Welch relentlessly hammered home the supremacy of one central concept--the importance of change.

As he transitioned from CEO to motivational speaker and author, Welch never let up on his core belief that continual focus on change, even when things seem to be going well, is the difference between those companies that succeed and those that become obsolete. In his own words: " Willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while."

While it's clear that standing still is never an option, many entrepreneurs and business owners have used Welch's advice as license to get rid of their most vital processes, values and even people without considering the bigger picture. For example, companies often implement Welch's notorious stack ranking policy of firing the bottom performing one tenth of an organization's employees, regardless of their absolute performance. Other companies have gotten rid of well functioning operational, marketing or sales models for no other reason than to demonstrate that they were engaged in change.

The problem with change for change's sake is that it often eliminates the good with the bad. Fortunately, there's another approach that accomplishes the goals of adaptation and growth while avoiding the potential of disrupting yourself out of business.

Amplify what you already do best.

Underneath all the flaws, missteps and failings you and your team may possess, there are usually a few traits and behaviors you nail every time. Instead of wiping out these micro-wins, implement systems designed to magnify them.

Let's take a look at a hypothetical example from my industry (marketing). Assume your company gets the majority of its new business through networking--attending in-person events to meet new people, having coffee meetings, making introductions and so on. It would stand reason that something about you or the people who work at your organization makes it effective. At the same time, there's only so much growth that this exclusively face-to-face approach can possibly allow.

The temptation would be to replace this form of marketing with something more automated (like direct mail) or high-tech (like search engine marketing). However, sweeping change of this sort would fail to acknowledge the business development strengths you've already clearly demonstrated.

A better approach would be to implement adjustments to your existing approach to allow it to work on a much bigger scale. For example, you might use social media to network with Fortune 500 executives rather than local businesspeople. Or you might create a digital media property, such as a podcast, that allows you to provide exposure to powerful and influential people who would then be more likely to help you generate new business in the future.

Examine every department, identify what it's already doing well, and then turn up the volume.

Instead of immediately firing those who aren't in your company's top two-thirds, try identifying their unique talents and repurposing them. Rather than getting rid of a product that's selling respectably, tweak it until it's a blockbuster. Et cetera.

Adapting to change is important, but making sure you don't lose yourself in the process is essential.

Published on: Nov 17, 2014
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