Disruptive change is inevitable – Change is constant

Change is inevitable.

More and more organisations today face a dynamic and changing environment. The oft-heard rallying cry in today’s organisations is “Change or die.” Survival in today’s global economy requires organisations to be flexible and adapt readily to the ever-changing marketplace. Change has become the norm. It is as necessary for organisations to pay as much attention to the psychological and social aspects of change as they do to the technological aspects.

We live in an era of risk and instability. Globalisation, new technologies, and greater transparency have combined to upend the business environment and give many CEOs a deep sense of unease. Just look at the numbers. Since 1980 the volatility of business operating margins, largely static since the 1950s, has more than doubled, as has the size of the gap between winners (companies with high operating margins) and losers (those with low ones).

Change is the one true constant in business, especially when it comes to operating a business. Having defined processes in place to effectively manage change can help companies sustain success.

In today’s business environment, knowing how to successfully navigate these changes and develop appropriate and effective processes to properly manage such change is a must. It’s virtually impossible for organisations to make sound strategic decisions and completely accomplish objectives when deprived of strong change management strategies. This is especially true in the world of project, program and portfolio management, where obstacles and ambiguity are inevitable at every juncture.

Companies all over the world find that they have to continually make changes to the way they work in order to stay ahead of the game, be profitable, and be relevant. Oftentimes, the changes could be externally mandated, internally conceived, or both, but the reality is that companies do have to evolve, change, or die. The global landscape is changing: businesses are moving to take advantage of new markets; organisations are restructuring to operate better, given the current market dynamic; competition is causing companies to radically change the way they do business.

The old business is not coming back – this is not just a statistic, it is a fact.

Companies operate in an increasingly complex world: Business environments are more diverse, dynamic, and interconnected than ever – and far less predictable. A study I read recently suggests that 75% of the S&P 500 will turn over in the next 15 years.

Many businesses that “have done things the same way for years” are affected by disruptive change: the economy changes, the competition changes, products change, technology changes, customers change, employees change, vendors change, buying methods change, delivery methods change.

Disruptive change is coming, and the only question is whether companies are going to cause it or fall victim to it. Disruption is not easy, to create or to confront it.

Businesses need to grow continuously in one way or another to achieve and maintain success. Growth comes by making positive changes that promote growth and by responding correctly to external changes.

Organisations throughout the world and across the global markets also recognise the need to embrace ‘nimbleness’ and ‘agility’ if they are to survive in the long run. The ever-changing landscape, globalisation, global dynamics, make it inevitable that companies have to evolve fast, repeatedly, and in a continuously improving manner in order to comply with regulations, collaborate with customers, and stay ahead of competition.

Whilst awareness of the challenges associated with change is prevalent, there is also compelling evidence of the long-term benefit of being great at driving organisational change. Therefore, it is expedient to look at some of the reasons why change is difficult, so that we can deliberately tackle the reasons for change complexity.

Sustaining success depends on an organisation’s ability to adapt

Why can some companies take advantage of any change the market brings, while others struggle with market-necessitated modification? The reasons why will differ for each organisation, but the question is definitely worth asking especially in light of the fact that the pace of change is accelerating at the fastest rate in recorded history.

Most companies find it hard to transform themselves in difficult circumstances. Corporate transformation under pressure.

Leadership needs to have a mindset that although change ability (agility, resilience) is essential for the survival and growth of many companies, there needs to be a concerted effort to build capacity to lead change effectively, and to purposefully build a change friendly culture in a systemic manner. This means that change leadership or sponsorship becomes a leadership competency that is recruited for and developed in leaders in the same way that it is done for other competencies such as decision-making.
Companies most likely to be successful in making change work to their advantage are the ones that no longer view change as a discrete event to be managed, but as a constant opportunity to evolve the business.

Change readiness is the new change management: change readiness is the ability to continuously initiate and respond to change in ways that create advantage, minimise risk, and sustain performance.

Organisations, and the people within them, must constantly re-invent themselves to remain competitive. Sustaining success depends on an organization’s ability to adapt to a changing environment.

Senior executives recognise that in order to compete optimally in the current and future landscapes, their companies will be expected to do more for less in a more dynamic landscape with issues of globalisation, new market opportunities, and new ways of doing business. There is a recognition that the changes are going to increase and the demands for business benefits realisation will also increase. It is therefore no longer optional for leaders to increase their ability to successfully implement strategies by increasing their ability to manage change and in fact leveraging this change management skill to become a competitive advantage.

If you’re struggling or your market is down, change management is especially critical because growing companies are not afforded the time to weather the storm of down markets or decreased demand. Offensive change when the company is doing well is a whole lot easier to manage than defensive change.
With this sentiment, I am not suggesting that you overhaul your business entirely change your mission, vision, and values or abandon your product strategy with every minor bump in the road. I am suggesting, however, that the best companies the ones that experience exceptional long-term success are able to quickly recognise the need to change and make the tweaks necessary to help their business continue its growth trajectory.

Here are three tips that can help the journey of change easier:

  • Top down support from the CEO level down to the senior executives below the CEO is what ultimately drives successful change. When the changes are major, you need to create a burning platform scenario that will encourage a sense of urgency.
  • Clear, consistent, and transparent communication by all executives is critical to explain why the change is necessary. Throughout the change process, it’s important to regularly and clearly communicate the reasons for change and reinforce that message to your team so they understand why you’re taking the hill in front of you.
  • Quickly identify the senior team members who don’t buy in and encourage and support them to leave the company if they refuse to embrace change. This means you may lose some very good people who helped you get to where you are, but those people won’t be as valuable going forward if they aren’t willing to help you get to where you need to be.

Final thought on the subject – business is a little like the growth rings on a tree. Every year, something changes it could be your product, your top competitors, your customers’ preferences, or any number of things. The best companies adapt to those changes, reinvent themselves when change requires it, and find a way to grow – in good times and bad.

Successful organisations foster a positive attitude toward change by anticipating it and purposefully planning for change. Change must be addressed in an intentional, goal-oriented manner. Change is something that people should do, not something that is done to them. People are more comfortable with change when they participate in planning for or implementing it because they gain some sense of control which reduces their fears.

As George Soros once said:

‘Market fundamentalists recognize that the role of the state in the economy is always disruptive, inefficient, and generally has negative connotations. This leads them to believe that the market mechanism can take care of all the problems.’

Do we ever forget where we came from…?

There are many people in the world who have struggled to have a better future, and they have accomplished it by hard work, dedication, sacrifices, and by the help of others. A great number of these people have made it big in business, and in the media and entertainment industries to name a few. I have tremendous respect and admiration for these people who are genuinely authentic, people who happily acknowledge their family and cultural roots, and who never forget where they come from.

Readers may remember I wrote my first book, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’, this was a non-fiction book on the tribulations of my life, from birth to entrepreneur, detailing the emotions of what being a child can really entail, I recall the first time I ran away from home, people have always said to me ‘you have always held an old head on young shoulders’, it is funny how you remember these statements.

I recently purchased a DVD from Amazon called Lion. The story of Lion, is up for six Oscars, including best picture, it tells the story of how, in 1986, Saroo, an illiterate, impoverished five-year-old in rural central India, got separated from his brother at a railway station in Burhanpur, and accidentally ended up alone on a train that took him almost a thousand miles to Kolkata (then called Calcutta). Unable to speak Bengali, and unaware of the name of his home town, he had no way to return. He lived as a street urchin and survived on his wits and scraps of food. He was later taken in by an orphanage, and was eventually adopted by an Australian couple, Sue and John Brierley, who took him to start a new life in Tasmania.

The trailer for Lion:

The saddest thing to see is how quick some of these people forget where they come from to a point that they feel ashamed to talk about their past and how they arrived to where they are now. I think this goes beyond sad because such stories can serve as a very valuable tool to encourage other people who have also embarked on a journey to pursue a better future. Why does this happen? What makes these people “forget” where they come from?

When people go through hardships in life, they often become resentful and frustrated for having struggled more than others. Even when they make it big, they are selfish, arrogant, boastful, disrespectful, and so on. It seems that in the way to pursuing a better future, their hearts were hardened by the circumstances they had to endure.

It is understandable that suffering and pain can cause any person to feel the most negative emotions; the difference is in getting over them, particularly when people’s goals have been satisfactorily met. Life is hard, no doubt. Fortunately, we can learn to be better people without forgetting where we come from.

According to Railway Children, it is estimated that a child runs away from home or care every five minutes in the UK. That’s 100,000 children every year.

Research shows this can happen to anyone, with children running away from affluent homes as well as low-income households. Running away is slightly more common among girls than boys.

The study estimated that of the 18,000 children under the age of 11 who run away for the first time, 6,000 are less than eight years old.

“It is very worrying that a small number of people at a very young age become detached from their families, their schools and their communities,” said Professor Stein. “They are outside the system completely.”

The research also reveals that 21 per cent of young people living in step-families had run away once, compared to 13 per cent in lone-parent families and 7 per cent of those living with their birth families.

Four out of five children said they ran away to escape family conflict, violence, or abuse. Children who ran away before the age of 11 were most likely to have experienced a death in the family or their parents’ divorce. Most children who ran away from care were runaways before going into care.

Ian Sparks, chief executive of The Children’s Society, which took part in the study, said: “The sheer scale of the problem tells us we have a crisis on our hands. It means in every classroom, in every school the chances are at least one child will run away in the next year.

“When children feel alienated and rejected, then running away can seem some sort of solution.”

He added: “This issue cuts across class boundaries – children are almost as likely to run away from a leafy suburb as an inner-city estate. The outcomes of ignoring their cries for help may be terrible.

“We spoke to a small but significant number of children who had been completely detached from any form of help and support for over six months. These are the children that no-one notices when they disappear.”

Children are often running away from problems at home or at school. Some are dealing with very serious issues at home, such as neglect, drug and alcohol addiction (their own or their parents’), mental health problems, violence and abuse. A few children are even forced to leave home by their parents or carers. Others are trying to escape common problems such as bullying, relationship difficulties, loneliness or family breakdown.

Many children run away on the spur of the moment, without any forward planning – meaning that they probably have not thought about where they will go, where they will sleep, or how they will manage to support themselves.

This means that many children end up on the streets, where the problems they face are often even worse than those they have endured at home. In many cases, children and young people who end up alone on the streets are at risk of sexual exploitation, drug and alcohol dependency, abuse and violence.

Here is a great video on parenting and runaway children: Runaway teens – Parentchannel.tv

Why do teens run away from home? We look at some of the reasons, the signs to look out for, and what you can do if you’re worried your teen might run away.

If your teenager has run away and decides to return do not expect all the problems to have disappeared. Discuss what returning home might be like before they come back so that neither of you have any false expectations.

Encourage them to talk to you about any problems they are facing and be prepared to listen. Be aware that some things that might have happened to them since they have been away may be difficult to talk about. Some local organisations offer mediation services which might be able to help and be prepared to make some concessions and meet your teenager halfway.

At first your teenager may get in touch but be unsure about returning home, you may have your own concerns about them coming back to your home as well. You may feel you need some time to sort things out in your mind. In this case it may help if a close friend or relative could allow your teenager to stay. You will then be reassured they are safe and you can start to talk things through at an agreed meeting point – somewhere that feels comfortable for both of you.

• Give each other space
• Be prepared to compromise
• Recognise it is going to take time to sort things through.
• Get help with talking things through.

It is very important to have people in your life who you love and trust, people that you can reach out to for advice and to keep a reality check on how you are coping with life. Your group may consist of two or more people who you highly trust and confide upon. Never forget where you come from will keep you grounded and in touch with reality. Embrace your life and love the people who have helped you to be where you are now, life is a journey, there are always ups and downs, the important factor to always remember is whatever the problem is or maybe ‘never, never, never give up’. You will recognise life is incredibly precious and the people you love and trust on this journey, family or friends are equally as precious.

A great quote in Chapter 1 of my book, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ by Henry David Thoreau:

“Every child begins the world again”

Is there room in the boardroom for Generation Y

Question-Mark-HeadAs globalisation and the fast pace of the digital economy speeds up, customer expectations shift, and the impact of social media rises, the global market place is now more complex than ever before. Businesses that want to stay ahead of the competition – especially in customer-facing sectors like finance, retail and media – need Generation Y to help them understand and respond to the big trends that are already shaping the future: understanding tomorrow’s customers; responding to the desire for more responsible business; and gaining a competitive edge in emerging markets.

Rapid cultural change has been matched and it driven by rapid technological and demographic change. Today’s consumers are heavily influenced by social media, which has given them more access to information about how companies do business than ever before. If the industrial revolution gave power to corporates, the digital revolution has empowered the consumer. Companies that fail to respond to Gen Y’s desire for good business find their brands tarnished and their valuations plummeting. Generation Y business leaders can add value by acting as cultural translators, helping their colleagues navigate the new business environment.

As traditional models of business leadership break down, demand for Gen Y leaders who understand these changes will only rise. Globalisation has created increasingly complex decision-making environments which require new skill sets and fresh perspectives that were simply not around when many of today’s board room executives entered the labour market. Simply accumulating decades of experience in a corporate silo no longer means you will become a successful leader. In the fast-paced, digitally-enabled, multi-cultural and multi-lingual market place, every company now needs to balance Gen X’s experience with Gen Y’s dynamism, inherently global outlook, digital aptitude and understanding of responsible business.

So who are Generation Y? Sometimes referred to as millennials – employees who entered the workplace after 2000 – they are broadly classified as those born in the 1980s and early 1990s. They are characterised as a tech-savvy group, whose members are visionary, highly ambitious and not afraid to fail or to speak their mind. Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin are among the elite few who have become standard-bearers for this generation.

The influx of these fresh, talented individuals, many of whom find themselves among the business elite at a relatively young age, has proved a magnetic draw for organisations. Some businesses in pursuit of greater diversification have sought to bring Generation Y on board through such strategies as reverse mentoring (junior staff advising seasoned executives) or mergers and acquisitions, thus subscribing to a meritocratic culture that helps push aspirational young people to the top table.

The problems of ‘generation integration’ in the boardroom do not only lie with senior executives. Being a director, particularly of a large multinational, is not just about applying a standard set of procedures that might occasionally benefit from a shake-up and youthful energy.

Understanding that it can take time for individuals, particularly those of a different generation, to ‘click into’ the language of a board and have their point heard by colleagues is crucial to avoid this imbalance of power developing.

Integrating fresh young talent into businesses has always been crucial but is not without its challenges. Each generation can disrupt custom and practice within an organisation, but the hope is always that this disruption can be a catalyst for something better to take its place. This is where it gets interesting, because Generation Y has not just opened up new markets with revolutionary products. Over the last few years we have also seen the huge impact of their input on core traditional industries.

A final view on the way Generation Y can disrupt traditional industries is akin to a new industrial revolution. While such rapid change may make some feel uncomfortable, an even bigger upheaval is right round the corner. Just behind Generation Y is Generation Z. Born after the mid-1990s these are the first generation of ‘tech natives’, who have grown up never knowing life without the internet. Their impact on the workplace could make Generation Y seem like a mere blip in comparison.

Surviving the Upturn!

Transformation needs change, change needs focus. As I said before:

Logo: surviving the upturnDuring the conference “Surviving the Upturn” I asked the audience:

  • How many of you achieved all the change you wanted to in your business?
  • How many of you have changed the organisation in the last financial/fiscal year?
  • Do you think you will have a disappointing or progressive report this year to the business?

Tip 1: Brand; discussing the need for a strong strategy across brand and culture.

What is a brand; vision, mission, values and the need for a brand blue print.

Defining the company’s competitive advantage correctly is the most crucial part of any brand program, while external communications may raise expectations in the marketplace from brand perceptions; it the brand experience that clients have that will translate into customer satisfaction and therefore greater profitability.

A true brand program needs to be established to make sure that all employee’s, partners, teaming arrangements and agencies are engaged with the brand, the message can be then carried externally to clients, and prospects.

The brand needs to be brought to life through a variety of media channels to engage, explain and motivate employees, we need to measure the improvements and refine marketing plans based on this approach.

Communication is all about making connections, connecting people physiologically, engaging appropriate communications to the mind, culture, learning’s that provide long-term memory of representations.

Tip 2: Why organisation change fails

Leaders today must understand and apply the knowledge of behavioral psychology and the business lessons to manage organisational change successfully. In the past, efforts at organisational change which has focused on the structural aspects of organizations have systematically failed because they have neglected the reality that change doesn’t happen without each person changing their thinking, beliefs and behavior.

chart why organisational change fails/GSearle
Click to enlarge!

Tip 3: Why sustainability is so key to a business success and driving performance

Most organisations will tell you they know what good management and leadership looks like and will be able to identify people with skills and qualities they admire. They may also tell you they know that good management makes a real difference to organisational performance.

There is strong evidence to support this contention: historically, our greatest business leaders have driven economic prosperity and growth. The economy has been shaped and driven by the pioneers of business; driving change and making the most of new technologies and opportunities. Entrepreneurial spirit, drive and influence has been the key to this success

Equally, at a local or personal level, managers who stand out, for either good or bad reasons, for their impact on the lives of employees, influence of those who had the ability to engage and inspire, to help us learn and make sense of the business environment and to meet the right balance between challenge and support.

Managers who possess a high EI and TI helped shape not just current performance, but our own behaviours and practice.

There is no question that the performance of leaders and managers can have a truly significant impact on organisational performance, both in the immediate and longer term. Skills such as people management, strategy and planning, budgeting and risk management can transform the fortunes of an organisation. But evidence shows that in general – both in the public and private sector – company’s fall behind because of talent recruitment and an inability to apply strategy internally and engage employees at the highest level.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!