There is merit, if not necessity, in changing things that are working ! Years ago that would have been considered a nonsense. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” it was said. But it is now a logical, provable contention that change should be engineered even when things are working.
First, when people get used to the ways things are being done it can limit their performance (less initiative, settling in to comfort zones, going through the motions, becoming bored). Initiative and leadership thrives on change not just on repeating something that’s already working. People who are change orientated will shrivel in an environment that continues doing things in the same ways because ‘it’s working’.
Second, competitors and the market will always cause change so the changes the business then institutes will be reactionary. No business would stipulate reactionary approaches as part of a success formula but continuing what’s working sets that up by only changing once things aren’t working! Businesses need to be proactive … not reactive.
Third, there is always a better way. It just has to be found or created. To not consistently ask how to do things better sends businesses backwards. “It’s working today but what should we do tomorrow?” is the right question. The wrong question is “Is it working?”
Fourth, the fact that something works just makes it effective (i.e. it works) but it may not be efficient (i.e. it achieves maximum outcomes with minimum inputs). Sometimes, ‘it works’ can disguise inefficiency.
Fifth, it’s easy to think things are working but a closer look might reveal they aren’t. Metrics might show they aren’t, trends might show they aren’t, different criteria might show they aren’t. Never accept that things are working without delving.
Let’s look at some specific aspects within business that should change even if they are working.
People and their roles: This does not mean get rid of people. It means consistently evolve and change their roles, and arrange for them to work with different people within, even get them to play a significant part in initiating all of this. This keeps people mentally and physically fresh, and causes positive pressure to keep developing. It also consistently brings fresh eyes to all areas of the business. The danger of ‘we have always done it this way’ is too great when someone is left in the same role for too long. The approach of changing people’s roles) meets strong resistance in many businesses. We argue strongly that is a result of it being seemingly easier to not do so, the resistance of people themselves to change (particularly longer serving people), a lack of courage, a lack of understanding of human behaviour and a lack of foresight. Change it up !
Performance management of people: Whatever the approaches being used …performance reviews (surely not!), incentives, 360 degree feedback, kpi’s, kra’s, management meetings, team meetings, development programs, weekly feedback sessions … change them re approach, content and who is involved. The same approaches will eventually become tiresome and ineffective. Variety, of itself, creates freshness, learning and positive energy.
Processes: Effective v efficient is particularly relevant to changing processes. Whether it’s physical production of goods/services, information flows, technology, automation, new inventions, innovation or whatever, it would be to difficult to argue that there is not often a better way in today’s world of massive and rapid change.
Products themselves: This is probably the most obvious change required of all. What percentage of products being successfully sold today are the same or even similar to what was around not that many years ago? Not a high percentage. If it’s being sold successfully today, enhance it, change it or replace it … or someone else will. Running a business without frequent re-creation of product is a very dangerous approach in a world of disruption.
Market/segment: For many businesses it is now easier to change markets than before. There are more opportunities that require less capital outlay, there are fewer barriers to (global) entry into many industries, technology allows opportunities that could never have been considered in the past and marketing can be cheaper than ever. So, surely, when a market/segment is successful, change it … before it runs dry.
Meetings themselves: This is one of those inane parts of business. Would it be accurate to suggest that attending meetings is not a favourite past time of many people in business? There are reasons for that, not the least of which is too many meetings achieve little, but it’s also about the same-ness of them. So, change them frequently … re who attends, how they are run, who runs them, what is covered, levels of authority, etc. Keep them fresh so people actually want to be there and will readily contribute.
I.T.: This is the most obvious. Too many privately owned businesses fail to take advantage of available information and technology because theirs ‘does the job’. This critically important area in business today is rife with ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. Get expert advice to help create leadership into the future.
Marketing: Is there a faster moving world than marketing? Even within trends there are changing trends, e.g. social media. Surely this is one area that if it’s currently working the chances are it won’t for long. Businesses can copy online success, the impact of anything going viral in the social media, the increasing capability of google etc. and how they change markets, brands coming and going, businesses going out of business through increased competition, globalisation and changing spending patterns … are all altering the face of marketing. Changing the ways a business conducts its marketing involves risk of success; not changing them creates certainty of failure.
If we don’t look to change things that are working we can be left at the line by competitors and new ways that we simply don’t see coming. We also leave ourselves open to running stale teams in lack lustre environments. And consider this … if we left things alone because they work we would still have black and white televisions, computers as large as buildings and brick size mobile phones that just make calls !
David Parkin (human behaviour expert, and AFL legendary premiership coach and player) allowed us to publish an article he wrote in 2016 titled “What I know at 70 that I wish I’d known at 30”. In his article he argues “If it ain’t broke … smash it”. So true .
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