Change often comes unexpectedly, when things seem most stable. People tend to believe the longer something has been around, the longer it will stay the same. But just as often, the longer something remains the same, the more likely it is to be washed away by a landslide of change.
To avoid being undercut by a landslide of change, constantly move your team to new solid ground filled with new ways of doing business. Good leadership requires constant vigilance in the face of an ever-changing future.
The Benefits of Constant Tinkering
“Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.”
—Marcus Aurelius, second century Roman emperor
Employees often don’t like bosses who constantly tinker, but there is something to be said for leaders who are never satisfied with the status quo. They know deep down that change is inevitable, and any business that isn’t always looking for ways to improve is going to be left behind by those that are.
Nevertheless, there is tinkering, and then there is tinkering. Constantly shuffling team members into different roles just for the sake of change is different than proactively implementing new organizational methods backed up by research. Some leaders tinker because it’s easier than dealing with more significant problems and opportunities, but better leaders incorporate tinkering into their strategy for the future.
Business leaders, whether they’re low-level managers, aspiring entrepreneurs or major CEOs, have to be on top of little issues and the big picture. Someone who’s always lost in theorizing about possible futures won’t be able to deal with day-to-day problems, and someone who can’t grasp where the business is moving in the future won’t be able to plan for it with changes today.
Earthquakes and Landslides Are Caused by Inflexibility
When the earth suddenly moves after years of staying consistently still, it was that very consistency that was the reason. The pressure was already there, crushing against the static inertia of the earth and rock. But when conditions push and pull past the earth’s strength, all that force is released at once.
When coastlines are undercut by the force of waves dragging away sand and eroding rock, the surface might still seem fine, but because of weakness in the slope, the whole thing can fall away in an instant, taking away any buildings with it. When two massive tectonic plates get trapped against each other for years without much movement, scientists get nervous, because the longer the plates stay static, the more energy is trapped and waiting to be released.
Businesses Need Vision to Rise Through Change
If you’re already being hit by significant change, if your business may be threatened by new technologies, or if you want to change before it hits your team in a landslide, mindless tinkering won’t be enough. Instead, follow a three-step plan detailed by John Sykstus, a financial strategist with 25 years of experience helping businesses realize growth potential to deal with potential changes, so they don’t hit your business and team unprepared:
- Assess the present and look into the future for threats and opportunities. Look at where your business is and where the industry is going. Is there going to be a place for your team in the future, or will automation make it obsolete? Is your business ready for competition from new technologies, and when was the last time you checked the technology and processes that you already rely on?
- Ask what is your role is in addressing and leveraging future threats and opportunities. If you’re in a large corporation, how can your team create new value for the business by heading off incoming problems, or by innovating new solutions to old problems? If you’re running a business, what’s your place in a changing economy, and what’s your vision for your company in the future?
- When dealing with day-to-day issues, remember your role. When making decisions, it’s always good to come back to your vision for your team’s future. Are you making changes that will help solve cracks already forming under the surface, or are you tinkering just to feel useful? Every move should be directed toward where your team needs to be in the future.
With a clear picture of what you are moving toward, you can avoid unnecessary tinkering and static inflexibility. Embrace change. Rather than reacting to external disruptive forces, become a disruptive force. Innovate and force your industry and your competitors to follow you. Do things right and your team will be sitting high and dry while others are washed away by a landslide of change that formed right under their feet.
About John Sykstus:
John Sykstus is a financial strategist with 25 years of experience helping businesses realize growth potential. Through rigorous analysis of an organization’s history and current market climate, he develops turnaround strategies that transform systemic difficulties into efficiency solutions. When he’s not on the job, Mr. Sykstus enjoys golfing, and spending time with family and volunteering for faith-based charity efforts.
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