We all know change is inevitable. There's also been a lot of talk, especially in the manufacturing sector, about impending disruptions, or creating disruption to transform the industry. No one wants to be disrupted, or caught off guard when something new comes along and upends your business. You can't predict the future, but you can protect your organization from disruption through change.
What do we mean by change? Change doesn't have to be massive. Change can be small. Incremental. Change is the basis for which every successful business operates. Finding new ways to do things simpler, faster, and easier. Identifying and acting upon new customer and market needs. Modernizing the way you do business. Staying open to new ideas.
Change is driven more by a mindset than by tactical actions. Change might require embracing something new and unfamiliar, or going back to a traditional process or approach. There is no clear path or map on how to change, when to change, or in what direction. Understanding how to manage change requires being in tune with the bigger picture. It requires stepping back from the day-to-day operations and often times, slowing down.
A great example is taking look at your own life. Do you do things the same way as you did back in your 20's? Do you use the same methods and tools for communication that you did when you were 10? Of course not. We all have changed over the years, but sadly, many organizations and their culture are stuck in a time warp. These companies often feel as though it's not worth the time or monetary investment to make changes. How they operate and do business was perfected a long time ago and there's no reason to "fix what ain't broke".
But it's reasonable to argue that not all things that require fixing are broken. Just take a moment to examine a simple process such as placing an order to purchase your product. A traditional process might follow this path:
1) Customer calls in to place the order
2) Customer service takes and records the order
3) Order goes into production
4) Order is produced and shipped
5) Customer receives order
Seems very simple, straightforward, and that there's no need for change or improvement. But each and every action and customer touchpoint you have incurs a cost, as well as serves as an opportunity to differentiate from your competition. In this example, a forward-thinking, change-embracing organization might ask:
- What if customers could directly place their orders into the system, eliminating customer service time to type in the order?
- What if customers could set themselves up on "automatic reorder", so they don't have to repeat order entry, saving them time and resources?
- What if we could provide them transparency to where there order is in production automatically, such as an email alert, so they can effectively prepare for delivery on their end?
- What if we change our measurement of "on-time delivery" to be around when the customer needs it at their location, versus measuring success based on our production timeframes?
- What if we could eliminate or reduce shipping expenses by housing products closer to the customer in a warehouse or remote location?
- What if we could set up automatic follow ups via email and/or customer service to ensure the customer received the product, it arrived in good condition, gather additional feedback and use the opportunity to cross-sell/upsell other products?
And so on. The key difference between organizations that embrace change and those that fight it is that the mentality of the organization is centered on always looking for new and better ways to do things. Putting the customer and their customer's changing needs first. Thinking about how technology can expedite processes and reduce costs. Using their people for high touch, complex engagements, and building relationships with customers rather than repetitive, menial tasks.
It's not only good business, but embracing change ensures that your organization stays nimble. It doesn't get bloated. It remains competitive. And just because you don't want to change, doesn't mean the world around you isn't.
Andrea Olson is founder of marketing and communications strategic consulting firm Prag'madik.