And yet the fear of change is still rife among both, rendering many paralysed in their professional and personal lives. It’s understandable. We are creatures of habit, we like routine, we like to feel in control.
Resisting change is a natural survival instinct. It lures us into a false sense of security and stability. It’s why many businesses fail to progress. It’s why many businesses fail.
If there’s one thing 20 years in industry has taught me, it’s that businesses will never reach their true potential unless management get over their kainotophobia (fear of change) and learn to embrace it.
I believe change is vital for survival; any behaviour that drives paralysis or hinders decision making, particularly in a market that is experiencing significant change itself, could be more dangerous than any outcome. And embracing, rather than resisting, change actually gives businesses more control over their future in my opinion.
Entrepreneurs don’t conform, why should established businesses?
If you are a SME and you fear change, take stock for a minute. Reminisce back to when you first started out. Do a bit of research into successful entrepreneurs in your field. Entrepreneurs are great role models because they drive and actively seek out change.
So the more entrepreneurial the business context then the more change a business is likely to have. At start up stage, when the wheels are wobbling and making payroll is one of the key focuses, change runs through the blood of the organisation. I’m betting it ran through yours, too.
However, as businesses grow, skins thin, waists expand and the comforts of success set in, control and security often grow in importance. 3M is a great example of a business that reinvented itself to drive further success, but look what happened when Nokia stopped evolving.
Businesses like Kodak and HMV also suffered when they couldn’t see past their own success and failed to adapt to meet external changing consumer behaviour and technology driven developments. The sad thing about those business was that they recognised the need to change, but they recognised it too late.
Shrinking the risks of change
There is, of course, risk involved in changing. But there are also steps you can take to shrink that risk before you put your business through a change programme:
Communication – change consultants believe communication is the best tool for managing change; this is true across all stakeholders whether it be staff, shareholders, suppliers or customers.
Timing – another key component in reducing the risk or fear of change. If change can be aligned or fits with changes in the internal or external environment then any impact is greatly smoothed.
Changing too early rarely has the negative connotations of changing too late. And the fear of loss of control will be a lot greater if the options are limited through late action. Never leave the change too late, particularly if it is inevitable.
A robust plan – whilst being cautious can be counterproductive, a solid financial and operational plan can help reduce the risk and maintain control.
Courage – some courage is definitely required but that is a core requirement of all astute leaders. True entrepreneurs and business leaders thrive on a little risk, the really successful ones ride it.
Research – it may seem obvious to say this, but it’s critical that the changes you want to make are the right ones!
So you’ve felt the fear and you’ve embraced the change. What next? Continue on the next page for the three-step guide.