If your marketplace and technology are changing at lightning speed, you are faced with a difficult dilemma.
Get ahead of the game and risk choosing the wrong path or “wait and see” and risk being left behind.
It is a very uncomfortable situation. But there are things you can do to dramatically increase your chances for success.
The goal is to make your organization as agile and flexible as possible so that you have an outstanding advantage no matter which course you choose. If you forge ahead but get into trouble, you’ll be able to quickly pivot and recover. If you wait and see, you’ll be able to quickly recalibrate and claim your territory before the first movers take it all.
Since 1992, I’ve been helping organizations prepare for and deal with challenges such as this and here are some of the things that I’ve found to work in this situation:
- Flatten your reporting levels or create very robust and transparent vertical communication channels. It is critical that those in decision-making positions are directly connected, without filters, to what’s happening on the front lines. This allows you to react in real-time to the changing competitive landscape.
- Adopt a Matrix or Semi-Matrix organizational structure. This structure has a number of pitfalls, but if done right, it give you the flexibility to change course in an instant should the conditions require it. Because of the overhead of making this change, it is best for organizations that are not yet in the midst of a stressful situation.
- Ensure your vision, mission and principles are compelling, convincing and crystal clear. And that everyone from top to bottom is aligned to and lives by them. This will allow you to devolve decision-making down the organization. Once people closer to the front lines can be trusted to make well-aligned decisions, your organization will be able to anticipate and respond to changing conditions before your competitors are even aware what’s happening.
- Build rewards for innovation, creativity, and flexibility into your compensation structure. No matter how compelling your ideals, vision, and principles the desired behaviour won’t last unless it is rewarded.
- Base your competitive advantage on your ability to quickly change and respond. Most medium to large-sized organizations are slow movers with top-heavy management and cumbersome bureaucracies. This makes them vulnerable in a quickly changing environment. If you are quicker and more flexible, you will win against them.
- Get committed and stay committed to rigorous self-evaluation and improvement. Many organizations make the mistake of enthusiastically diving into organizational improvement only to lose commitment and momentum 8-12 months into the process. This is worse than doing nothing at all because it leaves everyone disillusioned and cynical. Organizational change and improvement are like surgery; you can’t stop half way. Even if it gets difficult, you must keep going.
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