02nd December 2019

‘We’re too busy to do that right now’.

“To do two things at once is to do neither.” Publilius Syrus

Put your hand up if competitive, financial, regulatory, shareholder, technological, environmental or political disruption is making your organisation busy undertaking a massive amount of change at this time.

I’m assuming most of you have your hands up.

Here’s something we hear a lot of leaders say. “We’d love to invest in <<insert solution>> but we are so busy working through <<insert change initiative to mitigate disruption>> right now. Let’s talk again in <<insert optimistic time frame for clear air>>.

I get it, there are only so many hours in the day and only so many financial and people resources in the organisation to get things done. But that’s not the issue. Yes, organisations must step up to disruption and change in line with that new ERP, merger, acquisition, divestiture, etc.

But, successful strategy and execution is also based on things you believe won’t change.

About that word ‘change’.

The Inuit people have multiple words for ‘snow’. Americans have quite a few for what I’d call a ‘sandwich’. The same goes for the word ‘change’.

Here’s a few types of change we see organisations experiencing:

  • The environment is evolving faster than ever. This requires us to develop the insights and capability to respond with new products. Or markets, channels and acquisitions.
  • Disruptive technology keeps emerging. The traditional ways of doing things are being replaced with digitisation, automation, ‘bots’, machine learning and AI.
  • With real time information everywhere, we must be able to adapt and deal with the increased volume, transparency, and distribution of information.
  • The war for talent never ends. The trouble is, it’s now a war for the kind of talent and capability that we have not recruited for in the past.

None of these phenomena will disappear or slow down. Not being a futurist, I’m not going to try and predict what new types of change will emerge to add to this list.

The Change Trap

The Change Trap is that, in responding to disruption, organisations neglect the fundamentals that made them great in the first place. The things that will never change.

The fundamentals, be it making the best product or having the best customer relationships or being the lowest cost, or most efficient operator will never change. Nor will the enablers of these fundamentals. Organisations must always be identifying the right talent, assessing people against future needs, robust succession management, developing leaders at all levels and keeping an eye on what competitors are doing.

The change trap occurs when organisations see each disruption as a one-off event, ‘temporarily’ suspending focus on the fundamentals.

It’s time to accept the new paradigm:

  1. Disruption is continuous and will increase in speed.
  2. Disruption comes in many different forms.
  3. An organisation may be subject to multiple disruptions or challenges at one time.

Not accepting disruption as a constant creates four types of risk:

  1. Organisations lose focus on what is always important and where time and money must always be invested.
  2. When change is positioned as a response to a one-off disruption; a merger this year, ERP the next etc., employees become change fatigued. They may become disengaged, turnover increases and organisations lose momentum in their core business.
  3. In responding to that one-off event the organisation may bring in lots of consultants or contractors to help deal with challenge. Often without consideration of any downside impact on the underlying culture (values, beliefs, and behaviours) that has held the organisation together.
  4. In not accepting change as a constant, organisations don’t see the need to develop the capability to continuously monitor and adapt to their surroundings. They are constantly waiting for ‘things to get back to normal’ making the excuse that until then, ‘we are too busy to do that right now’.

“Our only security is the ability to change.” John Lilly

Avoiding the Change Trap

During periods of internally or externally driven change the question the organisation must ask is: ‘What is not going to change in the next ten years?’. The answers will determine where you need to keep investing while still delivering on the ERP, acquisition, divestiture, cost-out or other transformation initiative.

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” Jim Rohn

If you’d like to take some time out to reflect on your fundamentals or simply use a whiteboard to bounce ideas around, get in touch. We’re always happy to help our clients and potential clients think through options and opportunities. We’re not lawyers so we never charge for brainstorming. Our intent is to help the organisation grow and develop and through that process we’ll find out whether there is a good fit between what you need and value and what we do well. If there is, we can keep talking so that we bring you good choices. If not, we’ll be the first to say so.

Justin Miles

Justin Miles

Manager Partner, Melbourne at Generator Talent
Justin is the Managing Partner of our Melbourne office, an outcome focused leader with a track record of driving business performance through proven talent and organisation development practices. Justin’s methods and skills have been shaped by working with performance oriented leaders in great companies including PepsiCo, The Campbell Soup Company, Diageo, Rip Curl, Fonterra and Wesfarmers, in Australia, the USA and Latin America.
Justin Miles

Categories: Aligning Talent

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