Change : Leading through Change Management

jim Jim Murray is CEO of Optimal Solutions International, a company that specializes in helping organizations reach their full potential. 

Amongst many other things, Jim offers the program “Smart Leaders: Thinking and Innovatio n Skills for the 21st Century”.

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Change it yourself !

As a small business owner, you likely don’t think you have the resources to afford a high priced change architect to help you plan a future of choice for your company. Not to worry - you can probably do it just as well yourself.

Forecasting the future with a reasonable degree of accuracy is not as difficult as it might appear. Indeed, with the right questions, it can be surprisingly simple. You do know, for example, that business cycles driven by the global economy will ebb and flow. No rocket science there. You know that consumer demands and purchasing trends will change. Customer expectations of "better, cheaper, faster" will continue unabated. Competition will become even more intense. Stakeholder expectations will continue to increase. Regulations will become tougher in some sectors and more lax in others. And new technologies will reshape how your business is done. Sooner rather than later, your marketplace will be different than it is today. It's all rather predictable, isn't it ?

The hard part in planning for change is focusing on those things that will matter most to your business. Those that will almost single-handedly make the greatest impact, either positively or negatively, on the way you do business. The ability to actually "see" those changes emerge requires that you have a vision -- for you can only "see" those forces of which you are acutely aware. And that is because you're "looking for" them to happen.

Future focusing

Future focusing is observing the changing business environment with a purpose in mind. That purpose enables you to anticipate events and develop strategies for capitalizing on them. It enables you to develop and clarify business plans in the light (some might say the dawn) of new realities, to use new tools and resources that can shape emergent developments and enable you to design a future of choice.

This type of vision can liberate an organization and make it more receptive to change. It encourages your employees to ask provocative questions rather than mindlessly repeat old and irrelevant answers. It enables people to build on new ideas, not tear them down in the self-serving interest of preserving the status quo.

Vision in addictive

Vision is addictive. It empowers the key performers within your small enterprise to likewise imagine a future of possibilities, to translate what "can be" into what "will be" and to act upon their own vision of a better future. A future of choice.

A realistic and credible vision makes planning for change much easier. It articulates the future destination you seek, of where tomorrow begins. Vision shapes the future by jump starting your business to utilize the talents and resources to make it happen. It enables you to be mindful of the critical challenges that face all organizations today -- challenges that originate from within as well as from outside your business. The primary external challenges in the next few years will come from information technology, communication volume and speed, customer buying power (and the coincident pressure to enhance your customer service), increasing quality expectations and the reality of fewer product advantages.

The internal challenges will include the pressure to reduce operating costs, re-engineering imperatives, the shrinking need for management, the necessity of ensuring all employees are imbued with a business orientation and the critical importance of identifying new marketing opportunities.

Vision Audit

If you’re unsure as to how to do this, you may want to undertake a "vision audit." Among the questions this exercise must address are these: If the business continues in its current path, where will we be in the next few years? What forces will impact us, when and how? Do the key people in my company know where we are headed and do they agree on that direction? Do our structures, processes, personnel, incentives and information systems (among other critical "drivers") support my desired direction?

As the architect of your business future, you must begin thinking like an architect. What business needs must be satisfied by your vision of the future? What do you have to accomplish to be successful? How should the scope of your vision be bounded? And so on. Critical questions if you are to realistically plan for change, design a future of choice and prepare your business to embrace it.

© Copyright 2007 Jim Murray

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