Death and taxes… and change
They say the only true certainties are death and taxes. This is no longer correct. There is a third… change.
Yet we don’t give change the same credence in business as we do taxes. Granted, we probably like change about as much as we do taxes and historically, change programs have often felt uncomfortable, much like handing over money to the HMRC, but sure as eggs is eggs, change is a constant. Not just in work, but in life too.
Our lives have changed so much; the rate of change fuels the rate of change. Whilst embracing this is second nature to all of us here at Promontory, it is isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and the final edition of the Yellow Pages landing on my doorstep prompted me to consider how change impacts us all.
Back in the day, and I’m showing my age, advertising in the Yellow Pages was the thing to do. This is where you went for information, without question. Now, it wouldn’t even register on my radar. No wonder the great yellow tome is no longer economically viable.
There are examples-a-plenty of those organisations who didn’t embrace change, or who didn’t recognise that the future might look different. Blockbuster and Kodak are regularly wheeled out as businesses who needed to “see me after class” – and every day we hear of household names experiencing commercial difficulty – House of Fraser is a recent example. All because something held them back from addressing and embracing change.
So why do so many businesses end up this way? It is a question with many answers (that would require more time than this blog). The usual suspects are lack of appreciation of the benefits of change, fear of the risks, organisational resistance, fear of unearthing a weak strategy, focussing on other key strategic tasks, failed previous attempts and a disengaged workforce.
One consideration is that change is often seen in business as a top-down activity – something heaped upon hapless workers by their bosses in the pursuit of some new strategy or objective. And with the average tenure of a UK CEO now dropping below 5 years, some CEOs may not envisage they’ll be around to see the results, so they can’t see the merit in investing in a long-term, sustainable change agenda.
That’s a shame, because I think that the impetus for change has shifted… it’s not coming from CEOs and bosses any more, it’s coming from us. It’s driven by customers, by younger generations, by a growing cadre of ordinary people with a desire to work differently, to do things on their terms, to have meaning in their work and hold organisations to account.
And if you believe as I do, that no CEO wants to be the one that left the organisation in a worse state than when they took up post, then today’s bosses need to decide whether they see this as a challenge or an opportunity.
Some will see it as completely overwhelming. Others will see change as an opportunity, as a way to catapult their business to its next evolution. We see change as an inevitable and exciting way to realise a new future, where everyone can be their most accomplished and satisfied selves. Because at the end of the day for us, it’s all about the people.