In an environment of rapidly increasing complexity, it’s critical to consider how the seemingly minor changes inside and outside your company can accumulate to the point where they may have unanticipated, yet game-changing effects.
What are these minor changes to which we’re referring? They might include minor shifts of workforce within a department, or several changes of customers, or of suppliers, or of alliance partners. They can also include small changes in industry regulations and other shifts that, in of themselves, don’t make the news. However, the interaction between multiple minor changes can have a major impact on your company’s ability to achieve its objectives.
For example, when executives of one of our client companies assessed minor events that had occurred in the previous six months, they listed a series of small shifts in workflow that occurred with staff turnover, several new contacts at suppliers and customer companies.
None of these changes were major events by themselves, but their cumulative effect was surprisingly strong. Some jobs had become redundant with even a tiny shift in workflow, necessary functions were now missing, and work practices that had once been well suited to the organization’s needs were no longer adequate to work effectively with the new supplier contact and meet the demands of the new customer contacts.
In many respects these minor changes seemed inconsequential since they happened relatively slowly over time. However, without knowing it the company had slowly changed and lost its effectiveness to the point where its growth strategy was seriously threatened.
While “big data” software applications can be useful in sorting through the complex noise of the overall business environment, leadership acumen can’t be replaced when it comes to recognizing and acting upon big challenges and opportunities posed by seemingly minor unrelated changes.
To this end, every leader needs to be able to identify relevant information about what is and is not changing inside and outside their company, recognize subtle yet significant patterns in seemingly unconnected events, and decide what shifts in strategy or operations are needed to effectively adapt.
With no major triggering events to make you look for these changes, it’s essential to ask the right questions to surface these issues frequently enough to allow timely and effective response to both risks and opportunities. Such “right questions” include:
For instance, we once worked with a client company whose executive team observed a potential connection between a number of minor changes to regulatory issues, as well as some shifts in consumer demographics and needs. They determined that these issues collectively signaled the beginning of a major change that would impact the claims they could make for one of their most important products.
Rather than wait for this trend to escalate and have a major impact on their product’s position in the market, the executive team decided to develop additional claim support to capitalize on previously un-emphasized benefits of the product. At the same time, they modified the focus of product development to take advantage of positive aspects of the consumer trends. This became the impetus to generate new claims for their product that were worth millions of dollars.
The Bottom Line
The decision of when to take early action on emerging trends is part art, part science, and can require looking beyond “usual” sources of information. Uncovering the causes and implications of these events and deciding when it’s appropriate to take action based on your company’s individual risk tolerance, culture, strengths, and vulnerabilities is the real key to increasing your company’s agility and competitive edge, and keeping your strategy relevant regardless of the road ahead.
Pamela S. Harper is Founding Partner & CEO of Business Advancement Inc (BAI). She specializes in catalyzing fresh thinking to enable executives to uncover and take advantage of unexpected opportunities for top and bottom line growth. She is an internationally known business performance advisor, author, and professional speaker.
D. Scott Harper, Senior Partner BAI, is an internationally recognized innovation expert with a unique ability to blend technical and business insights to achieve outstanding business results. Scott has extensive experience in moving products to market from concept generation through development and release.
Since 1991, BAI has enabled companies to dramatically accelerate innovation leadership, growth, and profitability. Contact the authors at http://www.businessadvance.com.Related Posts: