What is Your Speed of Change?

by Patrick Willer

What is your speed of change?Can you change? Of course you can. Everybody changes every day. But how versatile, agile and quickly can you adapt yourself and your organization to stay relevant in today’s society?

Organizations are always evolving. What’s different now, is that we set new speed record of change on a daily basis. Technology gives us unprecedented possibilities. And this sea of opportunities is pushing the traditional bureaucratic, controlled and hierarchical organization into an identity crisis.

These companies are not disrupted by other companies. They have disrupted themselves!

Overestimating your change
In these bureaucratic organizations, too many departments and employees became blind, inactive and unpassionate about the purpose of their organization and with that the purpose of themselves. Desire for control, useless management layers and fear have disrupted them to a paralyzed state, leaving them inactive. They are about to become unfit for natural selection in the competitive environment of today’s marketplace.

So what happens? They try to adapt. But too many organizations spin the wheel before their own eyes running big change campaigns without proper intrinsic changing. Some examples.

  1. The purpose of too many companies shifted to money, money and money. A great idea became a great start-up company because it has apurpose to change something. To improve a way of life. Of course they needed money for that, but money was a means. Not a goal. Somewhere down the line, while growing up, the means (to have money) became the goal, clouding the original purpose of the organization. And the moment the organization celebrated their public offering they effectively toasted to their purpose becoming a marketing slogan on their website.
  2. Fear of losing is the biggest catch 22. Employees that dig into their bureaucratic job description because they are afraid to lose their job, are effectively building silos. Silos give a false sense of safety, because these employees can ultimately lose their job because the company becomes obsolete, because it cannot adopt to changing circumstances. It’s a no-win situation in which people can lose more than their job. They might lose something truly valuable: their passion.
  3. The companies with complex 3D matrixes and structures can’t scale. Some companies add a chief strategy officer and a chief innovation office on top of all the layers already in place and shout that they are innovative. That is just adding layers of complexity. It’s in fact reducing the power to innovate. It’s a fake perspective on innovation, which they spin towards their employees and customers. It’s the same way of thinking with a new marketing message.
  4. Hierarchy, fear and spreadsheet management are the enemies of an open mind. These industrial instruments limit the potential of our brains in a destructive way. It effectively puts people in boxes and then people are asked to think outside the box. If you want people to think outside the box, then remove the boxes all together! That will bring a completely different paradigm.

The question becomes not if you change, but how smart and fast you change.

So… what can you do?
It’s impossible to face today’s challenges with yesterday’s solutions. That’s insanity. Instead, think about your organization as an organism. The name already implies it. A company cannot be a concrete bureaucratic factory of the 20th century anymore. It should be able to connect and adopt with its environment. Be flexible. Be scalable. And modern technology allows this in amazing ways. Two ideas that can help.

I. Crowdsource more
Crowdsourcing is a fantastic way to become more agile and natural. Trust the/your crowd and embrace the power of social collaboration to do so. How? Investigate processes that can be crowdsourced and hand them over to the crowd. Simple right? Some inspiration:

  • Crowdsourcing a helpdesk is a great and proven example. A “traditional” helpdesk loses 10 out of 10 times from the crowdsourced helpdesk. Answers come faster and are better when delivered by crowd of experts.
  • Teams without managers are also a way of crowdsourcing. A team is a tiny crowd that is perfectly capable of being productive. Ricardo Semler’s TED talk is inspirational.
  • Marketing departments all over the world generate crowdsource campaigns through platforms like Eyeka
  • The development of cloud software is also a crowdsourcing mechanism. The crowd of users determines the needs and ideas. The developers create it. And developers don’t need to be from one organization. Software development has proven to be very crowdsource able as well. Like Github.
  • Not everything can be crowdsourced (yet). So focus on the processes that can be crowdsourced and evolve from there. Uber and AirBnB are just the start.Blockchain

II. Play more
Behave more like a kid. Because doing is the best kind of thinking. When we grow up we tend to lose our appetite for games. During meetings, I often ask “Who plays games here?” The response is astonishing low in business meetings. Either nobody plays, which is a problem. Or they don’t dare to say it, which is a problem too. My arguments to play more:

  • A game has a clear set of rules. It can be refreshing to adopt these changing set of different “rules” every time you play a different game. It makes life less complex for a short period of time, which can be rejuvenating, almost in a meditating kind of way by focusing on a simple set of rules.
  • Nobody likes to lose a game, but most people prefer losing in a game over losing in real life. Losing in a game often means that you learn how to win next time. You’ll be better at it and reach the next level. This principle is the same in real life! But somehow we are too afraid to fail and thus limit ourselves to learn.
  • It’s fun!

The conclusion
Do not settle for an average transition model. If you are in a business transition program that is supported with a boring 112-slide PowerPoint deck, a 5-year roadmap and more steering committee members than people who actually create content, then think again! It’s the speed and direction of your change that matters.

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Patrick WillerPatrick Willer is a Workforce Innovation Consultant at SAP. He is intrigued by people: How we think, connect, and create together. This is what inspires his learning, and informs his business career in Human Capital Management. Patrick specializes in creativity, innovation, social collaboration, and solution-focused planning and execution of strategies impactful to Human Capital Management. Follow or connect with Patrick @PattWiller

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