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organizational pace of change

Organizational Pace of Change: Surviving and Thriving in Our Fast Paced World

Change is Constant, the Pace of Change Increases

Our world is constantly changing but the pace of change has increased exponentially. The way we adopt and adapt to new technology far outpaces 10, 20 or 50 years ago. People expect things to change rapidly. In order to succeed in business your organizational pace of change needs to accelerate as well.

Think about the pace of change today as it compares to some of our most powerful inventions.  An infographic from Visual Capitalist shows how long it has taken each major item we use in our daily lives to reach 50 million users.

For example:

  • It took the airlines 68 years to reach their first 50 million customers.
  • It took the automobile industry 62 years to hit 50 million drivers.
  • It took the telephone 50 years to reach 50 million users.
  • It took electricity 46 years before 50 million people users.

Now consider these most recent statistics:

  • Within 14 years, 50 million people were using computers.
  • Within 12 years, 50 million people were using mobile phones.
  • Within 7 years, 50 million people were using the Internet.
  • Within 3 years, 50 million people were using Facebook.
  • Within 19 days, 50 million people were playing Pokemon Go.

Incredible, isn’t it? Whether your company services 50 million people or even wants to, one common thread rings true: We live in a different time where the pace of change is accelerating. Before long, people will expect change in a unit of days, weeks or months – not years. For example, while people continue to camp out in front of the Apple store for iPhone releases, if it announced today that the next iPhone would not be available for four years, it most certainly would lose customers.

We also live in an environment that expects immediate gratification more than ever. If Walgreens offers walk-in appointments for flu-shots that can be given in one minute, consumers would be unwilling to wait for a doctor’s appointment to receive the same, but less costly, shot.

But, what do these companies and products have to do with your organizational pace of change? Especially if you are a company that delivers a service versus a product. Before you dismiss this with an “Oh, that’s different. We’re ____ and our customers are ____,” think about your culture, your customers and your people. Have they evolved in any discernible way? Are you sure they haven’t?

Organizational Pace of Change in Culture

We often hear companies state“this is the way it’s always been around here.” Nothing about that statement reflects an environment adaptable to change.

Be honest with yourself. How many people say that about your organization? And what is the tone in which they say it? The more your culture is viewed as inflexible, the more likely that your new and emerging leaders are to be frustrated that their ideas will die a quick death and begin to look outside the organization for a more receptive employer. Change either happens in your organization or it gets talked about as something the company will “get to” but never does.

The more your culture is viewed as inflexible, the more likely that your new and emerging leaders are to be frustrated that their ideas will die a quick death and begin to look outside the organization for a more receptive employer.

So, how do you and other leaders in your company encourage and foster change in its culture? Cultures that embrace accelerated organizational pace of change have to invite input from every corner of every department on a far more frequent basis. Rather than saying, “My door is always open” and talking about an idea, you have to collaborate further, particularly if the idea has real merit.

For example, if an employee approaches you with an idea for powerful change in the organization, tell them what you need to see further from them to move that idea along the pipeline.

For example:

  • How does it integrate with your current people and processes?
  • What needs to be altered about the idea to make it more practical and aligned with your business goals?
  • Are there other people within the organization whose opinion you should seek out to improve and nurture the idea?
  • What are the next immediate steps and when should you circle back to see that these questions have been addressed?

This may feel like you’re throwing up roadblocks or slowing things down, but it is the opposite. Your organization is going beyond being receptive to ideas. You are finding ways to integrate more of the best ones into your culture with a framework for bringing them to fruition. When talking becomes doing, you’re accelerating your organizational pace of change.

[Editor’s Note: “To find out how to solicit feedback from employees and customers read Leading with Courage May Begin with Following Feedback”]

Organizational Pace of Change in Customers

Technologies of every variety are changing customer’s expectations. They expect you to understand how they need you to evolve your product and service lines to respond to their own changing needs.

These customers are demanding a faster time-to-market for their own offerings. They can’t afford to get bogged down in processes or hierarchies from a partner who can’t help them identify new opportunities. These customers are demanding adaptability of your business model. They want your people to be aware of their unmet and emerging challenges.

Technologies and tools for soliciting and using customer feedback are more prevalent than ever. These tools enable companies like yours to listen to the customer’s voice with greater frequency and ease. You can find out their opinions on your service delivery, the market trends they’re concerned with, how their priorities are changing and even how you can customize their experience to match their unique situation.

It’s not enough to just receive this feedback. Your organization needs actually put changes in place to prove you’ve heard it loud and clear. Forward-thinking organizations won’t ask for this type of feedback from customers once every year or two. They will actively incorporate it into the daily fabric of their culture, their systems, and their people to make their organizational pace of change a mission of continual improvement.

[Editor’s Note: You may also find “Fighter Jet Fast: Making Business Decisions to Accelerate Growth” interesting]

Organizational Pace of Change In Your People

Whenever we’re talking to companies about their mixture of people, strengths, and perspectives, we often hear assumptions such as: “We all know each other well and what everyone does.”

Do you though? Can you say that you understand what every single person in your organization emphasizes most when they come to work? Do you understand their focus, their passions, their goals from here? Do you know what roadblocks are they facing that prevent them from getting where they want to go?

The sooner you can identify the needs and challenges that each person is facing, the more likely you will keep them longer.

We are seeing that employees change companies – not roles, but companies – on average of every few years. Gone are the days when someone would stay at a company for 10 years or more. It’s time to expect that people are going to leave your company with greater frequency. Does that mean you should throw up your hands and give up, thinking that any kind of training for them is a lost cause because they’ll leave sooner than later anyway? Of course not.

The sooner you can identify the needs and challenges that each person is facing, the more likely you will keep them longer. Even if “longer” means one more year. Think about that extra year’s positive contribution to your environment and bottom line.

A leader who is skeptical of anyone’s loyalty doesn’t reflect well on the company. Instead, you may invest in their development by considering a more adaptive structure that doesn’t silo them by job function or the type of project they work on. And it’s imperative that you communicate a crystal-clear purpose of your organization to these emerging leaders on a consistent basis (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly) rather than the annual state-of-the-company address.

Even the type of training that these new leaders and managers receive must evolve. You want to help them make a bigger impact sooner, with more tools for enhancing self-awareness, resilience, collaboration among teams, interpretation of feedback and focus on objectives.

Your organizational pace of change is going to speed up. This will occur whether you make essential modifications to your organization to keep up with or stay ahead of those changes or not. Knowing this, one of the most important steps you can take ahead of such change is to smooth out dysfunctional behaviors and potential culture clashes now. Make sure you are in control of your organizational pace of change rather than letting it control you.

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About Lee Eisenstaedt

Lee Eisenstaedt is the Co-Founder of the Leading With Courage Academy and author of the Amazon best seller, "Being A Leader With Courage." Lee helps new and emerging leaders make a bigger impact, sooner by increasing the self-awareness of their strengths and blind spots through the Academy’s assessments, workshops, and executive coaching. He has also…

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