When we were children, we had a vision of our future world and our place in it. "When I grow up, I wanna be..." was a normal, easy thought process. At the same time, leaders could look at their companies or countries and envision a future, too. Today, both kids and leaders are having a tougher time planning for tomorrow, because technological and global changes thus far have taught us that we can't envision what tomorrow will look like.
It's like trying to hit a moving target. With markets and competition continually changing, how can we direct our workforce towards a 5-year plan, not to mention tomorrow? Intel, at any given time, has three chips being produced simultaneously, in order to bring new product to the market fast enough to be able to capture and maintain dominance. We no longer wait for the 2001 model; we realize that the next model may be out in 2000 June, 2000 August, or 2000 November.
Steven Spielberg, at the opening of the World War II Memorial, made a statement about how men who fought in the second World War fought for the future they envisioned—a future with a family, a job, a home. While watching his own children grow up, Spielberg sees envisioning a future to be increasingly difficult for them. A computer-related toy today is outdated within months. One trend has barely caught on before the next bumps it from its seat of glory, and the next is right behind that. Style magazines might have designs for spring that are "in" and next month they may be marked as "old." With changes in global economies and explosions in technology, both children and employees find it increasingly difficult to find the security that comes from knowing what lies ahead. We are developing a culture that sees no long-term concrete future.
As leaders, how do we guide our forces smoothly into the rapidly changing face of our future? How do we keep the wheels of progress turning, rather than watch them grind to a halt or spin recklessly out of control? Do we just give up and work month to month. Absolutely not. The key is in educating ourselves in the area of change and the human-dynamics side of change. The key is being proactive and not reactive. Intel has three chips in progress because they realize that change is fast paced and they must act and plan accordingly.
Some helpful suggestions are:
1. Understand that resistance is fear—fear of the unknown and fear of lack of control. Develop an atmosphere where staff is informed and updated on changes often.
2. Involve employees in the decision-making process. The hospital nurse is many times more aware of customer service errors than the administration, and what the needs of the customer truly are and will continue to be.
3. Give your staff freedom to explore and research as a way of enabling them to form decisions. Empower employees to learn and educate them on successful companies.
4. Allow ownership of ideas, even group ownership. Many want to make a difference.
5. Compensate employees competitively. Profit sharing, options, and other perks may keep them longer, as valuable employees are being headhunted daily. The changes in unemployment figures most likely do not represent the employee you need that is in high demand.
6. Provide a channel for their voices. Give them access to the senior management via email, and reply to them. Look for trends, and realize they want to be heard.
7. Don't only reward successes. Reward initiative, creativity, and guts. No employee is correct 100% of the time, nor is any business.
8. Look outward like a futurist. Leaders that set standards and direction while looking inward tend to miss the mark more often then not. Keeping current on a global perspective will bring sound and new ideas to you plans.
There are so many different techniques for dealing with change. A philosophy that we use is recognizing that "Nothing changes without new knowledge."
© MM David & Lorrie Goldsmith