If you feel challenged by change, you’re not alone. It’s a harsh truth that change is the new constant in our lives. Rogue management consultant, Steve Smolinsky, from Benari LTD argues companies need to acknowledge this fear and address it. “The vast majority of people, irrespective of culture, really don’t like change. They like to get up in the morning at the same time, go to the same workplace and know exactly what they have to do that day. They even like to watch the same TV shows. Some people live their whole lives this way.”
“Senior executives tend to be more flexible but a large percentage really like consistency. Change is happening rapidly and with accelerating velocity. It feels like every 20 minutes there’s a new electronic device that’s better than the last one. And you know what? People who can’t stand change are getting left behind. At the same time, business has to provide products and services that work every single time. Imagine if an iPad only worked 40% of the time. Apple would be out of business. A company needs to provide consistency, quality, and repeatability while also embracing flexibility, creativity, and change.”
How do you combine consistency and creativity?
“It’s all about the top person,” continues Smolinsky. “They need vision and passion and the ability to attract people as passionate about the business as they are – it’s all about passion. Think about the difference between someone who leads because they have a vision and personality and passion that grabs people – totally grabs people and makes them want to be part of their operation. Steve Jobs exemplified this. Part of Apple’s story is ‘we are on the cutting edge of technology and design but we make it right. If you want to work here, you have to be comfortable with change while manic about quality’. Compare them to Microsoft.”
How do you create these leaders?
“I don’t think you create these leaders. You allow them to rise up. Today, technology allows people with a certain amount of craziness to do things differently. It allows people who are totally driven and focused to ignore everything else and attract those willing to jump on the bus. In the past, the people able to rouse and enthuse a workforce were killed off but the Internet has changed this. Take Facebook, for example. Some people might dislike Mark Zuckerberg but he’s pushed Facebook forward by attracting a collection of engaged, passionate people to work with him which would have been ridiculously difficult, if not impossible, if he’d worked in a traditional organization.”
So, how do you help workers embrace change?
“Blow them up!” Smolinsky replies. “The top person has to know that future opportunities are not related to what the company has done in the past. You need to constantly watch – to pay attention to everything and pursue opportunities you’re passionate about and that you believe you’ll be the best in the world at – profitably. You need to encourage new ideas rather than kill them. You need to reward ideas, even if they fail. 3M does this. It has a culture designed to come up with new ideas every year.” I suppose for every Post-It note, there are several ideas that don’t work.
“You have to be blameless about failures – taking risks always means there’s a chance it won’t work. The company culture needs to totally encourage people to share opinions and thoughts and ideas about improving things no matter what they do. Everything needs to be looked at and thought about. And there needs to be a willingness to make changes.”
The take home message: “It’s all about the culture set by the person at the top.” Steve Jobs was a great guide.