According to research by IBM, continuous change is the new normal in business. Five years after this study, titled Making Change Work, was first published, one might argue that it’s also more normal than new. Today’s management professional is increasingly being forced to do business in a commercial world that’s becoming unpredictable and uncertain on an unprecedented scale. Clearly, thriving in such fast-moving and highly-disruptive environments therefore requires leaders to adopt an equally new and novel approach to strategic thinking, and skill set to go along with it. Following are five ways to future-proof yourself and achieve ongoing success, despite the constant remodeling you and your enterprise now face, as discussed in my new book Make Change Work For You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty.
- Whether an individual or organization, relentlessly seek ways to expand your capabilities and comfort zones. The more you do so, the more you’ll learn, grow, and extend the range of experiences, insights, and resources you and your enterprise will have to call upon, whatever scenario you face. The bigger your professional toolbox, the better, as learning to mix, match, and recombine these tools and talents as highly dynamic scenarios dictate (i.e. improvise), the more flexible you’ll be. And in an ever-changing business world, unless you’ve got a crystal ball that works, flexible is about as close to future-proof as you can get.
- Create a business environment of trust and cooperation where coworkers feel comfortable not only bringing rising issues or opportunities of interest to management’s attention, but also sound ideas for addressing them. (Listening to one’s customers is proven to be the single best source of innovative new ideas that leading innovators enjoy, and providing better platforms for workers to share and translate these ideas into action their leading source of competitive advantage.) The more readily you can provide frameworks that allow insights to be shared throughout your enterprise, and acted upon, and the more readily and rapidly you can align resources toward common goals, the more agile, adaptable, and innovative you and your enterprise will be.
- Routinely reinvent yourself or your products and services, and create more room to maneuver. Ask yourself: Can your solutions be easily repositioned or repurposed to serve additional audiences or market needs? Are the insights and skills you bring to your employer applicable in only one department, or could you easily extend them to other areas of opportunity? (Say, by bringing your eye for user-friendly packaging design from the marketing team to engineering or product planning departments.) Don’t be afraid to rethink your value proposition, and how to strengthen or extend it. Remember: In the eyes of customers, value and relevancy are always moving targets.
- Don’t just run neck and neck with rivals: Look for ways to pull ahead of the pack. Consider what tomorrow’s customer will want – then put the capabilities, resources, and solutions required to meet these future demands in place today. Plan for the worst of times in the best of times: While you’re doing well is the best time to be extending your reach and experimenting with new strategies and solutions. Also: Play a portfolio of ongoing strategic bets (new business ventures, shifts in strategy or pricing, original products and services, or extensions to existing lines, etc.), and keep readjusting based on the results generated. Use each successive effort as a learning opportunity: The more market feedback you get, and the faster you can fine-tune your products and services based on it, the more rapidly you can adapt to find success.
- As you go about making decisions, don’t forget to factor in opportunity costs – dollars alone don’t tell a complete tale. For example: It may cost more up-front to replace your existing software development infrastructure and implement a new framework today. But if the new framework allows you to easily add features and updates by adding quickly installable, plug-and-play upgrades? The value you get over a long-term horizon may far outweigh initial costs. Similarly: When making decisions, apply strong, but weakly-held opinions. Gather as much business intelligence as possible, then make a decision – then adjust your decisions to be more informed as more detailed feedback is gained.
You need a sound strategy to keep your business alive and well. Learn more leadership tips from these AMA resources and seminars.