23 January 2006

Change is inevitable

In the corporate world, as in our lives, change is inevitable. Yet, you’d be surprised how inept most organisations, and individuals in them, are in understanding and managing change.

Don’t believe me? Then think about those thousands of dotcoms which perished because they failed to see Internet venture capital drying up. Think about those European and American, even Indian, companies manufacturing automobiles or consumer electronics or white goods which didn’t see the influx of the Japanese and the Korean models in the marketplace.

I know of a cement tiles company, once a pioneer and market leader, which got totally marginalised because it didn’t see the market demand change to ceramic tiles. Another, a consumer electronics giant, lost huge chunks of market share to Korean competitors because it couldn’t introduce technologically superior, and cheaper, products quickly enough. A multinational agro-chemicals company closed a part of its India operations under pressure from farmers and social reform groups because it misunderstood the Indian sentiment.

That’s right. Talking about it now seems easy. But, corporate genius or not, change is hard to handle. Even a new entrant in the market can change the dynamics of the entire business. Be it evolving markets, technological innovations, new government policies, environmental laws, world politics, or a myriad of other changes knocking on your organisation’s door… change can give anyone sleepless nights. It’s tough to see change coming, anticipate its force, and take steps to face its challenge. Sometimes, the best CEOs can be the worst in foreseeing the future.

So, where does this leave the rest of us? When your own corporate world is faced with the inevitability of change, what do you do?

Well, I hate to say this, you’re already a little late. Change has happened. And, it is happening this very moment as you read this blog. Since dreaming about winning over Nostradamus on your side isn’t going to help, the best you can do is prepare for what’s coming next. And, keep at it, endlessly.

Here’s a short note on how you can make a beginning:

If you’re a corporate bigwig, or a part of the corporate or a brand strategy team, you could look for new strategies. It helps to read books on the subject, attend workshops, hire a consultant or two for fresh ideas, spend money on research, and gather all the intelligence you can. Don’t get overconfident about this. Before you’re in a position to assimilate what’s happening, let alone design new strategies for your organisation or your brand, further changes are likely to envelop your world. Don’t give up. You’ve made a beginning and that’s what counts. It’s all part of the preparation.

Once this is done, you’re in a position to implement these new strategies. But, that’s another ball game altogether.

NOTE: There’s some great work on “foreseeing the future” done by Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies which I read about. As early as the 1970’s, Pierre Wack, at Shell, studied change and built “scenarios” for understanding the future. Helping to build robust business and corporate strategies. It’s called “scenario planning” and, today, is embraced by many corporations and governments. Definitely the stuff for CEOs – and, anyone interested in taking their organisation forward.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rather unfortunate, then, that the "scenario planners" of Shell didn't plan for the environmental fiasco and the executions in Nigeria. Check this link: