Tides of Change

Change is a constant.  There are many commonalities in how business owners, leaders, organizations and industries are dealing with this reality but there are also many differences.  Some organizations are internalizing the changes (looking inward and identifying ways to restructure, identify efficiencies, and plan for the future), while other organizations are looking outward for support and ideas in addition to looking inward.  It doesn’t matter if the organization is large or small, there are examples of both approaches in each category.

Some of the changes that are happening include:

  • hiring freezes resulting in existing employees to taking on more work.
  • reorganization of duties between employees.
  • lay-offs and closures, which impact the morale of the organization.
  • cut-backs or discontinued funding for projects or programmes.
  • revisiting the organizational vision and strategic objectives
  • shortening the horizon of the strategic plan (from the traditional 3-5 years into shorter term objectives)

What changes are you experiencing in your organization or industry?  What trends are you seeing?  Will these trends impact how you do business?  Is there a better approach — internal vs external?

Opening yourself to opportunities

During a three day retreat for business women owners on beautiful Gabriola Island, retreat participants explored how best to lead during troubled times. Although the headlines we read & hear speak about cutbacks and recession, you would never know it buy the optimism in our group. Rather than focusing on challenges, we only saw opportunities. Many participants had started new ventures within the last 12 months, others had experienced business growth, and new opportunities to develop and explore were ever present and more ideas flowed freely during our discussions. Collectively we saw the current economic environment as an opportunity for us as business owners to take the lead in meeting the future.
Are you a business leader who is open to new opportunities or doing things in a different way? What are you doing to help lead to new horizons? How are you capitalizing on opportunities and ideas?

Change your thinking…

“If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” — Maya Angelou

Set Goals: Embrace change!

Michael Walsh, Kaizen Consulting Inc (www.kaizenconsulting.com) describes a business as a tool that assists us to achieve something, just like a car or a stapler.  Although more complex, this analagy really resonnated with me.  Michael states “…businesses serve many types of goals — both for the destination as well as the process for getting there.”

Each year, I set goals for myself personally and for my business.  These goals are reviewed frequently – usually every quarter.  I am always amazed by how many people do not set goals and for those who claim to set them do not write them down.   If you do not set goals, how do you know where you are going and how will you know if you get there?

When I set my goals, I write them down in the form of a mind map — a pictoral and word format that helps me keep these goals in mind.  As a visual person, this format works best for me.  You may prefer a list  — there is no wrong way to record your aspirations!

Once you write your goals down, share them — with your employees, your friends, family,  mentors and supporters.  I have learned that people are interested in my goals and more often than not are willing to help me along my path to attaining them.  In turn, I help them too.

What happens when others don’t share your vision or goals?  Sometimes they worry you may not be successful.  Don’t be deterred if they don’t share your goals…keep an open mind, hear their concerns, ask questions to help you understand their perspective.  If necessary, you can make some modifications, or maintain your course.

Sometimes, along the way, a goal not longer fits, or requires some tweeking.  Was the original goal too short-sighted, too lofty, or has your direction changed?  Sometimes external factors have an impact or you learn something new about yourself that warrants the shift.  It’s ok to change goals but make sure the changes are not just “the easy way out”.  Achieving goals takes time and effort, patience, perspective and perserverence.

Goals help you make the changes you want to make.  They are a vital part of strategic planning and business development.  They are not without risk but unless you are willing to stretch outside your own comfort zone  you will be limited in what you can achieve.  When you hit a hurdle, review, ask for help, refocus and keep on moving one foot in front of the other.  Fear of failure will only hold you back.   Make the decision to set your own goals for yourself or consider reviewing your business’s strategic plan and ensure it is relevant and allowing you to move forward to the future you desire.

“Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant.” – Anthony Robbins

Dreams…Envision, Plan, Achieve!

Do you have a dream? What have you done to achieve that dream? If you haven’t taken the steps necessary to put it into action, it won’t become a reality.  Since re-launching my business in January, I have been re-evaluating my goals and dreams.  I have always set goals and had dreams that I strive toward.   I have been working through a business building program as part of this personal journey and speaking with other business owners and clients to obtain feedback to assist me in my quest to achieve this revived dream.   What has become clear to me is that the many tips I am hearing are not new to me & many are common sense, but I am now in a place to hear the comments and ideas.  As a result I am able to take action based on the suggestions with more understanding and a clearer vision.   Some of the information I have heard is reminding me of things I need to do (or consider) to grow my business to be even more successful than it has been in the past.

Lester R. Bittel stated in The Nine Master Keys of Management, “Good plans shape good decisions. That’s why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true”.  Whether your dreams are personal or business-related, I encourage you to take the time to dream, make plans to achieve those dreams, and make the decisions necessary so they are no longer elusive! Keep it simple. Don’t strive for perfection first time around. Be willing to take things one step at a time. Be open to tips and ideas – when you are open to the information its amazing how much you can achieve!

Happy Dreams!

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s statement is so telling. Think of this in the context of setting goals or achieving success. If you do not set goals for yourself, your work or business, you probably meander through life believing the outcomes of your actions are your destiny. For some they achieve success and have no regrets. More often than not, people look back and wish they would have made a different decision.

Have you ever had someone suggest a change or offer to teach you something new they believe will help you ? Did you jump at the chance or pass the offer by? Did you take the necessary steps to embrace that new way or just go back to your old way because it was faster, easier, cheaper?

Businesses frequently fail to embrace a culture of change and innovation. This culture instils stagnation and can attract employees who are not inspired to be innovative or willing to move forward.  Businesses will lose innovative employees if they are unable to support new ideas and they can easily get left behind the competition, particularly in tough times. When business owners, managers and individuals alike to embrace life-long learning, they remain open to new opportunities, new methods of doing business and the successes that can follow.  Learning and implementing something new can be challenging and may take longer than the “old” way, but if implemented for the right reasons with a clear plan and good supports, any hurdles can be overcome.

If you want to make a change, take the time to plan. Ninety percent of your time and effort should be applied to the planning stages and ten percent to implementation. Create a vision of what change initiative is needed and set measureable goals and realistic timelines. Establish the steps/tasks that need to be taken, identify who will do each task, how the steps/tasks will be communicated with everyone who will be affected (even if only minimally affected) and how progress will be monitored and alternations made.   Communicate frequently and be prepared to listen… new ideas and solutions can be borne from feedback! Incorporating this feedback will increase “buy-in” and enhance the projects success.

If you don’t have time to manage the entire process on your own, don’t hesitate to enlist some help. Work with a consultant or business coach who is dedicated to ensuring your success and can help keep you focused or provide a different perspective throughout the process.  A change management consultant can work with you and your team, facilitate group sessions, manage the project, initiate training or help complete tasks.

Embrace change, set your goals, take the time to plan, communicate frequently during the change initiative process , welcome feedback and adjust your plan when necessary as you move forward and enjoy your success!

Is the “optimism bias” affecting your business?

Earlier today I read a report featured in the USA Today weather blog(http://blogs.usatoday.com/weather/2009/03/deathwish-why.html) on why people ignore severe weather warnings.    According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report, this occurs due to “optimism bias” — “the belief that bad things happen only to other people.”  They cite the presence of a number of barriers that deter people from “risk-adverse decisions”.

It’s an interesting concept… and one not restricted to weather warnings.  Living in Vancouver, we are repeatedly reminded to prepare for “the big one” (an earthquake), but how many people and businesses have taken the necessary steps… not enough!  Optimism bias — it won’t happen in my lifetime! I’m not so sure and I have taken steps to prepare – admittedly I still have more to do to complete my own plan.

Does optimism bias exist in change management? I contend it does.  We all know our world is constantly changing and whether we are entrepreneurs, managers, employees, or just members of society, thinking things will be ok if we “stay the course”, “do what we’ve always done” has a similar effect as failing to prepare for a weather warning — things will change and you will get left behind, causing you to become inefficient, unprofitable or out of business.

The key to adapting to change successfully is to take some time to develop a clear plan.  Planning may involve brainstorming  options & ideas with others, educating yourself (or better yet keeping abreast whenever you can) about the changes in your field, technology, your target market etc. and what changes your competitors are making that could impact your business.  Once you have this information you need to identify what actions you will implement and what your desired end result is.  Your action plan should outline what you are going to do to achieve your goal.   It may include learning new skills/up-grading your skills (or those of your employees) or hiring an external consultant.  Establishing a clear communications plan is vital to ensure all key personnel who will be impacted by the changes you are planning are aware of what’s going to happen, who’s involved, why its happening and how it will occur.  Start this communications plan right away and deal with the resistance you face in a sincere, transparent way.  This approach will garner support and understanding, and it can add depth to your change initiatives.

Don’t let the optimism bias cause you to be left behind.  Thinking that things will be ok isn’t enough!   Instead, establish a regular business review, plan for changes, adjust as needed and be optimistic that your change action plan will help you take the necessary steps to be the success you wish to be.   The current economic environment is a presenting each of us with a unique opportunity to revisit our current situation, create a plan and take the steps to move us forward.

Trying something new

Change… such a simple word for a complex set of events and emotions. Some of us enjoy the adventures that come with change, others want a stable routine and resist the transition (good or bad) while others just ride the wave. How do you accept change?

I realized my passion for assisting others through change about 2 years ago when re-examining my own career path and what I wanted in my future. Since that time I have been involved in leading numerous change initiatives — changes in organizations I was working with, as well as undertaking my own significant changes. Although I enjoy change and the opportunities and variety, there are times it would be nice for some things to remain the same… I have to admit I want stability when I’m in a hurry and do not want to think too hard about what I’m doing.

This is my first entry into the world of blogging — part of my own personal change initiatives. I welcome your thoughts and questions about change, and other topics we will explore in the coming weeks.

Be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

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