The story is told of the CEO who calls his CFO to authorise the travel and associated costs of an expensive training programme for some core members of his team. Aghast at the high cost for the programme, the CFO remarks, ‘we are spending all this money to train them. What if they leave our company even after we have spent all this money training then?” The CEO was calm and responded, ‘Ah, but what if we don’t train them and they stay?’
Adaptive thinking, compelling yet versatile leadership, and the notion of a learning organisation are all concepts that are becoming critically pertinent in operating and growing a business – and they are becoming more so now more than ever.
All of what a business is is an entity that provides a particular solution to the needs of a category of people within a society. How a business chooses to provide that solution can be what distinguishes and especially profits a business – from the expertise and competencies of your team, to the detail of service delivery, to the form and content of leadership of a business. These should, must perhaps, be adaptive.
They must be adaptive because societies are dynamic. The people that form societies, i.e. your clients, evolve. Thinking, wants and needs, all adapt and as all of these adapt businesses need to also adapt to make themselves relevant to the needs of that society – the what, why and how of what you do in a business needs to be constantly examined because of this.
The biggest challenge is that whilst most businesses believe they understand this, they often fail to practice and actualise what that actually means for their business. This is not surprising. It is not surprising because change is difficult – and yet change is needed. To change what, how and why you do what your business does is first of all a lesson in humility. It is second of all a tremendous exercise in self-examination, and thirdly it will mean an uncertain transition period. And I think this is why there is so much resistance to change – because it requires all of us to do different in new ways – ways that we are not familiar with and we all know that unfamiliar territories are as daunting as they are risky. But nothing that will grow will do so without a transition period. Metamorphoses.
Perhaps what we need to do as businesses in seeking to apply change so that we can thrive is to simply view change as a growth path. Without change we run the risk of not growing. With change we also run the risk of not growing. But we have tried to grow without change and we are not growing. Therefore we are more likely to grow if we do change because the status quo is not giving us the result that we want. Simpler?
The problems of today are caused by the solutions of yesterday. And what many businesses continue to do is to provide the solutions of yesterday to today’s more advanced, stickier problems. To be relevant in business, we need to be more open to change, we need to be responsive to change, and we need to actually seek and want to change.
This often requires new learning. It often requires bringing in a third party to support you in identifying and then structuring the business change that you need along your value chain; and it will then require instituting new work processes, new ways and means – and ultimately it will begin a process of individual and organisational learning.
It is this new learning that actually has the power and the potential to exponentially grow a business. The future is not a place we are going, it is a place we are creating. When a business takes a decision to change, to really change and be more acutely responsive to the needs of their clients and stakeholders, that business has started a process of creating a new future. We don’t create a new future by doing the same thing the same old way. We create a new future from new learning out of an observation and real understanding of what society and our clientele needs from us, and by taking a decision to work with that new learning through the development of better more responsive products and or services, better and more responsive ways of working, better and more responsive systems and processes.
The success of that change process is implicitly linked to the core leadership and management team understanding the need for change, desiring and buying into change. You cannot play lip service to change and grow. This speaks to the wider notion of the ability of a leader to inspire her team to see the need for change, to want change, and to execute new change processes, thinking and doing as they daily execute their tasks. This ability, the ability to inspire, to motivate, and to support your team to see the positive externalities of the change you need even before that change occurs, is what stands you out a leader. Taking people to a place they have not yet being, and getting them excited about arriving there.
Author: Ruka Sanusi
Ruka Sanusi is a management and business adviser with over 20 years of international consulting experience in the UK and twenty African countries. Ruka’s career to date has been built around her abilities to both provide specialist advice on matters of business strategy and business operations, and organizing resources and facilities to implement recommendations. She has strategic and operational ability.
An MBA (cum laude), Ruka also business coaches women entrepreneurs in the small and growing business sector. Ruka is the founder of Alldens Lane, a movement which provides female entrepreneurs in the small and growing business sector with business direction, balanced support and thought provoking business performance and growth analytics, from which they can grow and transform their businesses – and their lives.