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Change is no longer just an event or process — it’s a skill. Not too long ago, change happened less frequently. And when it did occur, employees often panicked in response as they focused on simply surviving the change. Imagine people on a beach building sand castles and then a big wave of change comes and sucks them out to sea, spins them around, and then spits them back onto the sand. The scramble was on to get everyone to calm down enough so they could get back to working in the sand. One and done. At least for a while.
Things are different today. Technology, the economy and globalization have created constant and rapid change, with folks being sucked out to sea and spun around on the regular. The problem is they are upset with all this wave action and waiting to get tossed back to the sand. What we all need to realize — and embrace — is there is no more beach. We are in the ocean. We need to stop worrying about our precious beach sand and get good at surfing the waves.
If you find yourself struggling with chaotic and rapid change, try some of the following tips.
Embrace that change is the new competitive edge. The first step in learning to thrive in this environment is to understand how radically different today’s world is. Previously, companies could bank on the fact that if our parents and grandparents had been customers, we probably would be too. Tradition, loyalty and reliability were the competitive edges. Now what matters is whether you are seen as innovative, unique and “trending.” People care less about reliability and more about self-expression and creativity. Who needs a TV that lasts for 20 years when the technology that powers it will be obsolete in 18 months? The sooner you see this as a business reality the faster you can jump in and be part of the changes vs. simply reacting to them.
Look for the patterns. In the ocean, waves ebb and flow to a pattern. When you spot the patterns in the chaos, you begin to see that change, at least a much of it, is predictable. A great way to recognize where the patterns are coming from — and where they’re headed — is to look at where the money is being spent and lost. Thinking about where you’d spend your company’s money will not only ensure you’re less shocked by decisions but can also help you shape some of those actions within your own work area.
Take advantage of career agility. Over the past two decades, we’ve had quite a bit of fluctuation in our economy. These shifts dramatically impacted the way companies viewed employment and retention. All of a sudden, companies adopted layoffs, reorgs, leader changes and strategy shifts as a way of doing business instead of occasional or one-off events. So where does that leave employees and managers? Well, a lot of them are left feeling stressed, overworked and under-appreciated. Mainly because we are still viewing our careers and work in the reflection of that proverbial gold retirement watch.
Today, just about everyone has a layoff story or two to share. But there’s a silver lining to this new employee-employer relationship. It opens up opportunities for us to play the field a bit, diversify our skills, gain new experiences and qualify for jobs based more on talent than time-in-service. To set us up for success in this new world, we must embrace the fact that the only thing that guarantees our employment is a clear business need for the skills we’re offering.
Get good at identifying and creating the change that needs to happen. We create demand for what we’re offering by aligning what we do with what helps the company we choose to work for stay competitive. Instead of leaving it solely up to C-Suite leaders to create the future, leverage your unique insight and creative skills to identify new ways to build efficiencies and deliver new products that meet or exceed the needs of your customers.
Keep in touch with what’s going on inside and outside of the company. If you want to stay in the loop, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry, function and the overall economy. That can feel like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be. Set up your news or Twitter feed to connect to key topics and professional magazines or organizations that regularly report on topics relevant to your work. Subscribing to the right business magazines can give you valuable insight into industry trends, challenges and, importantly, opportunities.
Change is not going away, so we’d better get good at it, plain and simple. And being good at it doesn’t just mean reacting well when stuff hits the fan. It also means tracking trends and seeing change before someone delivers the news to us. While no one can predict the future, by paying attention to what’s going on and playing out the various scenarios, we can stay ahead of the waves that are inevitably coming our way.
January 3, 2019 at 08:09PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs