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Creating a Resilient Climate in your Business

Two weeks ago, in the first part of this two-part series of articles on creating a resilient business, I wrote about the characteristics of a resilient organisation.

I identified that your business needs to display the three characteristics of:-

  • Facing down reality;
  • Having a strong purpose;
  • Empowering innovation;

and identified a fourth characteristic, which was good leadership.

In this week’s article, Part 2, I want to deal with how to create a resilient climate in your business.

Firstly, if your business does not already have those characteristics, creating them is going to be a change management process. So let me side-track and talk about an eight step change management process created by change management guru, Professor John Kotter of Harvard Business School.

In his 1996 book, “Leading Change”, which I highly recommend you read, Professor Kotter summarised his study of international large scale change efforts into 8 mandatory steps that any successful change initiative must follow.

These steps must be followed in sequence, and each step must be completed before the next can commence. However, it is possible to maintain “rolling” processes so that multiple projects are conducted at once, while each following the 8 steps in sequence, they are nevertheless operating in parallel.

The 8 steps are as follows:-

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create a Guiding Coalition
  3. Develop a Vision and Strategy
  4. Communicate the Change Vision
  5. Empower for broad-based action
  6. Generate short-term wins
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
  8. Anchor new approaches in culture

In order to understand this 8 step process, you really need to read his highly readable book.

Creating those four characteristics will require strong leadership that encourages open and honest communication. The climate has to allow for team members to constructively challenge each other; where leaders do not feel threatened by requests for clarity. An organisation can have open systems that provide meaningful information – such as a loss – but the ability to challenge opinions adds another layer to systems and means that people can ask for better and different solutions to the loss than those provided by management. If everyone is merely supportive about the loss, all you do is wring your hands. You need a climate where people can say the proposed solution isn’t good enough.

Once you have a climate of open, constructive communication, the leaders need to present that in the context of a strong and empowering vision that everyone understands, and desires to live by.

This means that you need to create a set of values and objectives that all point to the vision of how the business will “be” in the future, in such a way that people can see clearly why it is a better place to be and why they will be willing to work towards it. The benefit of the challenge must be available to all.

Once you are able to explain your vision, what and how the business will be and behave, each and every decision or solution can be pinned to the reality of that vision. Do we challenge the old ways of doing things? Yes if that is what the vision demands. Do we hire cheaper labour to reduce cost of production – no if the vision is about quality and a strong labour force.

The organisation needs to be clear on what each sentence in the vision statement means. A powerful vision includes everyone. In the 1960’s while NASA was planning to land a man on the moon a study group went around and talked to all the NASA employees, including the cleaners and asked them if they had a boring job amongst all this science and technology. The cleaners said they had a fantastic job – because they were helping to send a man to the moon!

Finally, with empowering leaders and a strong vision based culture, the element of innovativeness can be created. An organisation that is true to its values and vision underlining each decision, but is able to diagnose problems with honesty, is able to react quickly and come up with responsive and innovative solutions. This element needs a culture of empowerment so that the person who sees the problem feels empowered to offer a solution.

In summary, in order to create a resilient climate in your business,

  1. Become a strong leader, and show people how to behave in line with the vision
  2. Develop the ability in management to “hear the hard truths” while at the same time develop people to respond constructively
  3. Ensure the vision is clear, well-explained, well-understood, and led by example
  4. Encourage mistakes – as long as people learn from them, and learn quickly
  5. Reward innovation, encourage new ideas, but ensure they follow the vision
  6. Empower people – stop people being afraid of failure, start to get people to express solutions.

There are a lot more tools and articles about creating resilience in your business on the website teikoh.com including plenty of free downloadable tools and templates.

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