Change is a constant in every enterprise to varying degrees. In some companies the introduction of a new coffee maker is the subject of intense debate. In others they appear to be in a state of constant change and sometimes constant chaos. Regardless of where you are, shift happens.
Shift is a change that cuts across companies, industries, functions etc. It comes from the outside and it changes/challenges fundamental assumptions and ways of thinking. There are different degrees of shift. Technology shifts are often large and disruptive. Process shifts on the other hand, like agile development, are smaller requiring each company to deal with them in their own time and place.
Shift creates transitions that some use to raise FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt while others present shift as an unprecedented opportunity. Both are possible, particularly when you are not prepared.
Handing things in transition starts with recognizing that there is a shift underway. A few early indicators of shift include:
- Responses that were perfectly good in prior years have lost their effectiveness
- Your strategy and plans are not gaining the level of executive attention and support as they once were
- New questions arise for which you do not have an immediate good answer, or the answer you are giving does not feel right.
- The confidence you have in the organization has diminished, things seem harder and their are no clear indications as to why
- You are getting new requests that seem to be coming out of left field
- Your measures of success no longer adequately capture the value created or measure success
These are indicators of shift as they highlight situations where views and values are changing. How you handle that
- Know what you have now, what works, what does not, your assets, your inventory — this is frequently the hardest thing to do, but the most important to having a fact base from which to manage the transition.
- Identify the forces behind the shift — what is causing the change in view or values as that is the signal you have to respond to.
- Determine your exposure — what loses value, what gains value using these new views
- Shape how these views apply to your organization, your plans, your outcomes and resource requirements. Use shift to set a new context that redefines rather than responds to changes
- Plan with the shift rather than against it. Raising issues like security, risk and others is legitimate provided you have a way forward. Raising them as objections to the shift and reasons why we should fight it only sows FUD
Shift happens and too often leaders are swept away by it, either because they fail to see it coming or the fight it at a superficial rather than fundamental level.
Shift is neither inherently good or evil. It is just a change in views and values that require recalculating what is important and what you are going to do about it. The difference is in you and how you handle shift.
Leaders recognize shift and find a way to leverage it to create additional value by knowing what it is and how to handle it.
Others, well they will sit there and scratch their head wondering what happened and why their past success was not a future indicator of performance.