Business Fitness: 3 Management Principles for Confidently Confronting Challenges of Change
SSI columnist Paul Boucherle lists off his favorite principles from the U.S. Marine Corps that can keep your team resilient to the constant state of change.
There may be nothing we can count on being as constant as change – in our business, industry and customers’ expectations of business value. Easily said, but even knowing that will be so is much more difficult to actually plan for and execute as a team.
For those who recognize these realities and build their companies to embrace and leverage opportunities come the rewards of growth and prosperity. For those who choose to ignore change that knocks on your front door, perhaps instead of opportunities your company might soon be facing a tall, dark, long-robed figure wielding a scythe. So is it possible to make dealing with the concept of change a little less scary?
Shake Things Up From Top Down
Indeed it is. It starts by applying a few tried-and-true U.S. Marine Corps management principles for leadership. We will explore three of my favorites that we often use to help our clients construct more resilient teams that are nimble with the realities of change. Keep an open mind – and an open eye – to spot any similar challenges your team may be facing. They will expect you to act as a leader and guide them.
Principle 1: Cross-train leaders to provide “plug-and-play” management on demand. I am not talking about walking around for a few days in someone else’s shoes. I mean changing jobs. While this sounds initially counterproductive from an efficiency standpoint, it can provide organizations with depth and flexibility when change inevitably shows up at your door. Moving people around to different seats on your business bus can provide new perspectives and leadership growth.
Cross-training is the medicine needed to cure stagnation and lopsided management skillsets that occur when a leader is left in one department or position too long. In addition, they become less adaptive to change when they have not been challenged to do so. New management will look at department challenges differently and will ask different questions -maybe the right questions.
Shaking up management roles embraces potential change and sends a great message to the entire company. New roles and new career opportunities can energize the organization from the bottom up. It can literally shift the culture of a company to adapt to change.
Principle 2: Manage outcomes by end states and the intent. This principle allows Marine commanders and business owners to describe how they want a situation to end up as well as what the broader goals of the mission look like (strategic). Marines then figure out the logistics, details, resources and steps necessary to make this happen (tactical). There is nothing more fluid and packed with unanticipated changes than a military operation, to which any veteran can attest.
Debrief: In our civilian world, we can often get trapped in our well thought-out processes, procedures and authority levels; thus change can get away from us in a hurry, leaving us vulnerable and frozen in place. Your teams must be freed up a bit to seek the best ways to reach your end state in their own way … as long as they have the skills and training to execute. A prime example would be leading Millennials into battle weighted down with too many instructions. The intent is, what will the entire company’s combined actions achieve in broader or strategic goals?
Goal example (from the commander): Transport, stage, protect and be ready to distribute in an organized manner humanitarian food supplies by 10:00 hours tomorrow at piers 27 and 29.
End state: Providing the population with necessary food that is evenly distributed will improve the survivability of this disaster. Providing security will ensure pirates and tribal leaders will not hijack food supplies intended for families. U.S. foreign policy will be supported, as well as nurturing goodwill. Stabilize the region politically with an iron fist in a velvet glove. You get the idea.
Principle 3: Push competitive spirit and smarts down to every level in the company. This begins with your recruitment process, strategies and tactics. Often our clients get set in their ways of hiring or perceive their market contains a shallow talent pool. Current and prospective employees look for the challenges of A.I.G.E. (what would Business Fitness be without at least one acronym?), or “Am I Good Enough.” That is often the key question for smart and talented people. So revisit those old job descriptions and breathe some challenge and excitement into them.
Will your personnel be expected to bring fresh ideas, solve old problems, work collaboratively or have opportunities to blossom? Then tell them and show them with your interview process. Drive smarts at every level in your organization to effectively leverage change.
Use these field-proven principles to help your company adapt, innovate and prevail over change. It doesn’t have to be scary at all, and the results of this tactical preparation may surprise you.
Bio: Paul Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is principal of Canfield, Ohio-based Matterhorn Consulting. He has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience. Follow him on Twitter (@swisssherpa) or E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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