Why do so many great organizations struggle with change? After all, "the only thing that is constant is change," according to Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and the sentiment couldn't be truer today.
BusinessWeek.com columnist, Steve McKee, got to the heart of the challenge in a 2009 study he conducted in which 41.2 percent of more than 5,000 companies studied stalled notably in the previous decade. A couple of the primary and interrelated reasons for these corporate stalls were no point of differentiation and an inability to adjust to new market realities. Many businesses begin with a point of differentiation but fail to adjust quickly enough to their changing market, and simply lose it.
So what causes that failure to adjust? Cultural anthropologist, Andrea Simon, in a 2013 Forbes article, said it boils down to these realities.
Habits are powerful. Our brain limits what it sees over time, and our current reality essentially conforms to past perceptions. Early experiences prevent us from seeing things in new ways.
Our brains hate change. As we learn something new, our prefrontal cortex is working in overdrive, and it's exhausting.
You have to experience new ways of doing things to really accept change, versus just reading or talking about it. But to do that, you have to allow change to begin despite the possible anxiety. Avoid getting so caught up in analysis that your change efforts stall. Simply do enough due diligence to validate the new strategy, and then execute swiftly.
Measure the result of change, and adapt your strategy as you go. Willingness to change is best measured by action. If you're willing to stop talking about change and actually take action, regardless of your comfort level in doing so, that's half the battle.
If you're not pleased with your current sales and marketing outcomes, how do you assess what elements of your strategy should change?
Talk with customers and prospects. Ask what they see as your differentiators, what would make them more likely to buy, what product/service enhancements they desire, and what your competitors are doing well. Then shop those competitors just like a customer would. How do your efforts stack up?
Shadow your sales reps, identifying any missed opportunities or skill gaps. And assess the return on your past sales and marketing strategies. If your efforts can't be measured, work to find strategies that can be.
If you know you are simply too close to the situation to objectively assess it or too uncomfortable to drive real change, simply find someone more removed who can. It is the best gift you can give your company.
Pulitzer-prize-winning novelist Ellen Glasgow summed it up well when she said, "The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions." Don't let complacency kill your business. Be an agent of change.
Find more advice at www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).