There comes a time in the life of many businesses when circumstances require dramatic change. These past few years, the number of companies facing unprecedented challenges, including their very survival, has escalated. When "staying the course" is no longer a viable option and "throwing in the towel" is an unacceptable alternative, the strategy of choice is to reinvent your business.
As a business owner or leader in a top management position, this is the time to put on the hat of "business architect/engineer." It requires a systems view to constructively approach the Big Questions and Big Decisions facing your company. This is the crucial work of business leaders who have the desire and the responsibility to continuously redesign their company to meet dramatically changing times and conditions.
As Charles Darwin said, "It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."
Reinventing your business means having the courage and open-minded attitude to take a step back and see your company with "fresh eyes,” as objectively as possible. It means foregoing the familiar and comfortable and "going back to the drawing board" on fundamental issues and premises. Most assuredly, it means surfacing and analyzing assumptions you may have made years ago.
One basic guideline for starters: You must give yourself the permission, time and resources to explore these critical issues. It is almost impossible to think clearly and creatively about changing your fundamental business strategies in the midst of juggling day-to-day work demands. Either commit a few hours on a weekly basis or take a block of time, a day or two or whatever it takes, away from the office for a planning session.
For those intrepid leaders who choose (either out of necessity or foresight) this bold alternative of transforming their businesses, here are the basic steps in the process and the primary places to look for innovation opportunities.
The first step is having the awareness and honesty to admit that a fundamental dimension of your business isn't working. Every company always has room for improvement, but in this case, your self-assessment has led to the sobering conclusion that dramatic change is necessary.
The second step is embracing the motivation and commitment to do something substantive to remedy what's not working. Most of us can think of businesses that "died a slow death" over a period of years, apparently unwilling or unable to commit to making important changes.
The third step is to conduct a planning process, one that combines disciplined analysis with creativity in order to develop innovative new ideas, strategies and solutions. At this stage, you must prioritize and choose from many alternatives, and then decide on an action plan. Work with your team to develop a written plan that records the decisions and subsequent steps required for realizing your desired outcomes. This is the heart of reinventing your business.
The final, fourth step in the process is implementation. This requires the same, if not greater, level of commitment and follow-through as creating your plan, since it involves many more people and resources. There are three essential parts to this phase: 1) communication with everyone involved, 2) ensuring alignment within your organization and 3) establishing accountability systems. This also includes dealing with performance issues, aligning recognition and compensation systems, and celebrating successes.