Company Evolution, or Stagnation?
“Most businesses get to the top, and stay there, because of their ability to anticipate and respond to change.”
More than half of today’s successful Fortune 500 companies were started during a bear market or a recession, according to a report released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. No matter when or how your organization started, this study suggests that opportunity indeed exists in difficult economic times, and your organization’s ability to respond to challenging market conditions is paramount to your longevity and success.
When business climates change radically companies can’t afford to merely “redouble their efforts” or “try to do more with less” (two sayings I hear way too often). Radical changes in markets require that companies learn to evolve. Organizations that fail to evolve eventually die out.
What do businesses need to do in order to evolve and survive radical change? Why do some survive and even thrive in tough economic times while others die off?
Some time ago I examined nearly one hundred organizations that, despite their best efforts, weren’t able to adapt sufficiently in order to survive changes. I found seven key elements that—if missing from the businesses approach to change—could actually prevent the business from evolving. I call them The Seven Missing Links. While each of the seven are important in and of themselves, it is the combination of all seven links that truly determines whether a company will successfully evolve, endure, and even thrive.
Seven Missing Links to Company Evolution vs. Stagnation
1.) A common goal that is both realistic and specific, addressing how to respond to the changing economy or market conditions.
2.) An understanding of the employee’s role and responsibility to the transition.
3.) A sincere commitment from the top to lead in an undeniable manner.
4.) A willingness to let go of old debilitating behaviors, habits, procedures and approaches that will not serve the new goal. (This can be a particularly painful reality for some.)
5.) A doable plan that invigorates the organization and goes beyond the stale and lifeless buzzwords of a “new company-wide program.”
6.) A specific, simple system to measure the progress of both the company and the contributing individual(s).
7.) A company-wide belief that the transition is possible.
If your management team continues to throw out buzzwords that perpetuate stagnation, like “out-of-the-box-thinking” and “strategic planning”, it’s time to get real. Stop wasting your time, and sit down and examine which evolutionary links are in fact missing from your organization today. If everything looks good – congratulations, your evolution is nearly assured and your company can continue to survive and even thrive. If it doesn’t, you have some work to do, but you aren’t alone. It is those that pay attention and take action (beginning with the leadership team) that will differentiate themselves from the organizations that fail, or limp along. Darwin will take care of them.
 “The Economic Future Just Happened,” Diane Stangler, Sr. Analyst, Author of Study, The Kauffman Foundation