Onward and Upward

July 12, 2014By Industry Intuition, Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in Healthcare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column

June/July 2014

There are six words that could stymie the growth of any organization, "That’s how we’ve always done it." Of course nobody really believes that you can keep doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. Yet, it amazes me how often the safety of the past seems to be the selected course of action, rather than adjusting and recognizing the new normal that faces one’s business and adjust accordingly.

One of my father’s pearls of wisdom included an expression that captured the essence of this conundrum and metaphorically emphasized the need to be forward thinking: "You can’t drive a car forward looking only in the rear view mirror."

But how can you convince your management, your staff, your customers, and perhaps your family that taking a new approach — although untested — can produce favorable outcomes?

Step 1: Accept the current state

Often referenced as living in the past, the inability to recognize that circumstances affecting your business have changed and will never be the same can be daunting. Technology is not the only factor that has accelerated — but this change has affected virtually all aspects of our lives. Consumer attitudes have changed. Competition has become more intense. The very products and services that we are likely working with have been transformed. Simply put, it’s a whole new ball game.

Step 2: Ensure you’re planning the future

Is your organization trying to keep pace by adapting old principles, equipment, or practices? This will not only limit your ability to compete effectively, it will likely limit your ability to be responsive to the pace of today’s business climate. Instead of retrofitting business assets to try to fit the needs of today, look ahead to where the industry is headed and make the leap. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky was credited with saying, "to win the game you have to skate to where the puck is going."

Step 3: Inspire the organization to get on board

Sure there will be those within the rank and file that are creatures of habit and may need to be more than nudged to effectively manage the change. But it is essential that all levels within the company are aware of the forthcoming evolution for the business and understand the reality that will surely occur if retooling isn’t undertaken.

Step 4: Recognize there will be no rest for the weary

Once started, the ability to remain ahead of the tsunami of industry change will require ongoing assessments, appraisals, and investment. The moment you think you have done all you feel necessary to move to the next level, something else will change. I often refer to the analogy that suggests once you believe you have a key to the future, somebody will change the lock.

I believe that my father was absolutely correct about the rear view mirror. If you’re trying to progress forward the last thing you should be focusing on is what’s behind you. The risk in doing more of the same stems from the comfortable feelings and memories it may conjure. However, I believe that for all practical purposes, trying to accomplish today’s demands with yesterday’s tools is downright impossible.

Of course I’m no expert in effective change management. Neither am I a fortune teller that can adequately predict the future and map the ideal course of action. But I am an optimist that firmly believes that the future holds promise. At the same time I’m a realist trying to put one foot in front of the other to keep slightly ahead of our industry as it moves onward and upward.

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