Managing In A Rapidly Changing Environment

The rate and intensity of change facing every organization is increasing daily. These changes are part of an overall shift from an industrial to an information economy. That shift has altered the ground-rules of business, so that many of our fundamental management assumptions are no longer valid. For example, the management processes of large, industrial-age organizations are focused on hierarchical control, while the information economy rewards firms that have dismantled bureaucratic controls in order to drive innovation and market responsiveness.

In this difficult environment, successful companies must challenge their old assumptions and adopt new ways of doing business that are in tune with the new economic realities. Then, the departments began to engage each other in a more systematic fashion. As a result, the need for intensive reconciliation went away and allowed them to move to a monthly process. Every month after the forecast is done-?first the sales input is made, then the revenue targets are set, and then the product forecast is done-? the teams get together to review any discrepancies and ensure that the departmental plans all in sync and they are all on the same page.

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Hence, the solution has also allowed them to manage forecast by exception as opposed to each line item. Today using Steeled Software, the company creates a consensus forecast that incorporates direct feeds from the corporate sales opportunity pipeline system and balances the bias of operational systems with quantitative and qualitative input from cross- functional teams. The new process has cut forecast cycle times and allowed staff to focus more time on analysis and planning.

Become Aware of Your Current Situation What is going on now in your job? If you don’t know, you must take steps to find out! Relevant questions to ask include: What is the mission of your unit? What is the purpose of your job? What are your key responsibilities and assignments? What does your us proviso expect of you? What obstacles stand in your way? What resources do you have at your disposal? How well are you performing? How do peers and managers view the importance and performance of your unit? What changes are coming?

If you are unable to answer questions like these, you should begin immediately to “do your homework,” for you are in a prime position to be overwhelmed by unexpected forces of change-People often miss important information when they employ selective perception, habit, and specialization to keep themselves from being exposed to ideas they might not want to hear. While this is human nature, it is not a good strategy for handling change. Instead, supervisors should face their fears and broaden their sources of information to explore new ideas.

By increasing their awareness of change through a willingness to take in new information, they will have a distinct advantage over those who tend to isolate timelessness you are gathering information, try to spot the trends which may be signaling change on the horizon. Look for seemingly isolated facts that may ‘fit together” like the pieces of a puzzle. When you think you have spotted a trend, you should investigate it in further detail. Don’t just react to change; anticipate and prepare for it.

Understanding Change Compare your reaction and a small child’s reaction to thunder. You ignore it, but a child may be anxious and seeks assurances from the nearest adult. It’s only human to fear the unknown-?confidence comes with understanding. From long experience, you know that thunder is a natural phenomenon that cannot harm you. The child does not yet understand it. That is why an important step toward coping with change is understanding it: what is happening, why, and how. L’s your department being reorganized? Are you worried about the impact on you?

That’s natural. But don’t fall victim to rumors, speculation, or the inclination to assume the worst. Wait for your boss to explain why the reorganization is being done, how the new department will work, and what specific changes will result. It is likely that the changes represent an improvement of some sort. If your manager does not explain the change to you, ask about it. Capability and a willingness to embrace change will make you a more valuable member of your organization-?one who can reliably deal with many different opportunities and circumstances.

You may not like all the changes that are occurring, but you can be sure that if you resist them, you will not prosper. It is fine to voice your opinion and make suggestions, but it is also important to appreciate that competition and technology are constantly combining to force top management to reevaluate company operations. It is helpful to look on changed circumstances and the challenges they present with the attitude of a new employee and, as a new employee would, take on these challenges enthusiastically and with a desire to learn all you can to perform well.

When you recognize the possibilities created by change, you’re more prepared to exploit them. You will find change as not something to fear, but as something to welcome and turn to your own advantage. Build Your Skills and Keep Learning Adapting to change frequently requires the effective use of all your acquired skills. In some cases, adapting to change will call for the use of other skills as well-?skills which you might not yet have mastered, or even begun to acquire!

In a fast-changing work environment, skills also become obsolete. To be prepared to deal with change successfully, it is important to build as many skills as you can before their use becomes essential for organizational survival. You don’t want to be caught short in a crunch. You can never stop learning if you want to maintain your value in the job marketplace. Nor can you wait for your employer to send you to seminars or pay for additional education. You need to take responsibility to educate yourself.

Doing so will help you keep your skills current, and it will demonstrate an initiative for self- improvement that makes you a more visible and viable candidate for a rumination or new assignment. You may also want to consider making lateral moves to learn new skills and become a well-rounded employee. Read trade magazines and attend conferences, when possible. Take refresher training in your area of competence. Enroll in a college course that interests you, even one not given for credit. See if your professional association offers training sessions and workshops.

Look into correspondence or distance education. If circumstances allow, pursue an advanced degree. If college is not an option, broaden your reading and personal study. Join others with similar interests to arm a discussion group or study team. Read a technical manual or recent review of research in an area of interest to you. This is the one of the most important tips for adapting to change, because it places you ahead of the curve: anticipating change and implementing it before many people think to adapt.

It is important to keep your learning skills fresh; learning how to learn is also too valuable a lesson to allow it to atrophy over time. The bottom line is, the more you know how to do and the more current your skills and your ability to apply them effectively, the more valuable you are to an organization. Conclusion : When the team has identified and explored all of the important issues, and has reached agreement on some fundamental value creation strategies, new sub-groups can be formed to start the alignment process.

Each of these groups (which should include people from several levels of the organization) looks at a specific area, such as information systems or the hiring and development process, and develops action plans to bring those areas into closer alignment with the value-creation strategies. For example, if a strategy calls for dramatically increasing the rate of new product introductions, incentive (and recognition) systems may need to be altered so that they encourage more risk taking by product managers. Some of the world’s most innovative companies, such as MM, hand out awards for “noble failure”, recognizing that intelligent risk-taking-?and the resulting mix of failures and successes–is a necessary ingredient in driving innovation). As stated earlier, perfect alignment can never be achieved, and an organization must be realistic about how much it can accomplish in this area-?and how quickly. Only a small number of high priority issues should be focused on at any one mime, and a group that is conducting an alignment exercise must take great care to minimize the disruption of ongoing business operations.

One point that cannot be over-emphasized is the need for the most senior managers in the organization (whether at the corporate or business unit level) to be actively involved in building the business model and exploring the related issues in some detail. Building a model is a shared learning process, and that learning is experienced by the people who analyze, argue, study and struggle with the model’s components. If those tasks are delegated to lower level managers (or to outside consultants), the senior team will not develop real ownership of the model, and their understanding and commitment will be too superficial to support real change.