Tuesday, 22 November 2016 20:03

Why Successful Businesses Should Constantly Challenge Themselves

We live in a world where the only sure thing is change—meaning, that what proved effective for a business yesterday may have little or no bearing on what’s needed to succeed tomorrow.

bailliewallFrom our perspective in the hardwood lumber industry, we have learned to never take success for granted. There are simply too many variables and too many unexpected events that impact the ever evolving environment of supply and demand in which we compete in.

With this in mind, we believe that if you focus on a few key factors you can regularly challenge your company’s established thinking and be better prepared for the next round of change.

Take a clear-eyed look at future possibilities. How objectively can you and others in your organization look at where things stand now and in the months and years to come? Coping with change starts with the ability to assess the current state of your business—recognizing its strengths and weaknesses, its willingness or resistance to change, etc.

From there, it’s imperative to see the “big picture” and build a road map that’s both accurate and flexible enough to withstand currently unforeseen developments.

Fight against multiple layers of complexity. It’s commonly accepted that businesses must remain nimble in order to respond to disruptive changes, but how does that fit with reality? As a business becomes more successful, there’s a tendency to create multiple silos for different functions—sales and marketing, IT, human resources, and so on—that introduce an unwieldy number of moving parts and complicated reporting systems.

The next thing you know, your company has become too large to adequately respond to industry changes—leaving you vulnerable to a leaner and more agile competitor. The key is reducing complexity wherever possible in order to maintain a critical response time that works for your particular industry. For example, for us simplifying lumber procurement, streamlining sawmill operations and quickening lumber offer times are just a few examples of possible focus areas for improved agility.

“In today’s global, increasingly digital organizations, complexity is a growing drag on productivity and workplace satisfaction,” says Ron Ashkenas, a contributor to Forbes. “Managers need to develop simplification as a core leadership capability and a critical component of the business strategy."

Encourage employees to question the status quo. A more expansive view of employee capabilities may be what’s needed to successfully challenge established ways of thinking and better prepare for the future.

In many organizations, employees view themselves as mere cogs in a vast wheel, with no incentive to contribute innovative ideas that could help grow the business. Arming employees with new skills and encouraging them to offer innovative solutions can strengthen an organization and keep strategies fresh and forward-focused.

Employees should be regarded as “investments, not expenses,” notes leadership consultant Glenn Llopis. Otherwise, “it will become more and more difficult for organizations to strengthen their business models and the leadership mentality required to reclaim sustainable growth.”

In other words, adapting effectively to an ever-changing business environment means embracing your employees’ perspectives and leveraging their front-line expertise to better prepare for the future.

Businesses will only prosper if they can look at the future objectively, remain flexible enough to respond to unforeseen events, and make the most of their hard-working employees. That’s the challenge all of us face, regardless of the products or services we provide.

What other suggestions would you have to challenge your organization?

Tony Cimorelli
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