Inaction Costs Billions
Recently we’ve addressed topics such as “embracing the suck” and “adapting to the rapidly changing world” in uncertain times. The focus is learning through uncertainty and adapting accordingly.
Iconic, visionary companies are built to navigate uncertainty and adapt. Jim Collins emphasizes this in the book, Built to Last. He says, “One of the greatest misconceptions about Built to Last is that the book is about making things permanently fixed … static. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be ‘Built to Last,’ you must be ‘Built to Change.’”
The concept of change sounds simple. It implies to make something different than it was before or substituting something else in its place. Chipotle Mexican Grill is well known for their burritos. They changed to add a “bowl” to address customers wanting low carb or carb free options. We make substitutions all of the time. Kroger substitutes when an item on my grocery order is out of stock. The Toronto Raptors substituted players for Kawhi Leonard throughout the season during their journey to the 2019 NBA championship.
Herein lies the irony about change though. In a recent post, Jim Mahoney says, “Everyone is for change as long as they don’t have to do anything different!”
Companies and organizations are made up of humans, and it’s human nature to feel content with the status quo. People associate the status quo with either their current success or the way they learned how to do it. It creates a sense of entitlement. Besides, there is uncertainty in the outcome if they change the way it is done. This inaction dooms organizations and often leads to losses.
My children are ages 5 and 7. They play with toys. They are able to create their own adventure and explore with their own imagination. It is a great way for them to develop creativity and resourcefulness.
For decades, Toys R Us was the icon in the retail toy industry. Customer habits shifted as did the strategies and tactics of the competition. Children began spending more time playing video games. Big box retailers increased their selection of toys available. Competitors offered more convenient online sales. Toys R Us chose the status quo.
“Toys R Us has never been able to wrap their arms around the changes necessary, and this is the inevitable outcome,” says director of retail studies at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, Mark A. Cohen. In less than two years, Toy R Us went from over 800 stores down to 2. The magnitude of the cost of inaction is obvious.
In his review of The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, Jim Mahoney points out that catalysts reduce roadblocks. According to Merriam-Webster, catalysts are “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.” Organizations need people to serve as these agents.
Jim Collins introduces the concept of “First Who, Then What,” in his book, Good to Great. He suggests that if people join your team because of “who” is on it, then the organization is more likely to succeed when it needs to change direction. The Covid-19 pandemic forced most organizations to change direction with products, service delivery, tactics, and strategy in some fashion.
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerates the pressures to immediate and larger threats than those “Toys R Us” faced for more than a decade. You have to adapt and change now or face the costs of inaction.
You’ll need people on your team to serve as change agents. Jonah Berger, author of The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, characterizes these catalysts as matchmakers. Here are four questions to help you begin leading change:
- What is the change your organization needs?
- What is the cost of inaction, the status quo?
- What are the barriers in the way of this change?
- What approach do you need to address the barriers and make change easier for the people in your organization?