Nimble Organizations Embrace and Adapt to Change

The National Football League recently held its annual rookie draft in Philadelphia. It was a life-changing opportunity for many young men. Only a handful of those selected in the draft will go on to have lengthy and successful NFL careers. Before the draft, teams looked at all the measurable factors of the potential draft picks, including height, weight, and speed. However, they also looked for intangibles, such as attitude, ability to respond to stressful situations, and work ethic.

When we think about successful leaders and organizations, there are key success factors that are identifiable and can help us predict business performance. There are also intangible factors that contribute to success and aren’t easily measured or apparent at a surface level. Responding to change falls into that second category. How we deal with and manage change is a key success factor in organizational performance. Nimble organizations and leaders that can pivot and adapt to change will have a positive impact and position themselves for success.

Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations face significant changes related to the economy, technology, customer/stakeholder expectations, and an evolving workforce. The ability to fulfill the missions of our organizations and to be financially sustainable is becoming more complicated. As organizations confront these challenges, it is important to remain nimble and responsive.

The following set of best practices are focused on how organizations and their leaders can adapt to change and remain nimble in a changing environment:

  • Practice continuous improvement
    • Teach, learn, and model key behaviors
    • Create positive individual and organizational habits
  • Manage your response to change
    • Understand your paradigms and blind spots
    • Recognize that to be nimble you must have engaged leaders and staff
  • Stay true to your vision and values
    • Do not sacrifice who you are to become someone or something else
    • Strive for positive growth

The following questions can help leaders focus on continuous improvement:

  • What are your key success factors and metrics?

  • What organizational and personal habits do you need to add or eliminate?

  • With whom should you connect or build stronger relationships?

We all recognize that change is inevitable. But you can be a game changer by focusing on positive improvements, acknowledging and addressing barriers and challenges, facilitating continuous learning and growth throughout the organization, and paying attention to coworkers, family, friends, and your community.

Paying attention to your customers, community, and staff through the development of open and systematic communications channels will help you to adapt and grow during times of change. The ability to respond to change in a systematic and timely manner is characteristic of successful and sustainable organizations and their leaders.

Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

John Park, Ph.D., Baker Tilly

John, a director with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, focuses on leadership development, emotional intelligence, and strategic planning.


Myanmar and the whirlwind of change

If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less…

— Unknown American politician

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure to visit Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). I served as a IMG_0134member of an American delegation, and we met with a group of senior retired Myanmar military officers and government officials. Our discussions focused on Myanmar’s ongoing transition from more than fifty years of military rule to democracy and the implications for U.S.-Myanmar relations.

I came away from this visit with several overarching impressions. First, Myanmar is a beautiful country and its people are some of the most delightful and hospitable that I have met in all my travels. Second, due in part to its isolation from the international community the nation suffers from a host of problems. These include poverty, several distinct ethnic insurgencies in various parts of the country, human trafficking, illegal gun smuggling, counterfeiting, illicit narcotic production, unlawful fishing, and crime syndicates robbing the country of both precious metals and timber. Finally, it became clear that the elections planned for November of this year were critical if Myanmar wanted to continue on its democratic journey or revert back to military rule.

There was also no question that Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was going to be a key figure in this transition and the elections. She had been imprisoned for many years by the military junta and is widely considered the most popular person in the country. Most experts predicted that her National League for Democracy (NLD) would win in the November 8 elections, but most were very surprised by the landslide victory. The NLD won two-thirds of the seats they needed to control both houses of parliament and choose the next president. The military-backed party won only 40 seats.

In the days and weeks ahead the political developments in this lovely country of over fifty million people will be interesting to follow, and Aung San Suu Kyi has already been outspoken that she will lead in its change. But this also serves as a clear illustration for any leader of key techniques for the change process. He or she must:

  • Be fully involved in the change process from the onset. This cannot be delegated.
  • Decide upon, buy-in, and formalize a vision for the organization.
  • Communicate the vision. Aung San Suu Kyi must address the cultural concerns that have divided the country along ethnic lines, and any leader must also carefully consider issues of organizational culture that must be addressed during the change process.
  • Establish a sense of urgency and tie this to a credible reality and achievable goals that demonstrate progress.
  • Identify change agents and form coalitions with key stakeholders.
  • Select, educate, delegate, and empower others to effect change.
  • Seek short-term successes in order to gain momentum.
  • Finally, institutionalize new approaches. The leader must employ a “systems perspective” to insure planning is comprehensive.

Change for Myanmar will be difficult and like any organization there will be setbacks along the way. Furthermore, like any leader confronted by change, Aung San Suu Kyi’s determination and resilience will be sorely tested. But the people of Myanmar clearly want it to work. The world is watching and hoping that this process will result in a more democratic and prosperous Myanmar. I hope to go back in late spring 2016 and look forward to seeing how the country’s continues to develop.

Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.