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Entrepreneurs: train your change muscle

Recent research from PWC Global Operations shows that 61% of all business leaders see change as the greatest challenge for their business.

We live in a time where businesses can grow extremely fast in a very short time frame. Some Internet companies grew from a start-up into a multi-billion Euro company in just a few years. 20 years ago, this was unimaginable.

In hindsight, we’ve seen companies that couldn’t keep up with changing times. Polaroid, for example, completely missed the introduction of digital photography. Think about Encyclopaedia Britannica, who was surpassed by Wikipedia on the Internet. More recently we saw Nokia struggling after the introduction of Apple’s iPhone. The average lifetime of companies is, according to the World Economic Forum, currently 40 to 50 years… And it’s decreasing. Who’s next?

When you run an existing business with a proven and profitable business model, you need to continue to change continuously. Perhaps your biggest challenge is to begin to change when everything still seems to be going well. And if you initiate change: how hard is it to persist when there are setbacks along the way? Not scratching the surface and making some cosmetic changes to the company. But to really internalize meaningful changes that will deeply impact your existing revenue model.

There are roughly three ways to guide the process of change. Putting different teams together who initiate change.
  1. Top down teams

  2. Bottom-up teams

  3. Opportunity Teams (SWAT teams)
A top-down, or central team, is particularly appropriate when the entire organization will be impacted. When changes will influence the different business units of a company. This way of working is also appropriate when silo behaviour in the company is a challenge.
A bottom-up team, or a federation team, is particularly appropriate when changes are more gradual…more evolution than revolution. Generally speaking, this approach can be used as the changes to the business are less complex.
Finally, there is the SWAT team. These teams can be put together quickly. They fly in, do their job, and then go back to their daily work. These teams are suitable to initiate smaller changes. The disadvantage here is that it can be difficult to give the right priority when the SWAT work competes with someone’s daily job.

Existing businesses must find ways to change. They must, metaphorically speaking, train their muscles to learn to change. Depending on the impact of the change, they need to decide upfront what kind of team they are going to put in.

When people are added from the internal organization, pay special attention to the following:
  1. Select only your very best people, your high performers, people with potential. Perhaps people who have a consulting background in their work experience.

  2. For your selection: look at performance appraisals from the last three years.

  3. Give people a return guarantee to their regular job when the project is completed so they can continue their existing career in the organization.

Customers have much more choice and their preferences are changing at a pace like we have not seen before in history. Change is a must in this market.

Hope this inspires.

Paul Donkers

Want to read more about change? One of our favourite books written is the book by Clayton M. Christensen called The innovators dilemma. You can find a short review of this book in our resource hub.


Two previous columns we wrote about change:

Inertia, a sniper for corporate life by Herman van Herterijck

The fourth industrial revolution by Paul Donkers


Furthermore, we have more than 100 columns, video’s & articles available in our completely free library. We truly do hope that you find something inspirational for your journey.

By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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