Most of us recognize the difference between leading and managing change. While both are necessary to successfully operate in or implement change, leading change involves an element of anticipation. Anticipating change means leaders have enough foresight and information to know what is likely to happen, strategize, and guide the larger team to success, in preparation for the pending shifts.
All Signs Point To Change
Consider the case of digital vs. film photography. One of the largest brands in the photography world failed to read the digital writing on the wall and fell a decade behind the revolution, almost putting the company out of business. Leaders in the company were presented with evidence to suggest digital as the future of photography but resisted pivoting toward the change. Instead, they chose to double-down on efforts to maintain control of a dying film-based market.
Maintaining the status quo rarely results in a positive outcome. Anticipating and leading toward change does not mean we have to completely abandon a strategy or reinvent ourselves every few years. It does mean paying attention and using data to help us make decisions and take appropriate action. The world is constantly changing. The ability to get in front of change that is predicted to impact our industry will determine our level of success when the next change hits.
Follow The Clues
In the case of the film company, a new wave of technology was changing the global landscape. Some global trends start slow and eventually boom. It took 10 years for digital to completely push film into the shadows. For leaders, it is important to create a system for staying aware of the global trends impacting your industry, to avoid pains of regret down the road. Do you read journals and blogs that report and investigate industry trends? Do you have access to current industry studies? Do you follow experts in the field on social media and other outlets? Set a recurring calendar reminder to check in and read up on global trends for 30 minutes each week. Consider cross-industry resources, as well. A well-rounded understanding of global trends can help you develop a keen sensitivity to changes waiting around the corner.
For most leaders, keeping an eye on the competition is a given. Knowing when a competitor makes an unexpected move can clue us in on impending change. Changes made by the competition do not always require us to follow suite. They do, however, provide an opportunity to compare notes. Does the competitor’s move align to trends and evidence your team has been watching? Does market feedback support the competitor’s shift? If so, what could this mean for your organization? If you do not already have a strategy for staying in the know, start with simple tools like Google Alerts and LinkedIn to help you keep tabs on the competition.
Many of us have experienced the frustration of realizing we made a wrong decision, despite our gut telling us it was wrong from the start. No doubt, the film company leaders look back at those 10 years in awe of the missed opportunity. A leader’s intuition is a powerful force. It is strengthened through our experiences and knowledge gained through those experiences. Many leaders resist relying on gut instincts when making decisions about change, mostly because we know the value of being data driven. It is always important to consider the facts at hand, as they provide signs about what’s ahead and the current reality. However, coupling hard evidence with intuition can be most effective for staying ahead of change, especially when the change is complex, or decisions must be made quickly. Begin minding your gut, by pausing as you review the facts. What is your gut saying about the information available?
Put It All Together
Consider all the clues. What change is on the horizon and likely to impact your organization? In what ways is your current strategy aligned to what’s ahead? What gaps exist that, if filled, will set the organization up for success when the change hits? In light of the anticipated change, what do you intuitively know you and the team should do? Write it down. It might even be risky. If the evidence and your gut point toward the change, listen and prepare.