The old Preacher said several centuries ago" To everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the Sun. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to breakdown and a time to build up; A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace"
The one who created the Earth said " While the Earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease". Times change, People change, Situations Change, Relationships change. The only thing that is constant is change. Thus change in inevitable and unavoidable. Some changes are predictable like some of the cyclical Natural changes outlined by the Preacher above-day & Night,winter & summer etc. There are other Natural occurring changes that may not be cyclical or not easily predictable like Earthquake, land slides, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and tonadoes, though advances in science and astrology have made some of these largely predictable in many societies today. The most dynamic changes today are man made. Political changes, economic changes, cultural and social changes are happening everyday across the globe and each interacting with the other accentuate or moderate the changes. Some of these are unpredictable.
In Nigeria recently, we have seen the interaction of the political and economic changes and the level of destabilization that citizens and organizations have been experiencing. The interaction between Tradition and modernization have created changes in our culture, and the increasing social liberalization has shaken our Religious and communal ethos. In Business today, in addition to the changes fostered by the domestic economic policies or lack of it, there are three other global change drivers that are relentlessly pushing the frontiers. Economic Liberalization, manifesting as Deregulation & Privatization; Globalization and Technology. The resurgence of Nationalism and Protectionism, being promoted in the UK & USA and some far-right movements in Europe is already creating new ripple of change tidal waves. But whatever may be the cause of the Change, Natural or man made, domestic or global, the critical thing is that individuals, organizations and institutions must learn to deal with and adapt to change for their survival and sustainability.
According to the well-known Philosopher Charles Darwin-" It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change"
The first step in adapting to change is to try and be aware of your situation. The second is to understand the change and the causation factors.Those who are unaware of the change often become the first victims. To be aware means that you must be conscious of your environment and seek to actively update yourself. Environmental scanning is imperative otherwise you may be consumed by a flood or run into an accident driving against the traffic. Those who pride themselves that they do not read newspapers or listen to news become sitting ducks for adverse effects of changes. It is dangerous to be passive when change is occurring. Some changes can be resisted but the wise person who probes his environment and follows trend will know when to stop opposing the change, then embraces it and finds ways to ride the tide. It is important for all to note that change- positive or adverse will never last for ever. Those who are committing suicide or indulging in anti-social behavior need to be reassured that no change is permanent. Every change will change including this 'change'.
The third step in adapting to change, especially from a business perspective is to build your skills and knowledge to help you stay above the curve. Every effort must be made to adapt your corporate culture in a change environment- how do we do our work?, how do we prepare for work in the changed environment? How do relate to our critical stakeholders at this time- customers, shareholders,employees, financiers, suppliers, regulators, community etc in a time of change and uncertainties? What core values do we subscribe to drive our work culture in a time of economic challenge? In using People to adapt to change the following key success factors need attention: Focus on Vision & Mission- keep pointing to the desired future, despite the short time changes; Promote team spirit and get employees to buy into and have ownership of the Corporate vision, including corporate equity. Ownership attracts patience, determination and extra-ordinary efforts because success will be shared ; Activate thinking minds in the organization, minds that are hospitable to new ideas and willing to try new things and new methods; Seek ways to keep organizational motivation high and remove all hindrances to free- flow of information.
Time to re-engineer Business Processes to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction in a more difficult operating environment- high inflation,low purchasing power. The key is to question all assumptions and take a holistic review of Organizational structure, Reporting systems, Business model, operating systems and strategy. Must provide answers to three questions: where is you business now?; where do you want to take it? What changes must be made to get there?
You have to embrace technology and use it as a tool to adapt to change. The progression should be from analogue to digital; from manual to automation; and from waste to efficiency.
Time to fully deploy on E-portals and drive e-commerce, using Technology to increase speed of production and speed of service delivery.
The focus must be to out perform competitors by creating better value propositions; optimizing all market opportunities, anticipating trends and riding the tide; intensive brand promotion- rising above the crowd; and doing all to enhance corporate reputation - align expectations & experience, bridge the gap between Perception & Reality; have a voice for your organization and blow your trumpet.
In conclusion, it is important that in dealing with and adapting to change, we must note the following: Preparation PRECEEDS Success; You must constantly anticipate and project changes in your Industry or Trade- avoid being caught unawares, rather be the first to notice; So you must constantly watch trends and understand the implications of every government or regulatory policy; You may have to leverage to gain strength through, strategic alliances, mergers & acquisitions etc; Learn to prepare for the worst but hope for the best- have plan B and possibly plan C. Finally have an Anchor. Because He that knows the end from the beginning said" when you pass through the waters, I will be with thee and through the rivers, they shall not over flow you; when you walk through the fire you shall not burned, neither shall flame kindle upon you"
Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR