Business change is a topic that affects all of us. The recent months have been testament to that. The problem with business change is that there is a big difference between ‘having to’ and ‘wanting to’. This challenge is the focus of this article.

The difference between urgency and importance

We all know that there is a clear distinction between urgent actions and important ones. Crises fit into the category of urgent. Implementing change in your business often falls into the category of urgent. The irony here, as I am sure you know, is that failure to act on important tasks often leads to the crises and hence urgency.

Business change requires us to focus on important tasks and not leave them at the mercy of the urgent things in our work lives.

The approach you take (serious or not) makes all the difference to your rate of change

Do external deadlines drive the right behaviours?

From my observations external deadlines tend to be the most effective for the majority of people. There is often a consequence for not achieving an external deadline; they are often set by our customers (or potential customers). If you don’t deliver on time, for example, the customer can go elsewhere. If you don’t submit your proposal on time, another example, the client can select someone else for the provision of services.

When it comes to business change, external deadlines can be useful to provide focus. The trouble with only using this approach is that you no longer set the pace of the change. If the pace is too quick then you may find yourself rushing and not determining an optimum improvement. The rate of change is out of your control.

Internal deadlines often fall over…

Logically, setting internal deadlines should therefore be a better way to achieve the kind of business change that you are looking for. Logically.

Unfortunately, what I see all too often is that the internal deadlines get ignored (because they ‘aren’t real’) and the projects don’t happen. Business change does not become a reality until it becomes a crisis in these cases.

Ideally you would respond to both approaches in a controlled manner.

Let’s try Kaizen to get things moving

So, if making business changes is so difficult for the average organisation, is there a method you can use to get better and more reliable results?

Kaizen is a great method for making business change a reality. If you are unfamiliar with Kaizen it is an approach that helps you to become proactive with change so that it becomes a proactive affair. In essence, this approach helps individuals to avoid the ‘fight or flight’ response in the brain and build confidence with making change happen by taking initial tiny steps.

It really is an amazing process to watch unfold and the people that embrace it aren’t the same afterwards (in a good way). Using this approach can help you to get your business change projects off the ground without the need for external deadlines or waiting for a crisis to rear its head.

Capture your concerns

Raising concerns about the performance of your business a quick way to generate some opportunities for your business change projects list. The idea is really simple – say what doesn’t work properly in your business and then tackle the list.

If you want to take this approach a step further you can employ the Concern – Cause – Countermeasure approach. The use of root cause problem solving, to understand the concern properly, can turbo charge the effectiveness of the countermeasure action. Applying Kaizen to this countermeasure is how you can safely deploy the improvement in a controlled manner.

Visibility and routine

Keeping the concerns, the improvement projects and action plans all visible are key to maintaining progress. Having a routine to review the progress, kick away obstacles and guide your business change to completion is another proactive approach.

There is a tendency to save files on our computers and keep our walls neat and tidy. There is also a reality that seeing the action plan on a daily basis and talking about it at least weekly with your team mates will give you a good chance of seeing it become a reality.

How serious are you?

Are you acting and behaving like someone that is serious about making business change happen?

If you aren’t seeing the rate of change you want in your business then use this article as a checklist and decide if you need to get more serious about your improvement projects. If you want some additional resources to help you with your change projects then check out these links:

All the best with your changes.


Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance, ERP system performance and deploy Kaizen / Lean production methods. Giles is also the author of 'What Does Good Look Like?'.