Three Questions to Transform Your Business

Your ability to adapt and transform your business may be your greatest competitive strength.

A few weeks ago Jon Stewart interviewed General Stanley McChrystal on The Daily Show. During the interview General McChrystal made a profound statement,

“The future, when you look forward, is complex. Therefore, it is fundamentally impossible to predict. …

You’re not going to come up with a hundred year plan, a fifty year, or even a five year plan. You’re going to come up with general directions and frameworks, and you better learn everyday. Because that’s the world we’re in now.”

His statement hit me like a ton of bricks. If the US military with all its resources and might cannot predict five years into the future, how can we hope to as businesses?

But as General McChrystal says, “That’s the world we’re in now.” He goes on to say, “What we really got to do is approach things with an awful lot of humility that says, what we’re going to do is approach things with the reality that we’re going to have to adapt constantly and iterate.”

Change is not a choice. Change is our reality.

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Create a Culture of Change

Creating a culture of change was a common theme amongst the companies I profiled for my book. Again and again I heard stories of transformation.

Icebreaker, a manufacturer and retailer of merino wool outdoor clothing, has even gone so far as codifying their culture of change. They call it “shedding our skin.”

Jeremy Moon, founder of Icebreaker, says, “I’ve never defended the status quo. I feel anxious if we are not in a constant process of reinvention.”

A constant process of reinvention can be very disconcerting. As human beings we seek structure and routine, and we are naturally resistant to change. But we have to fight this natural tendency.

Companies that grow Sticky Brands not only embrace change, they relish it.

Three Questions to Drive Change

To shed the skin Icebreaker does a deep dive into their operations every three years and asks three very deliberate questions:

  1. Where are we today, and where do we need to move towards?
  2. What’s working, and what isn’t working?
  3. Who here is part of the team moving forward, and who has stopped growing and cannot keep up?

These are amazing questions. If you delve into them and really let them challenge your assumptions you can come up with some incredible insights — insights to lead change in your organization.

Efficiency Runs Counter to Change

One of the most counterintuitive lessons I took from General McChrystal is being too efficient can actually hold your company back.

“Organizations that get very happy with being efficient … now don’t work. And it’s disorienting people,” says General McChrystal. “The reality is because you can’t predict the future, I think we’re going to have to work on being adaptable and gear ourselves and our organizations that way.”

I often sum up this sentiment with the phrase, “What made you successful won’t make you successful.”

Holding onto past systems and strategies is not an answer. It may create a feeling of short term security, but that should be a warning sign that trouble is close by.

It’s the organizations that embrace change and adapt rapidly that are growing Sticky Brands.