What do you value most?

What do you value most?

How you answer this question can make or break your organization’s ability to adapt to change in these very difficult times.

“What business are you in?”

“Has your business changed with the economic climate?”

“Are you adapting to change? Or are you unsure of your next step(s)?”

Adapting to change, i.e.—refining your corporate culture and aligning it with today’s economic imperatives—is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever undertake. Yet it could possibly be the difference between weathering the downturn—or not; or between surviving and thriving.

Most companies have difficulties dealing with change because a company’s culture forms over a period of many years. Typically, the culture is defined by default, unintentionally, reflecting the leader’s management style. It is then reinforced as new people are hired, in part, because they fit the prevailing culture.

Over time everyone gets comfortable and resists change.

For your company to consider cultural change, something significant must occur. Perhaps you lose a key client (or several key clients), you restructure and have layoffs, or face bankruptcy.

You don’t have to wait for a crisis

By definition, a crisis would never occur if executives and managers were proactive about solving problems. Most crises can be avoided if you stay in tune with the changing environment.

In good times when you’re experiencing double digit growth, everything is easy. What happens when the pipeline of new business shrinks to almost nothing?

In tough times, we have an obligation to be proactive, to look at things we weren’t paying attention to before. If you haven’t done so recently, you should gather your management team, and ask the following questions:

1. Are your prevailing values out of sync with your current needs?

An honest appraisal of the values on display in your company will help you determine where you are and what’s required to meet your current needs.

2. Have you articulated the values and objectives your company requires now?

You’ve told everyone the company must now do more with less. But is it OK for managers and executives to challenge assumptions openly? Or do you put a premium on “being agreeable”? Will your company accept risk-taking if there is the promise of great reward? Or are you in survival mode and closed off to new ideas? Are you listening to your line managers and your customers for ideas that could help your company expand revenues, cut costs, or otherwise contribute to the bottom line? Henry Ford said: “We need all the brains we can get, and all the brains we can borrow.”

3. Do you seek out opportunities to celebrate the values that make your company a winner?

Are you recognizing and rewarding the people who are achieving greater results with fewer resources? How about those who bring in new accounts or increase business when everyone else is cutting back?

If you embrace and articulate values that are in tune with the economic climate, you’ll increase your organization’s capacity to adapt. You’ll be in a much better place for the uncertainty ahead.

The question is: “Do you want to be in control of, and define, your company’s values? Or do want to leave it to happenstance, and instead let them define you?”

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