Change experiments

BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - April 18, 2021 - 12:00am

An old tale about a traditional brewery installing a new canning line to enable its beer products to enter the supermarket sector.

Local dignitaries and past employees were invited to witness the new canning line’s first run, followed by a buffet.

In a quiet corner stood three men discussing logistics – trucks, transport, and distribution. The present distribution manager and the other two were past holders of the post, having retired many years ago. The three men represented three generations of company distribution management spanning over 60 years.

The present manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful. Company policy requires long deliveries be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries mid-week. He says, “Heaven knows what we’ll do with these new cans and the tight demands of the supermarkets.” The other two men nodded in agreement.

“It was the same in my day,” sympathized the present manager’s predecessor. “It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdays couldn’t be used for little local runs because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday…”

The third man nodded and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy’s roots many years ago when he would have been a junior in the dispatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.

“I think I remember now,” said the oldest man among the three, “It was the horses... During the Second World War, fuel rationing was introduced. So we went back to using the horses. On Mondays, the horses were well-rested after the weekend – hence the long deliveries. By Friday, the horses were so tired they could only handle the short local drops,” ... Soon after the opening of the new canning line, the company changed its delivery policy.

This is a great story that makes us wonder: are there still old and ancient traditional ways we practice as we do business today? Are we so entrenched with how we do business that we never even see the need to update or even eradicate practices in favor of newer ones that can radically reduce costs and increase efficiencies? It has been said that the six most expensive words in business are: “We’ve always done it that way!”

Change is more important than ever because of the pandemic. Astute businesses take advantage of the situation to implement change because they know that the world will no longer be the same once the economy recovers. There will be changes in consumer behavior, there will be changes in their needs and demands, and there will be fewer players, especially those who refuse to change. While most people say that people refuse to change because they have to leave their comfort zone, there are deeper reasons behind the resistance.

Many leaders resist change not necessarily because of their fear of change, but because they’re afraid that the change experiment will backfire. And while the platitudes of “innovation and creativity” are part of their company’s core value statements, the truth is – those who fail to meet expected results can be punished and chastised for the failure. I wonder if there will be resistance if company culture rewards the effort to experiment and celebrate “failures” because they have discovered another lesson on how not to fail in the future?

The pandemic has revealed many things. As I do training needs analyses with clients who have invited me to do webinars either for their people or for their valued customers (dealers and distributors), I look at how thriving companies do well. I have had clients registering double-digit growth because of the changes that were forced upon them by the current situation. I have had clients who tell me how they were able to tap into markets they had difficulty reaching before, merely because of the changes they implemented in their marketing and operations.

Not all change experiments worked, but the successful companies never expressed regret; instead, they expressed gratitude because of the lessons learned and the opportunities that opened for them to exploit.

Merriam Webster says: “To experiment means to try out a new procedure carried out under controlled conditions to discover an unknown effect or law.” An experiment is not the same as a guarantee. So why the punishment? What if encouragement is offered or even rewarded for the courage to try new things and present new ideas? Who knows? Perhaps this would lead your company to “discover an unknown” like growth, efficiency, and profitability? Pretty good incentives for change, wouldn’t you say?



(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class Online will run on May 18 and 19. Develop leadership skills that translate into personal, career, and business growth in the current reality and the post-COVID world. For inquiries and reservations, connect with April at +63928-559-1798 and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)

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