Warning sign

You know the saying “Hindsight is a wonderful thing”? Well, of course it is. But it shouldn’t become a get out clause because we’ve ignored the signs that things need to change. We can all get caught up in doing what needs to be done, rather than thinking and evaluating whether we are doing the right thing.

Taking time to take stock of our organisations and the future direction that we’re heading towards is invaluable. This isn’t just when we need to complete the mammoth task of a five-year strategy. This is a continuous focus that assesses current performance and constantly adjusts our market direction so we’re kept on the right track. Perhaps then we can start to take control of our future, rather than letting circumstances dictate it to us.

Here are a few warning signs when your organisation needs to change.

New competition in the market

Innovation is crucial for any business just as it is to keep ahead, or at least on par with, competition. A reduction in new business or an increase in the failure rates of bids or tenders are just some of the signs that perhaps your product, offering or service isn’t quite as good as it could be.

Of course, price can be a significant factor. If your prices are higher then you need to be really clear about what the added value is. Are your customers seeing this? Could you be clearer in your proposition? Do you need to refine your offer? Are people prepared to pay what you’re asking?

Increase in complaints from customers

What are your customers really saying and thinking? Companies that see ‘complaints as a gift’ will be in a stronger position. Customers can give you really valuable feedback. They can be very honest. It can be painful but it is worthwhile.

However, just collecting complaints and letting them go dusty in a drawer will help no one, and certainly not your business. Put plans in place to redress any signs of customer dissatisfaction quickly. Customer satisfaction is one of the key signs of successful organisations.

Low employee morale / disengagement

Employee engagement is a two-way street. It’s about increasing the discretionary effort of your staff and part of this is listening to them. They will know when things need to change. They’ll be aware of market pressures. They’re at the sharp end.

If your organisation does not have a culture of listening and engaging with your people, employees will become demoralised, they’ll leave you and you’ll be left behind in a highly competitive market.

Low productivity

The UK already has one of the lowest rates of productivity in the G7, with other countries on average 17% more productive than the UK. If your company is particularly unproductive, it could be time to optimise your procedures. This could include process re-engineering, lean techniques, new technology or changing the way of working, including culture change.

Before any new innovation, market opportunity or creative project is instigated, you will need to have high levels of productivity and engagement. Expanding business opportunities often require employees to go above and beyond their current role. Without this foundation these type of change projects will be set up to fail.

Of course, there will often be unforeseen circumstances or opportunities that present themselves that will require the organisation to adapt very quickly in order to survive and thrive. Leaders who proactively listen and engage with their employees, the market and stakeholders will be in a far stronger position to accept and embrace change continuously.

By Gary Wyles, Managing Director, Festo Training & Consulting