A year ago – Alice, one of our consultants here at Adaptis took up rock climbing as referenced in her blog post “Black Box Thinking in Action”. Alice talked about the resilience and dedication needed to embrace failure, and not always getting the desired result first time. This ability to react quickly and decisively to challenges, difficulties and failure is a trait found in many influential people around us. This sentiment really resonated with me.
I thought about my recent career history, and prior to working full time with Adaptis I was fortunate enough to work with a business that had been leading their area of the market, a business that had an inclusive and supportive culture, and who had consistently good engagement scores from both customers and colleagues alike. This organisation was enjoying a sustained period of growth and whilst day to day running of the organisation was not without its challenges, overall the spirit was very positive.
This business then went through a change in ownership. The industry and market they were in began to experience challenges as a result of Brexit. New technology was implemented internally and brought about some unforeseen consequences leading to challenges in maintaining the existing high levels of service. This brought about new pressures. The new owners had set more ambitious commercial targets than we were previously used to, and in light of market change and service challenges the senior leaders were forced to be creative to find new ways to succeed. For those senior leaders, given the increased pressure from all sides, there was a tangible need to demonstrate effectiveness in the very immediate future.
What followed was a period of intense collaboration and idea-sharing. Nothing was off the table. With the new future profit-targets laid out all aspects of the business were suddenly open for review. It would have been very easy for this to be seen as a pain-point, a hurdle, or a battle. It was instead met optimism and creativity. A bucket list was created of things we wanted to take a shot at, whilst we still had the time to do so. This meant creating new products and finding new ways to take those products to market. It meant reviewing procurement practices and identifying ways to buy better using the full scale of the organisation. And it meant finding ways to drive engagement and purpose within the business to pull together and restore the previous success of the customer service teams.
I experienced one of the most interesting, exciting and fulfilling years of my professional life to date as part of my involvement with this period of change. The new ideas, strategies and methodologies were all things which could have been implemented by the business previously – but until that period of intense pressure and change had occurred, the drive simply wasn’t there to implement them.
It dawned on me that companies, like individuals, can reach a plateau of comfort. It is not until we are presented with a finite amount of time that we feel the urge to embrace change and dare to implement new and bold ideas. After all, why would you if things are pottering along just fine?
Business is changing – and more and more we are being reminded that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is therefore the responsibility of both senior leaders, and those who follow them, to ensure we do not fall into this trap of stagnation. There is no requirement for a business to be circling the drain to start considering what should be in their bucket list. I witnessed sessions where the stakeholders from across the business came together to ask “If we were forced to achieve X, how would we go about it?” and those same stakeholders left with a renewed motivation to go out and accomplish what had been discussed.
What would be in your business’ bucket list? It can hold all of those mad ideas that you’ve wanted to try but never got around to. A new product, or marketing approach or perhaps reviewing your service practices and how you listen to and interact with your customers. Use creating a bucket list as a chance to uncover the strengths, passions and ideas of your team, then set yourself a timeframe for exploring each of these in greater depth.
Remember, the bucket list works best when you can fail quickly, keep your approach agile and collaborate with those who might be able to help turn those mad ideas into an innovative (and profitable) reality.