If a company needs to make a strategic decision, it must first look at the relevant data. It used to be that companies based their strategies on limited data sets— usually collected through interviews and surveys. But today, the power of the Internet and cloud technology has given rise to “Big Data”, an entire industry focused on analyzing sets of data that are simply too large or complex for traditional software. Data will continue to be an invaluable resource in the years to come.
But data also impacts small and medium-sized businesses, from marketing strategies to consumer personalization. This new era of data calls for an updated perception and understanding of data. Here’s why data science is so important to businesses today.
Importance of Data Science
To understand the value of data science, we first have to understand its definition. So what exactly is data science anyway?
According to IBM, one of the leading companies in big data and artificial intelligence, data science is defined as, “a multidisciplinary approach to extracting actionable insights from the large and ever-increasing volumes of data collected and created by today’s organizations.” Put more simply, data science combines the power of math, science, technology, and storytelling to yield deeper business insights.
Data science is a broad topic and can cover a large range of topics. For example, data science statistics is concerned with the mathematics of data, from concepts like averages and medians to more complex ideas such as R, a statistical programming language.
On the other hand, data mining centers around extracting data from relevant sources and finding patterns that others may not notice (such as correlations or causations). Predictive analytics is the side that focuses on taking the mined data, analyzing the historical trends, and projecting or predicting future results. Other aspects of data science focus on the presentation of the data, or on the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Data scientists conduct data science experiments to test their theories, from better understanding the target market, to providing direction to a company. These experiments are useful in making sense out of large sets of numbers and statistics and can inform a company’s overall strategic decision making.
Why Companies Use Data Science
1. To create more relevant products and services. Data scientists can learn a lot from purchase behavior. Information such as units purchased, product impressions, or average usage time can all reveal clues as to which offerings a company should focus on the most. It may also suggest new products, services, or verticals to explore.
2. To acquire more customers. Data can also reveal information about customers themselves. Demographic data covers population information, things like education, age, income and occupation. Psychographic data can go deeper, revealing the various aspirations, sentiments, and pain points of customers. All of this can be used to better target ideal audiences, or reach out to potential customers.
3. To innovate. Autopilot cars were a science fiction dream until Tesla came along. Rather than solely rely on humans to build the autopilot system, Tesla has collected over 1.3 billion miles of data from its vehicles to improve its mapping data. True innovation can be supported by large data sets.
4. To recruit and hire more highly qualified employees. While humans will always be necessary for determining a candidate’s fit for a role, big data is increasingly shaping how applicants are screened. Everything from resume analysis to social data mining can be conducted before they even step in for an interview, helping save time and eliminate the risk for the company.
5. To discover marketing trends. These days organizations must stay a step ahead of their competitors in marketing, and one way to do so is by catching a trend before it loses steam. For example, sentiment analysis is a new form of social media monitoring, one that allows marketers to better understand how audiences feel about a particular topic. Marketers can use this data to find new trends before they become viral, or avoid negative subjects in their marketing.
To develop personalized experiences. Modern marketing has to adapt to a customer’s unique traits and experiences— a customer in Chicago, Illinois will respond differently to an ad than a person from Stone Ridge, Virginia. Data scientists can collect data that will allow marketers to better understand and tailor experiences to their customers.
Data Science vs. Machine Learning vs. Data Analytics
Data science is often used interchangeably with other terms, notably machine learning and data analytics. While there is overlap in the subject matter, the three subjects are markedly different concepts.
Machine Learning is defined as the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. Machine learning can be used in data mining software that helps analyze large sets of data, or in learning user preferences, as is the case with Netflix’s recommendation system (among many other media companies).
Data Analytics, on the other hand, refers to the analysis of raw data to find trends and answer questions. Data analytics can be further divided into subcategories, including descriptive analytics (what happened based on the data), predictive analytics (what might happen based on the data), and prescriptive analytics (what should be done).
Data science plays a part in both machine learning and analytics, but each concept pertains to a specific aspect of data science. For machine learning, it’s about algorithms that learn over time. For analytics, it’s about understanding the data at hand to find answers. The distinction between the three may be subtle, but it does illustrate the broadness of the data science field.
Data Science Trends
Reinforcement Learning. A burgeoning field of machine learning, reinforcement learning involves intelligent agents that are able to take the optimum decisions and actions to receive the ideal reward within a given environment. Facebook AI Research is building its own toolkit, ReAgent, which is a decision-making AI capable of receiving feedback. ReAgent is currently used for personalizing billions of decisions at Facebook, from user notifications to robotics research.
Deep Learning. Another aspect of machine learning, deep learning centers around computers learning by example based on labeled data and complex neural networks. In recent years, deep learning has become increasingly accurate, used in driverless cars and image recognition systems.
Natural Language Processing. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the manipulation of natural language (the way humans communicate) by computers. This can range from text-based communication, such as search results and email filters, to speech-based communications, like language translations or voicemail transcription. Already we are seeing the rise of voice assistant use through our phones and our televisions.
Explainable Machine Learning (XAI). The results of artificial intelligence can be difficult to interpret by humans, and that’s where XAI comes in. These are models that essentially act as black boxes, and make the data more easily understandable by data scientists or even the average layperson. These models will become crucial in the ongoing development of data science.
Computer Vision. Computers don’t comprehend imagery or videos, at least not the way humans do. While it may be able to read certain labels, like “cat” or “guitar”, it has trouble understanding more nuanced symbols, like emotion or abstraction. Deep learning is bringing more complexity to computer vision, allowing major AI to detect objects for robots, fashion ecommerce, patent search, and other common applications.
Multi-agent systems. Most of the research in AI has involved a single intelligent agent, until recently. Multi-agent systems have allowed two or more agents to work together, solving problems previously thought impossible to humans. With more agents in the system, there is less chance for a bottleneck or critical failure and more efficient means of data processing and collection.
The world of data science continues to be an inspiring and exciting glimpse into our future. Problems previously thought impossible, ideas previously viewed as fiction, have been given new life through the lens of data and technology. Thankfully, data science isn’t reserved for big AI companies or major corporations— small and medium-sized businesses can stand to benefit from these advancements as well. It only takes a little curiosity and research to start applying data science to one’s business strategy.
Leading a successful business means managing resources beyond money or property. In fact, arguably the most important asset to running a business is the people that keep it running— from your executive leadership to the customer support team.
This is what many refer to as human capital or human resources, although some may contend that these terms are outdated and commodify the value that people bring. Employees aren’t expenses, they’re assets that bring value to the company.
In today’s post, we will cover just how important human capital is, and the many ways you can improve or enhance your company’s human capital.
The top companies today are realizing the value of strong, collaborative company cultures. In a study by Randstad USA, 38% of workers want to leave their jobs due to toxic work culture, and 58% have left or are considering leaving because of negative office politics. Millennials and Gen Z workers are increasingly seeking out companies with positive company cultures. The global workforce is shifting towards working for companies that prioritize employee wellness over high pay.
But the effects of company culture go beyond making employees happy. Research from Deloitte shows that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe distinct culture as important to the business’s success. For further proof, just take a quick look at Great Place to Work’s World Best Workplaces 2020. Each employer demonstrates that culture and productivity go hand in hand, with the best companies investing millions of dollars in engaging employees through strong mission statements and values.
If you seek to make a workplace that values growth, wellness, and collaboration, it has to start with the company culture. Which values are most important to your company? What is the company doing to ensure these values are upheld? How does it practice these values daily? The answer to these questions will only come through deep introspection and conversations with other team members.
Employee Engagement and Satisfaction
Keep your employees happy and engaged, and they’ll reward you with their tenacity. This is backed up by a study conducted by Gallup, which found that highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability. Engaged employees tend to be more present, make fewer mistakes, and accomplish work more efficiently compared to their counterparts struggling to find meaning in their work.
Speaking of those counterparts, employees that are not engaged are also more likely to leave. The same study found that highly engaged business units resulted in a 24% less turnover and a 41% reduction in absenteeism. Since the employees’ needs and wants are being met, they do not feel the need to search for it through other companies or job opportunities. In turn, this can also drive down numerous turnover expenses, such as hiring and training new employees.
While the elite companies make a habit of creating workspaces with arcades or caterers, it doesn’t take much to get started in engaging employees. Focusing on a clean environment can be one starting point. Reducing light and noise pollution can do wonders for a more productive mindset, as will significant investment in equipment and software.
Each employee must have the necessary skills and experience to perform their work at a reasonably efficient level. For product managers, that may require learning about the various stages of their product development pipeline. For a programmer, that might mean learning multiple programming languages or using different software applications.
Identify the ideal candidates for a position straight from the hiring and recruitment process. Rather than focusing on applicants with a high GPA or several degrees, focus on their skills and experience. What real-life work experience have they been exposed to? What technical skills have they learned, and how? These questions will yield stronger candidates for the position and will avoid the necessity of additional training.
Learning strategy and design consultant Julie Dirksen once said, “Learning experiences are like journeys. The journey starts where the learning is now and ends where the learner is more successful. The end of the journey isn’t knowing more, it’s doing more.”
Companies must empower human resources management to train and develop employee skills. Some of these skills must be taught, such as the assembly of a car or the construction of a house. But other skills can only be learned through experience, like the responsibilities of leadership, or the elements of teamwork.
Mentor programs, workshops, paid training programs are just a few examples of skills development initiatives. Better training leads to greater employee efficiency and reduced mistakes in the pipeline. For the writers and designers in a company, training can help breed and inspire creativity.
Consider how Pixar, the animation studio behind Toy Story and The Incredibles, developed its own interactive training program, Pixar University. Each week, there are 14 social and interactive classes that anyone can take, from fine arts to improvisation, or as former Dean Randy Nelson puts it, “whatever it is that helps all of the people at Pixar understand each other better and communicate better.” Employees are even encouraged to skip work to take one of these classes.
While it is important to remember people as assets, it’s even more important to remember them as human beings— with their own daily schedules, families, responsibilities, pain points, and desires. Learning and understanding these qualities can help companies better serve their workforce, and in turn, build a more positive reality around their visions.
Out of the countless skills that a leader must have, one of the most important is the ability to inspire those around them. Inspiring others is not about ordering people around or delivering great speeches. Inspiration is about motivating others to be the best version of themselves. Somewhere along the way, leaders forget this important distinction.
The goal of this post is to provide an idea of what makes a leader inspiring and the benefits of this in the workplace.
Tips to Inspire Leadership
True inspiration starts with the people: the individuals responsible for making business possible. Build a culture of trust and ownership to train the next generation of leaders. As your team grows, you will find that newer team members will adopt those practices of serving others and taking accountability when necessary. A team of leaders can be more powerful than a single leader telling everyone what to do.
Acknowledge the efforts of your team. Employee recognition is crucial to a team’s morale and success. For small tasks, such as a quick turnaround on a task or help on a minor issue, a genuine compliment can go a long way. For bigger projects and wins, take the time to share that person’s success with the whole team. It will not only instill a sense of pride in the team member but encourage others around them to give their best.
Beyond recognition, make sure to let your team know that you value and respect their work. In return, your team members will view you in high regard. Show respect by actively listening to their ideas. Provide them with quality tools and resources as well to enhance their work life. Lastly, be supportive of your employees during their shortcomings and be constructive with criticism.
Benefits of Inspiring Others / Employees
Inspiring employees allows them to find a purpose at work, beyond the need for money. A group of researchers conducted a study and found that employee engagement is among the most important factors in the overall success of a company. As you continue to inspire and motivate employees, you will naturally find their engagement improves, resulting in greater productivity and morale. Organizations with high employee engagement have also been found to reduce employee turnover rates.
Inspiring others is a uniquely creative pursuit. When you inspire someone, you are subconsciously asking them to think about work and life outside of their usual perspective. This pushes them to take greater risks and try new ideas. It’s not uncommon for big companies to bring in motivational speakers or thought leaders to hold seminars— their words of wisdom could eventually lead to an employee of the company changing their way of thinking completely.
Ultimately, inspiring others can be a great source of happiness. In a report by the American Psychological Association, it is estimated that more than $500 billion is lost every year due to workplace stress. By inspiring team members to perform exceptionally or think unconventionally, they are able to break free from the usual limits and confines of work. In the long run, this can feel liberating and contribute to significantly reduced stress and pressure.
Characteristics of Inspirational Leadership
Trust is the foundation for any inspirational leader. Without trust, employees will lack the commitment to even the most simple tasks and will hesitate to step up when it matters most. Leaders build trust through their actions and words— showing respect for humanity and dignity in every employee, following through on his promises, and taking ownership for any team failures.
Leaders must also master the art of active listening. Listening to your employees allows you to create more personal connections and identify more pressing issues. You’ll be able to learn any struggles they are experiencing and potentially even solutions to help address them. Engaging in conversation with your employees, especially new hires, will help them feel included and valued within the team.
Inspirational leaders would place importance on each employee’s personal development. A positive leader will create opportunities for employees to shine. Trust your employees to do an exemplary job and be grateful for their work. By creating opportunities, employees are given a chance to prove their skills. They’ll be able to gauge their ability in a practical setting.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there on what makes a great leader. It’s easy to be influenced by what we see portrayed in the media as to what makes a great leader. Leaders are often viewed as hyper-intelligent, charismatic individuals who always make the right decision. That’s not always the case. Here are some myths about leadership:
– Leaders are born, not made – The qualities of what makes a great leader are not always inherent. Leadership is a skill, and like any other skill, can be learned over time. Oftentimes, exceptional leaders are a result of an existing problem. They take it upon themselves to find a solution.
– Knows Everything – You don’t have to know everything to become a great leader. In fact, leaders rely on trusted experts to provide information to help them make sound decisions.
– In it for the money – Ironically, a leader who is in it for the money tends to have a skewed mindset when it comes to decision making. Someone who prioritizes money above all else will stumble when the going gets tough. Greedy leaders end up failing to create something meaningful.
– “Always On” – Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be “On” at all times. Despite what others may think, great leaders are still human. Trying to be always on top of things will easily lead to burning out. Leaders recognize the value of taking a break every once in a while to unwind and reset.
Inspiring leaders can be found in the newest startups or in established enterprises. They can be found at the top, heading strategies and developing new initiatives, or they may be just another team member on the floor. The one thing these leaders have in common is their ability to see past their teams’ limits and rally everyone around a common vision. This means that anybody, even those from the most humble beginnings, has the opportunity to inspire those around them.
Creativity is more than just artistry— it means taking unique approaches to problem-solving, developing bold and original ideas, and looking at the world from a different perspective. In a working environment, a creative team is priceless. Yet in so many organizations, creativity can be stigmatized, perceived as irrelevant, unproductive, or reserved for “creatives”. Such a mindset can hinder a company’s true potential.
In this post, we want to provide some guiding lessons for bringing the creativity out of each of your team members, ultimately leading to a bolder, more innovative business.
Developing a Creative Culture
Any company has the ability to build a creative culture, but it will require widespread buy-in and coordination. It starts with thehiring process— ask yourself: who represents the spirit of your company? Skills and qualifications are traditionally reliable metrics to judge candidates, but consider hiring instead based on character and passion. While you can always train people to build industry skills, it’s a lot harder to teach core values like curiosity or tenacity.
As for building on the existing team, leaders should promote and celebrate moments of individuality. Encouraging creativity and encouraging people to be their authentic selves go hand in hand. From allowing people to dress how they want to allowing people to express their minds however they want, encouragement in the workplace can take shape in many ways.
Ultimately, leaders that seek creativity must embrace risk-taking. Creativity is about thinking unconventionally, and that requires going past the limits or even bending certain rules. For instance, consider the invention of the Apple iPhone or the Netflix streaming service. For these products to truly innovate, both Apple and Netflix had to break the mold, and risk alienating their intended market completely. The impact, however, was well worth the struggle.
Strategies for Creativity at Work
Assuming your team is already creative or is in the process of becoming more creative, how can they better implement that mindset within the workplace? Here are a few strategies that may assist you.
The beauty of brainstorming is in its lack of structure— everyone on the team is given an equal opportunity to voice their idea or opinions, leading to a kaleidoscope of potential solutions. Its greatest strength can also be its greatest weakness, however, since brainstorming can go long without any direction or overarching strategy.
One solution around this is the brainwriting method, which is an evolution of the standard brainstorming process. The practice has several variants but generally involves taking ideas brainstormed by others and iterating on them. Consider brainwriting in your meetings for more structured brainstorming.
Learn from setbacks
The business world has a particular aversion to failure: often it is seen as inexcusable and unforgivable. But reflect on how you have grown in your own life— did you get to where you are by always winning? On the contrary, when you allow for failure, new opportunities and lessons emerge. Although it may seem like a low point, these setbacks can teach us the most.
Before streaming became the preferred means of watching movies and television, Sony and JVC battled over videotape dominance. Sony had the Betamax, which was in many regards the superior format (at least technically), while JVC had the VHS, a more popular and affordable option. Sony eventually lost that format war, with VHS capturing 90% of the total US VCR market. But Sony learned a lot about the ordeal, eventually winning the newer format wars with their Blu-Ray technology, now a video standard around the world.
Opposite to brainstorming, splitting off, and thinking about problems alone can lead to a different kind of problem-solving. Although many find it useful to talk through their problems and collaborate with others, there are a few people who would rather reflect on a solution themselves. Allow individuals to schedule a time to be on their own, trusting them with the goodwill of being independent and autonomous.
Last but not least, recognize and celebrate success where you see it! Creativity can take courage since not everyone is comfortable with breaking the norm. Whenever you see creativity help others or move the company forward, make sure you congratulate the individual and encourage others to learn by their example.
Resources for Creativity
Looking to research tools that will cultivate a more creative culture? Below you will find a compilation of collaboration tools, apps, and websites that will help you in communication and idea generation.
There are a lot of instant messaging apps out there, but few as widely accepted and easy to use like Slack. Used by even large companies such as Target, Uber, TD Ameritrade, and more, Slack has a clean interface for messaging but is more efficient and more secure than traditional email. Create channels that encourage creativity or celebrate success, and you’ll find a new way of collaborating with the team.
These days you’ll find a project management app almost everywhere, but Trello remains the most visually intuitive option. The genius lies in its boards and cards system, which can be modified to suit all sorts of needs: from brainstorming product ideas to tracking progress in a pipeline. It’s almost like having several online whiteboards. Similar to Slack, Trello offers support for dozens of different integrations.
The beauty of the cloud is that teams today can work together in realtime, without having to download applications or files to get started. Start a presentation on your laptop and finish it on your desktop, or review a document on your tablet or phone. Google and Apple offer two highly-competitive options, but they will accomplish the same goals. Google is more ubiquitous, offering support for Windows and Apple devices, while Apple iWork has a more visually appealing design.
Creative Work Environments
So far we have covered the various elements of creative teams— from the culture to the tools required. But there is another element we haven’t discussed: the actual environment for breeding creativity.
It sounds so obvious, but if you want creative teams, you need to have creative office spaces. Hang up art or decorations. Bring more plants into the room. Move office equipment around. You would be surprised how much the mood of a room can change just by organizing, cleaning, and furnishing it a certain way. Don’t forget about the importance of color in an environment too— consider painting the walls a different shade or letting more light into a room.
Complement your workstation with quiet areas or spaces for deep focus. Whether it’s a dining area or a private nook within the same floor, these spaces can help provide a much-needed respite from long periods of work.
Cultivating creative workplaces is not something that happens overnight— it requires planning, coordination, and teamwork. But the impact will reverberate throughout the entire company, from the top leadership all the way to the newest hire. Creativity has the potential to transform lives and create a brighter future for everyone.
Over the past few years, many businesses in different sectors have begun allocating significant amounts of time and resources to incorporate technology into their business. This strategy to transform businesses in the digital age has been going on for a while now, but the pandemic simply accelerated (some would even say “forced”) this evolution. For example, several companies are only now learning the various communication challenges involved when face-to-face interactions are limited.
In this post, we’ll cover some of the best practices involved in updating your organization to modern-day technological standards.
Roadmaps to Digital Transformation
To remain competitive in this new age of consumer behavior, businesses must update their business model with a clear digital strategy. Each business has its own quirks and will require different degrees of digital transformation in order to remain successful. Creating a roadmap provides a structured approach to digital transformation. It’s best to start by simply looking at your business in its current state. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Perhaps the most important aspect of any business is the people running it. As you transform your business, it is imperative to identify key persons that directly impact success. It might also be a wise decision to bring in new talent to help transform your business and gain a competitive edge in the digital space. It’s not uncommon for large enterprises to recruit digital transformation agents from other successful companies.
This aspect of the business is all about maintaining or improving efficiency. A company’s process should include a future-proof plan for scaling the business and updating the business model to compete in the digital age. How will you maintain growth and earnings? What bottlenecks can be improved? Which innovations can take place? Take a deep dive into your internal processes to understand how to better serve both your own team and your customers.
Tools and infrastructure are needed to empower people and enhance processes. Prior to the pandemic, businesses have already been utilizing different platforms to facilitate communication between team members. A few examples of these platforms include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. These company group chats help integrate members of the business together, and helps facilitate communication and collaboration over the internet, without the need for face to face meetings. But technology can also influence sales, marketing, customer support, finance, and various other functions of the business.
Reassessing Road Maps Due to Covid-19
Now, and for the foreseeable future, the majority of consumers are limiting their time spent outside of the home. This has brought about a surge of online traffic, with companies ramping up infrastructure to accommodate the load.
With this change in consumer behavior, companies must reassess their strategies in order to maintain growth. For example, as people now stay online longer on average due to being stuck at home, social media, and entertainment platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) are now viable investments to incorporate into your marketing campaigns. Understand where your target market is spending their time online. Analyzing new consumer groups is important in answering this question.
As a general rule, newer platforms tend to attract the younger generation. The rise of TikTok is no doubt thanks to Gen Z or “Zoomers”. It’s been a powerful tool to introduce products to Gen Z consumers due to the easily digestible content. Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook tend to be frequented by Millenials (Gen X) as well as Baby Boomers as these are the platforms they grew up with. Facebook and Twitter in particular boast the highest user count among all platforms.
Keep in mind this is only one aspect of digital transformation: online marketing. Digital transformation can also have a profound impact on one’s business by automating repetitive processes, offering more robust technical or customer support, or creating a more vivid and insightful report for your efforts. All of these changes will become even more essential in this post-pandemic world.
Advantages of Digital Transformation
As the need for digital transformation grows for each sector of the market, the benefits are also becoming clearer. The first, most obvious advantage is the opportunity to improve processes and innovate within the business. Using online tools and technology, each process or task can be made easier to improve efficiency across the board. Consider how tools like Asana or Basecamp have simplified project management to the point that people from different countries can continue to work and track their progress with increased agility.
Adopting certain technology will also serve to enhance customer experiences. Platforms such as Salesforce or HubSpot have become highly effective at analyzing customer journeys, which in turn can lead marketers to create more valuable experiences from the moment they are hooked, to the moment they return for a purchase. For example, receiving an email notification about an abandoned cart, or an upcoming booking can help increase engagement while providing customers with the information they may have ordinarily forgotten about.
Other tools can also help yield new consumer insights. Collecting information on how users navigate a website, interact with social media, or engage with email campaigns can open a treasure trove of information that you can then use to deliver better products or services. Location data is one such example. On many platforms, you can now learn where the bulk of your audiences come from, which in turn can help inform your advertising strategy both online and offline. More advanced enterprises even use machine learning and artificial intelligence to seek out patterns that the human eye cannot detect.
Jobs to be Done
So what are the jobs to be done in theory? What are some unmet customer needs that can be addressed? When creating your roadmap for digital transformation, you’ll notice that new tasks and processes will develop. This could mean expanding your team or training an existing team member. Use the data gathered from consumer behavior to determine what jobs are needed.
One example is finding out how your customers engage with your brand. Do customers head directly to your social media account? Then you need a Social Media Manager to handle your brand’s social media presence. Do they go directly to your website instead? Perhaps expanding your web development team to optimize your website would be better instead. Does creating a phone application make more sense for your business? Then you’d want to hire an Android or iOS software developer. Figuring what works best will greatly improve the customer experience.
Keeping up with the competition allows for some accurate competitive analysis. As brands become more public, one can determine the more popular brand based on user engagement online or follower count. Figuring out what works and what to improve is made easier with information on competitors being publicly available.
Examples of Digital Transformation
Back in 2017, Home Depot decided to update its brand strategy by creating a more seamless online experience, across all channels. Over three years, the company invested $11 billion into hiring over 1,000 professionals, updating their back-end and distribution channels, and completely revamping their IT department. The result: more actionable customer insights, better local trend tracking, and more accurate inventory levels. Their revenue has since grown over $17 billion.
With governments urging social distancing, countless companies with physical stores that usually rely on foot traffic need to come up with a way to get their goods to consumers without heading into a large group of people. Grocery stores have begun promoting curbside pickups to get goods to customers to help avoid large gatherings. Companies such as DSW and Michael’s are also adopting curbside pickups for customers. This new practice relies on an effective online scheduling and notification system, as well as a robust back-end that can handle all these requests.
Fitness companies such as 24 Hour Fitness have begun offering online workout classes in response to gyms closing due to the pandemic. Other fitness brands such as Orange Theory and Planet Fitness are now also promoting At-Home workouts by creating both free and premium content for their customers to use at home. These apps must be carefully developed and designed, as they are effectively acting as the online equivalents for their facilities.
The year of the pandemic has been a wake-up call for companies to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Companies need not reinvent the wheel: while these examples have involved larger companies with significant budgets, smaller-scale organizations can begin (or continue) their digital transformation with modest yet impactful initiatives, such as updating a CRM platform or migrating to the cloud. As we look forward to future advancements in tech, these organizations that have already begun their transformation will have a unique advantage over competitors that fall behind.
Organizational change can manifest in countless ways: restructuring of leadership, adoption of new technologies, or the introduction of new products and markets. The entire process can be positively transformative for a business, but only when conducted properly. It’s no small wonder that the biggest brands spend millions hiring change agents and leaders to effectively implement their vision across the company.
In this article, we will cover the change management process as well as the best practice for implementing change in one’s own organization.
The change management process
Leaders and agents of change must concern themselves with managing various teams and initiatives during periods of change. For example, when adopting a new CRM for a sales division, who will train the teams on how to use the software? What benchmarks or guardrails will be implemented to guide the process? Leaders must be able to answer how, what, why, and when to develop a change management process.
Building a change management process
In the early phases of formulating change management, it is important to lay down the strategic foundations to guide the radical thinking necessary in implementing the change. Before acting on any new initiative, leadership should come to an understanding of the goals of the change management process. It may be to address major bottlenecks within the organization’s processes or to create an environment for innovation. What matters is that there is a widespread buy-in, particularly at the top level.
After setting goals, you must set the key players on the team— in other words, who are the leaders that will hold everyone accountable. Since implementing change can be an overwhelming feat, accountability is vital in ensuring sustained progress. The key players should have significant experience in completing major projects and guiding numerous different team members.
Once the proper leaders are appointed, the next task is to ensure those leaders implement relevant training programs. Team members should understand the goals of the overall change, and the adjustments in various processes to accomplish overall change. Such training will require significant time, resources, and planning beforehand.
What to consider during change management
In the chaos of putting together a new process, leadership may become blindsided by other problems that arise as a result of the change. For example, training team members to do their job in a new way may be a major inconvenience and lead to a drop in productivity. Be cognizant of the effects of rapid, widespread change on employees and team members.
Similarly, leaders may fail to consider their specific communication style and how it is received by the teams. Change can be a daunting task to accomplish, and an abstract concept to grasp. Communication makes all the difference between a carefully executed vision, and a disaster on all levels.
Change management frameworks
To simplify the notion of a change management process, countless people have developed their own framework for breaking change down. These include:
Kotter 8-Step Process for Leading Change – Developed by synthesizing four decades of observing leaders and organizations executing their strategies, and first mentioned by Dr. John Kotter in his book, Leading Change. The eight steps include: 1) Create a sense of urgency, 2) Build a guiding coalition, 3) Form a strategic vision, 4) Enlist a volunteer army, 5) Enable action by removing barriers, 6) Generate short-term wins, 7) Sustain acceleration and 8) Institute change.
ADKAR Model – (Also known as the Prosci ADKAR® Model) Developed by entrepreneur and author Jeff Hiat, ADKAR represents five “tangible and concrete” building blocks for lasting change: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.
Satir Change Model – Originally designed for self-improvement, the Satir System was created by family therapist Virginia Satir. The model features five stages, each with its own effect on one’s feelings, thinking, and performance. The stages are: 1) Late Status Quo, 2) Resistance, 3) Chaos, 4) Integration, 5) New Status Quo.
McKinsey 7-S Framework – First mentioned by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman in their book, In Search of Excellence, this model helps to illustrate the various parts of an organization and how they fit together as a cohesive whole. Everything is divided into two categories: “Hard elements”, which are easy to describe and can be quickly changed, and “Soft elements”, which are less tangible and more affected by company culture. Strategy, Structure, Systems all fall under Hard elements, while Shared Values, Skills, Style, and Staff are under Soft elements. The model is like a web, as each element directly impacts another element.
Kurt Lewin Change Model – First presented by German-American Psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1947, The Lewin Change Management Model is the most succinct and easy-to-understand model on our list, and is still used today. It boils down execution into three stages: 1. Unfreeze (ensuring the company is ready for change), 2. Change (moving towards the state of change), and 3. Freeze (reinforcing the desired changes).
Kübler-Ross Model – Also known as the five stages of grief model, this model was created by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. It explains five stages of emotions that people experience as part of accepting loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Coincidentally, these are the emotions experienced by teams after implementing or announcing a major change to an organization.
Bridges Transition Model – Created by change consultant William Bridges, this model highlights the stages of transitions, starting with Endings (teams realizing they are losing something but keeping other things), followed by the Neutral Zone (an in-between period where the old isn’t gone but the new isn’t operational), and concluded with New Beginnings (new values or attitudes implemented).
Before devising a new strategy, there must be a thorough review of the existing strategy. Leaders should know what to assess, including culture, values, leadership styles. In addition, the team must develop an organizational readiness assessment— an evaluation of the company’s ability and readiness to change.
Assessment must also be carried out afterward. After the organization changes, teams must measure their new behaviors and their effect on the business. They must ensure that all the changes adhere to the envisioned goals. Track metrics that can inform the efficiency and efficacy of the new change, from revenue to qualitative, cultural enhancement.
The roles of a leader during change
In periods of transition, the leader holds all responsibility. Especially if the change does not take hold, the leader must hold himself accountable. They are the ultimate decision-makers, responsible for everything from talent management to effective communication to teams. If something goes wrong, it’s because the leadership did not set the right expectations, provide the proper guidance, or track progress as necessary. Leaders are ultimately considered as sponsors for major projects and initiatives.
The leader is also viewed as the role model. Leaders set forth (intentionally or unintentionally) the attitude and mentality that will be eventually adopted by their team members. If they take an enthusiastic approach, their team members will also carry that energy. If they are selfish and accusatory, their team will suffer as a result. Leaders must exemplify the absolute best that a team can be.
Then there is the managerial role that leaders must play. They must evaluate ongoing processes, review records and data, and ultimately devise a strong, fact-based decision. When problems arise, they must find ways to mitigate risks while brainstorming creative solutions.
As change is implemented throughout an organization, the leader will be faced with countless challenges, each varying in difficulty and required skills. Leaders that are determined to bring about true change will not sit idly by handing off tasks to others: they must play multiple roles, from strategist to manager, from leader to team player. It’s no easy feat for a single person, but the rewards can be incomparable.