By Gary Shawhan, Contributing Editors, The CHEMARK Consulting Group
For a company to continue to be successful and grow, planning and over-seeing strategic direction for the business is a necessary part of the process. Among the most difficult tasks associated with this responsibility is addressing the need, if not the necessity, for change.
Drivers for change often emerge unexpectedly. More frequently they develop and evolve over an extended period of time. In either case these drivers are individual to each organization and the circumstances they face.
Organizational chance requires careful consideration of the existing pedigree of the business along with a realistic assessment of the company’s present business situation and its current financial health.
Table 1: Examples of Drivers for Change in a Company’s Long-term Goals
- Global shifts in demand within the market segments important to the current business• Consolidations in the coating market through acquisition which continue to alter the competitive landscape.
- Regulatory actions that alter technology preferences.
- Environmental issues or performance improvement needs which require a change in equipment design.
- HS&E issues forcing certain chemistries out of the market.
- Disruptions in the supply chain through consolidations or through unexpected events such as COVID 19
In today’s coatings market it is hard to escape the fact that change is a necessity for companies of any size to survive let alone prosper. The importance of anticipating and leading organizational change, as opposed to allowing market situations to continue to dictate company behavior, cannot be over-stated. At the heart of addressing the challenge for change are the long-term goals that have been set for the company.
The resetting of the long-term goals for the business becomes the vanguard for driving change. You need to make sure that they are truly “big picture”. Organizational goals need to be sustainable over an extended period-of-time. This should mean 10 years or more. The events of the company’s day-to-day business contribute to the many reasons behind the need for change. Goal setting for the business, however, must provide an over-riding set of objectives that guide decision making and influence choices throughout the company. They need to become part of how everyone in the company does their job.
Altering or making significant adjustments to long-term organizational goals requires vision and courage. It also needs to be tempered with a realistic appraisable of the company’s capabilities. When the goals go beyond the current capabilities of the organization to support them, management needs to have a plan to address such limitations.
Table 2: Key Consideration in Implementing a Change in Company Goals
- Ensure that the goals for the company represent a path forward for sustained, profitable growth
- Effective communicating of these revised company’s goals
- Obtain buy-in for these goals from all elements of the organization.
- Identify the link(s) that exit between how the company does business today and what will be the result from the proposed transitions.
Establishing the Foundation for Change
In setting or re-setting the long-term goals for the business there are some fundamental considerations important to this process.
First, Identifying the things that differentiate your company from competitors in the marketplace is one of the most important. The more distinct the value propositions that customers identify as the reasons for doing business with your company versus others the better.
The stronger the existing foundation that has already been put in place in the minds of your customers the easier the process of defining a course for the future direction of the business. Hopefully, these values provide a platform from which the future goals of the company can be built upon. In this regard, it is very important that the core competencies of the organization be as integrated (as much as possible) into the future strategic direction for the company.
Circumstances exist where the values for which the company is identified do not have a recognized strength with their customers or extend outward to the markets they serve. In many cases, this problem is tied to the commodity nature of the current business and the lack of differentiation for the product that the company currently sells. The challenge for management, in this circumstance, is setting goals for the company that includes a path forward that provides profitable growth It should also incorporate a distinct identity for the company which they can build upon going forward.
Communication and Obtaining Buy-in
Long-term goals should represent the vision for the company that management wants to project both within the organization and outward to their customers. Beyond that, the values upon which these goals are based, and the vision they represent, have an added value when it reaches forward to the markets and industries that are served by your customers- your customer’s customer.
One of the most difficult aspects of re-setting organizational goals is the need to get acceptance and support from all elements of the company. Sales and marketing efforts, for example, need to set priorities in line with the direction that management has put in place through the revised organizational goals.
Focusing on target accounts and market segments that are not consistent with these goals will side-track or block efforts for implementation. For example, if compensation plans for the sales organization do not support the plan and instead encourage or reward activities that are counter to these goals, that will short-circuit the implementation process. As a result, the chances of achieving a successful adoption of the revised goals can be much lower.
Research and development, as well as manufacturing personnel, play an equally important role in the implementation and execution of these long-term company goals. Projects or process improvements that are outside of what has been the traditional practice, but important to the future direction of the company, need to be elevated in their priority.
Outward from the company to the market, nothing is more important than the recognition of the value derived from the change in company direction by your current and prospective customers.
Customer understanding and comfort level with the company’s future direction and business goals are essential. It is management’s job to make sure that the company’s direction is effectively articulated and reinforced. Without this effort, customers can lose confidence and begin to consider alternative suppliers. Internal confidence in the company will also be at risk with unwanted consequences in productivity and employee turnover.
Ensure the Endpoint is Profitable Growth
The overriding goal for the company needs to have sustained, profitable growth as its objective. This is the engine that will obtain the commitment from all elements of the organization to support these changes. Profitable growth is the one thing that is necessary to support change.
Customer confidence, resulting from successfully communicating the revised company goals and direction will strengthen their impact This included greater stability in the company’s market position and an increased ability to leverage the strength of the company’s business image against competitors. It also allows the company to gain traction for those new initiatives which are linked to these long-term business goals.