Business adaptability, one of the more important aspects of business, when applied properly makes a business more robust, more stable and most of the time more capable of reacting to change. The problem is, to most businesses it is not a priority and is seldom looked at until after all of the other really important stuff. You know, sales, marketing, cash flow and profits.
The problem with this outlook is that business adaptability, although it has the risk management, disaster recovery and Business Continuity components, is something that should be applied when looking for new opportunities and capabilities for your business. When expanding into markets the adaptability of the business is very important.
A truly adaptable business is capable of literally changing direction, overnight. It is all about protecting your cash flow and the things that work, the things that bring in revenue. Meanwhile looking for other capabilities and opportunities. An adaptable business sees and seizes the opportunities that their competition and rivals will not see and will never be capable of. This capability makes them an adaptable business.
So how does adaptability manifest itself within a business. One of the biggest drivers is culture. Culture drives a business from very unexpected directions. Although Management and stakeholders drive a business, a successful business allows everyone to be involved.
Staff should never be afraid to go to management with new ideas. Management should never be scared of changing directions when the opportunities are there. Problems arise when management is not interested in what the staff, the people at the front lines, the coal face, are seeing and hearing from customers.
These are the people hearing first hand what the customers are saying. They are not getting a sanitised version developed and spun by a consultant service or a survey. These are the comments that make more sense because it is what your customers want.
But the information goes both ways, an adaptable business with the right culture have a management team that rely on their staff to generate the required income for the business. Most people are incredibly driven when it come to their work. Yes you have the slackers and the lazy buggers but most staff member will always go that extra distance when required, that is until they have been exploited. When the staff see that they are being exploited then the culture changes, usually for the worse. This can be devastating for a business.
It takes a lot more effort on managements side to improve the culture level than destroy it. It usually takes two or three bad actions to totally destroy a good culture within a business, in contrast to a vast amount of good will is required to raise it just slightly.
Most people are aware that they are being exploited, from being asked to work extra to being blatantly lied to. In most cases this change in culture is caused by either a change in management or a change in situation.
This is an example from a business in the GFC. They would rather totally fail than let their staff go. A global travel business in Australia (flight centre) who kept on all of their staff, came through the GFC better than they went into it. This was not only a culture issue but everyone knew that if they failed they were all out of a job. That to me is a lot more motivation than most at the time. This company literally changed they way they do business. They did it because the culture and adaptability of the business was in place prior to it happening.
Not many companies went to their staff and management and said “we have $x in the bank, about 3 months worth of operating expense, no one is let go and if we fail we all go out together. What do we need to change to keep us alive?”. With that statement the business changed.
Business culture is important but sometimes it takes cultural change to leverage improvement and adaptability into an business. Getting staff involved is good for moral but someone still needs to be in charge. That person still needs to make the hard decisions but today it is a lot more like a democratic process.
So business continuity is fine, if you want to just keep going in the same direction that you have always headed. Business continuity will keep your business functioning when that disaster hits, but business resilience and adaptability, that is different! Resilient and adaptability would have predicted the problems, changed the attitude and culture of the business and made sure that it not only survived but also flourished.