Can you maintain ‘business as usual’ in post-Brexit Britain?

As the 2019 deadline for leaving the EU looms, there still remains huge uncertainty for all types of businesses, especially for those who currently sell goods or services to Europe. Part of the hesitation is due to fear of the unknown. For some businesses, a ‘wait and see’ attitude has put the brakes on plans for exploiting markets both inside Europe and globally.

The waiting game

As reflected in the better than expected 1.7% growth in last year’s GDP, overall business confidence is still positive, indicating that there are clear economic opportunities for those organizations who are willing to act now rather than play the waiting game.

So is it possible to break the deadlock and stop deliberating on events that have yet to materialize? Being able to acknowledge, anticipate and prepare for future changes can help to reassure CEOs in the short-term and re-focus on the ‘business as usual’. 

Get ready for transformation - Introduce ‘change capability’

If you are one of the many organizations that are in limbo because you believe that changes will come but are unsure what those changes will be, the good news is that you have the power to break free from this position. 

The first steps are to analyse exactly what likely change is anticipated and secondly build in sufficient contingency and flexibility to handle them when or if they arise. 

But how do you best prepare for future change? The secret to creating resilience is to adopt an agile mind-set and promote shape-shifting capability across your organization. A good starting point is to focus on your business processes. Work out how you currently operate. Assess what’s working and what isn’t. Gaining a clear idea of where you are now will give you the vision to instigate change moving forward.

Can you maintain BAU in post-Brexit Britain

Nurturing a strong process culture

If you notice that employees are spending large amounts of their time fire-fighting or there is little or no communication or collaboration across different departments, then any new change initiatives that are pushed forward are likely to flounder or fail to live up to expectations.

These tell-tale signs are indicative of an organization with a weak process culture where the automatic response is to resist change. By strengthening your process culture, you can reverse this type of thinking and replace it with a workforce that embraces improvements and innovation.

Here are 5 ways you can ensure you build an environment where change becomes the norm and you can start preparing for the potential turbulence of a post-Brexit world:

1. Gain exec support

Leadership for change should come from the top. Management should be happy to stand up and talk about the importance of process to colleagues, and explain the real business issues that can be tackled and the benefits they will see in their day to day activities. Change may sometimes be a struggle, but the rewards will be worth it if it helps the organization to act quickly, whether it be in anticipation of new markets, altered legislation, currency fluctuations or labour shortages.

2. Introduce Accountability

Assigning a Chief Process Officer (CPO) with responsibility to communicate the process vision to the organization will add control and direction. You could even take a leaf out of the government’s book and appoint a ‘Brexit Officer’ who can be tasked with overseeing all the different scenarios or outcomes that could manifest themselves in the future. 

Make sure everyone has a say and garner all opinions so that future processes are being influenced by real feedback from teams on the ground. Success of new processes will depend on process owners and experts working closely together.  

You can further support process owners and experts by providing a centralized repository where all your process information is held so that relevant parties can communicate and contribute ideas on how enhancements can be made. Provide a means for everyone to talk about change before it happens so there is less resistance and a more effortless evolution.

3. Keep the ball rolling

There are inevitably teething pains with any new change initiative and it often takes time for them to bed in. To iron out these early issues and to retain a focus on process improvement on a daily basis, you need to put both structure and planning in place. This will be even more important post-Brexit as the scale of change could be much higher, dependent on what agreements are reached with Europe and the rest of the world.

Hold regular workshops that focus on progress and involve all parties, to modify or streamline processes to address frustrations. The workshops should be open events that encourage colleagues to share ideas, so everyone has a voice.

4. Offer meaningful process guidance

Process documentation shouldn’t be long-winded and impenetrable. If it’s not easy to use, it will be ignored. Offer meaningful guidance on a process so it’s comprehensible (at a high level at least) within ten seconds. Its accessibility is also important, so try to embed processes into apps that teams use every day.

5. Harness the most powerful engine of change

To increase the success of transformation you need to draw on your most powerful resource – your people.
 
When you get the whole organization behind you, ongoing change and improvement becomes the modus operandi. Rather than compartmentalizing change into individual projects, it’s about developing change capability so that teams and processes never stand still but are constantly in flux. Find better and faster ways of doing things in order to adapt to changing circumstances or market conditions.

Prepare now

Whatever the form of the Brexit deal achieved by Theresa May’s government, by laying the groundwork to adapt to any eventuality means that businesses can move forward now and be well prepared to quickly take advantage of new opportunities as and when they happen. 

Annual export growth is close to 10 percent year on year. Build your change capability now to prepare for any uncertainty.

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