How to maintain ‘business as usual’ in post-Brexit Britain.
As the date for the UK to leave the EU inches closer, you would be excused for thinking that businesses know where they stand by now. However, the feeling of uncertainty and unease looms larger than ever.
And it’s understandable. If the British Parliament is uncertain about what happens, for businesses, it’s like looking in the dark. With further debates on March 29th, almost regardless of whether the outcome is a ‘no deal-Brexit’ or if article 50 is extended or revoked, this ambiguity will continue for a while.
Although it might be tempting to take a wait-and-see approach, being proactive about your business’s capacity for change can ensure that you maintain ‘business as usual’, whatever happens.
The waiting game.
As reflected in the better-than-expected 1.4% growth in last year’s UK GDP, overall business confidence is still positive.
This indicates 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 reassure CEOs in the short-term and re-focus on ‘business as usual’.
Get ready for transformation - introduce ‘change capability’.
Many organizations are stuck in limbo because they know change will come, but are unsure what that change will look like. The good news is that you have the power to break free from this position.
Capturing your processes is a good place to start. When you map your processes, you can work out how you currently operate – what processes, people, and technology is involved in the work that gets done. You can assess what works and what doesn’t. This way you can gain a clear understanding of where you are now, giving you the vision to instigate change moving forward.
Nurturing a strong process culture.
If you notice your teams 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.
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 to build an environment where change becomes the norm, and to prepare 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. They need to explain how business issues 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 labor 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 British government’s book and appoint a ‘Brexit officer’ who can be tasked with overseeing all the different scenarios or outcomes.
Make sure everyone has a say and consider all opinions so that future processes are being influenced by real feedback from teams on the ground. The 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, 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 and 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, you need to develop 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.
Whatever the form of the Brexit deal achieved by the government, by laying the groundwork to adapt to any eventuality businesses can move forward now and be well-prepared to quickly take advantage of new opportunities when they arise.
Building your change capability and engaging your people in your efforts can help your organization to prepare for any uncertainty.