When the Cable-Tec Expo rolled into Atlanta last week, all the buzz was about “change.” Pat Esser, president of Cox Communications, said in his opening remarks, “the cable industry needs to cut down its product-revision cycles from years to months, to have the agility to meet changing expectations of the next generation of consumers.” Certainly true, and keeping up with change is easier said than done.

 
Long development cycles and leisurely innovation periods no longer exist thanks to technology and a newly competitive marketplace. Consumers no longer have patience. They want everything delivered now. In today’s world the demand for speed and transparency is forcing the cable industry to compete in previously unimaginable ways. 
 
Statistics show that we are currently experiencing the fastest rate of change in recorded history. Capturing this sentiment, Motorola Mobility chairman and CEO Sanjay Jha described the wireless industry as “a bucking bronco” in terms of the amount of change it is experiencing. 
 
You can’t afford to sit back and buy in, waiting for change to happen. Instead, you must run after and pioneer changes, hoping to keep ahead of the rapidly shifting world.
 
Change Readiness
In order to be at the forefront and create change, it’s time to think about change very differently. If you set up our organizations to be change-ready then you feel more technologically poised, confident that you have the up-to-date knowledge and people skills needed to create solid alliances and joint ventures and, most importantly, well-aligned people.
 
In other words, organizations today must have “readiness.” When employees know how to respond to change it creates innovative thinking, maintains or increases performance and keeps risk at an all time low. 
 
3 ways to become change ready:
 
1. Observation and Urgency
Be proactive—consistently look at the market, your competition and technological advances to see what is changing and what is missing. Technology has the power to provoke and measure change. 
  • Look “up and out”—what is happening in the industry? What trends are you reading about?
  • Pick an issue that is important to learn and understand.
  • Talk to others in your company and share your observations about our industry.
  • Find out what other people are saying and doing.
  • Listen to what your customers tell you verbally. Consider what they tell you simply by shifting their habits.
  • See how you can advocate acting with urgency rather than waiting for changes.
 
2. Allied Approach
There are many potential allies within your organization. An assistant can have as much clout as the president of the company. When gathering a group of allies who will support and promote change with gusto, it’s important to look up, down and across—through all levels of the organization. 
  • Look around and see who’s typically a champion for change.
  • Consider who else you can enroll in the change—everyone can make a difference!
  • Are there task forces you can be a part of? If not, start one. Make people part of a new idea or in charge of something important so they are more apt to show up at the meetings.
 
3. People Engagement
When you are ready to swiftly take on a change, if your people do not have the skills, aptitude or attitude to take action, you’ll find yourself later wondering why your people haven’t changed. 
 
When people reflect on how they handled past changes it can help them manage future shifts. If people feel legitimately stuck, you can gently ask them to reflect upon a time when they went through a significant change and consider how they handled it and what lessons they might apply from that situation to the new one. 
 
Having people leverage their own experiences, helps them to better overcome challenges. Through this approach you can help prepare your own people to handle change.
  • Jot down the names of those who report to you in your department.
  • Write down their roles.
  • Write down their skills.
  • Write down the skills each one needs to take on any changes.
  • Help people develop these new skills by incorporating them into an employee development plan as a roadmap for their advancement.
 
If you want to get ahead, get promoted, or avoid the unemployment offer, you must turn your expectations about change on its head. You must throw away the concept of managing change and embrace the concept of pioneering change. With an industry that is riding a “bucking bronco” of new technology, it is only the agile who will survive. Will it be you?
 
(Esther Weinberg is a leadership expert and a cable veteran with a 20-year track record in the industry. She currently creates breakthrough strategies for such companies as ESPN, Microsoft, Scripps Networks, NBCUniversal Cable, Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., Motorola, Headline News Network and MTV Networks, among others. She is the contributing author to the leadership book “Breaking Through” by acclaimed author Barbara Stanny. Esther is a Board Member of NAMIC-Southern California. Sign up for her FREE leadership newsletter with valuable information at www.mindlightgroup.com)
 

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