The Australian business community is experiencing one of the greatest transformations it has ever encountered – and it has nothing to do with technology.
Across the country, thousands of successful business owners are handing the keys over to the next generation, as Australia’s Baby Boomers ready themselves for a well-earned life of leisure.
There are some that won’t go willingly into the long night of retirement, and for many in the next generation, the change can’t come soon enough. But whether it be in family-owned businesses or publicly-listed companies, the ranks are turning over.
What makes this change particularly challenging however is that it is accompanied by an equally profound transition in Australian business. Technology has long supported business operations, but as we head into the 2020s we are seeing it begin to form their core. And taking a business from its analogue heritage into its digital future is no easy task.
At Tecala, we’ve seen many examples of the old guard of owners and managers resisting pressure to adapt their businesses to modern digital processes and it is not hard to sympathise with their predicament. After all, the processes slated for change are often the same ones that have made the business successful, and the threats and opportunities they are designed to cater for may not yet have manifested themselves in a tangible way.
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For any manager or owner who is contemplating retirement, the last thing they want to do is be known for blowing up everything on their way out.
The result is resistance, stalemate, and potential stagnation – and a lot of frustration among those who are promoting change.
At Tecala we believe that no business owner should be holding back the digital tide. But we also appreciate that effective change takes more work that many of its proponents might realise.
Often when we see one generation resisting the ideas of the next, simply because they have not been able to make their case in a compelling way. Stating the need to change is very different from the process of actually defining what the future state is, and there is a lot more work to be done in mapping out how the business will get there.
That also means being very upfront about the pressure points and risks. There is no point hiding or ignoring them – any experienced business owner or executive will quickly find them. Identifying them early and outlining the relevant solutions can then play a key role in dismantling the ‘no’ argument before it even gets started.
Building consensus for change across generations also works best when based on an agreed starting point – usually a small project that is relatively low risk and simple to execute, but which can prove the basic concepts of digital change. Even relatively simple tasks such as moving non-critical workloads into the cloud can serve to build confidence and pave the way for more complicated change activity. Driving change often starts by earning permission, and permission can be extended over time.
It also pays to keep in mind what the business actually does and what it stands for when considering what its future state should be. If that future state is unrecognisable to the existing management, then a more staged approach might be required.
Saying no to change is almost always the easiest option. The goal for any change agent is to present the case for change in a way that is so compelling that ‘yes’ becomes the most compelling outcome. Painting a clear vision, demonstrating the benefits, building consensus, and mapping the journey are all essential steps in ensuring the business moves forward safely in the hands of its new managers.
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