People Power: Change & urgency- Today’s culture determines tomorrow’s success
By Robert Milligan
The future is the most unclear as I can ever remember it, and I’m pretty certain this elevated level of uncertainty is here to stay. Before you panic, let’s focus on whether we’re looking at a glass half empty, or half full.
In my view, the greater the uncertainty, the greater the opportunities. What must a farm business do to view unprecedented change as opportunity?
To answer this question, we must think about the impact of rapid change. One critical result of rapid change is almost always a much greater sense of urgency. This increased urgency is unavoidable, and may even be desirable.
How you respond to a greater sense of urgency will largely determine your ability to capitalize on it. For example, does it create frenetic activity, often characterized by “doing more and more with less and less,” or does it create focused energy and vitality?
The table outlines characteristics of negative and positive urgency cultures. The challenge for you is clear: Create a “positive urgency” culture.
Following are four keys to establishing positive urgency. The first two require changes in the owner’s mindset; the final two focus on implementation.
Dairy managers have spent decades improving skills to manage crops and cows. They now must now become great leaders.
Can you think of a great leader who was known for maintaining the status quo? Not likely. My favorite description of leadership is, “Great leaders rally people to a better future.”
To develop a positive urgency culture, you must be the leader and cheerleader for all members of your dairy workforce. Leadership begins with articulating a meaningful vision, and then keeping everyone focused on the vision, changing strategies to fulfill it.
2) View change as opportunity
We follow one of two behavioral patterns following any personal or work change: We view it as either a loss, or opportunity. The response on your dairy begins with you.
3) Focus on what is important
For decades, strategy development or strategic planning has been an annual event. In today’s turbulent world, strategy must evolve constantly.
It is crucial that at least one owner have “strategy” as the highest priority. One owner must roll out of bed in the morning thinking about the business’ future, leaving animals and crops to others.
Focusing on what is important requires business goals and employee performance expectations. Leaders and managers continually communicate the vision and implement the strategy. This requires an effective goal-setting process and a performance management system.
4) The workforce is committed to and engaged in farm success
Your leadership, willingness to view change as opportunity, and focus on what is important must set the example for your workforce. You must use the first three keys to provide meaning to the work of the employees and instill a positive sense of urgency in the culture.
This is the ultimate challenge. It will determine the success of leaders of family businesses, CEOs of large corporations, and political leaders in the turbulent times of the second decade of the 21st century.
Characteristics of ‘Urgency’ Cultures
• Pervasive, insidious but not true urgency.
• Created by failures and short-term problems.
• “What a mess this is.”
• Leadership has short-term focus.
• Workforce is feeling lethargic, disinterested and/or sad. Everyone is anxious, stressed and often angry; blaming is common.
• Frenetic activity, people are running around “like chickens with their heads cut off.”
• We are in trouble; do more and more with less and less.
• Change is viewed as a loss, creating more stress.
• Change is viewed as an event.
• Rare but powerful, even necessary.
• Focused determination on critical issues.
• “Great opportunities and hazards are everywhere”
• Emanates from leadership. Make progress on critical issues each day.
• Workforce is feeling the energy, vitality, and sense of well-being from having autonomy, relatedness and competence.
• Urgently focused on important activities; fast moving, externally focused decisions; relentless purging of the irrelevant.
• We will overcome; do more of what is important and less of what is unimportant.
• Change tends to be viewed as an opportunity.
• Change is viewed as continuous.