The AD Way: Align With Change
AD has thirty-four behavioral practices that we try to follow in our daily interactions with members, suppliers, and each other. They were chosen by representatives from every part of our business. Together, they make up something we call “The AD Way.” Thirty-four sounds like a lot, I know. But each is an important thread in making the whole cloth of our company’s culture successful.
None of us do all 34 perfectly. And so, each week we pick one to talk about and work on together. We spend a few minutes at the start of each meeting discussing that week’s behavior, what it means in practical terms and why it’s important. We are working on “Align with Change” this week. Our Associates wrote the explanation for it that you can read in the picture that accompanies this post. Below, is the message that I sent to our team on Monday to stimulate discussion. I send one of those each week. If you want to have a great culture, it’s worth putting time and energy into building it.
The AD Way #30: Align with Change
AD member NH Bragg sold blacksmith supplies when they started in 1854. Weber Supply sold carriage furnishings. First Supply sold wooden windmills. Thos. Somerville was a brass foundry. Washburn Garfield were steam fitters. Hagerty Supply were millwrights. AD supplier partner Leviton made tin mantle tips for gaslights. None of those companies would currently exist if they hadn’t changed with the times. There hasn’t been much call for blacksmith supplies, carriage furnishings or gaslights, for quite some time.
It’s a good bet, however, that there were some people, in each of those companies, who forcefully argued against them making those changes; and others who grumbled when they happened. That’s just human nature. Success and habit have a way of blinding us to important realities. What made those companies successful in the first place, was not going to have the same good result if they kept on doing it. They needed to change. Yet some people fought it.
If you work in any business long enough, you’ll see a lot of change. Businesses exist to serve other businesses and people. People and businesses that exist within a specific time and place. When those people or companies change, or when the dynamics of their time and markets change, a business needs to change along with it.
This doesn’t always entail a total change to a company’s business. If customers want to fax you their orders, you go and buy a fax machine. If they want to place their orders using mobile devices, you launch a website that’s mobile friendly and easy to use. Some changes are harder than others. But not changing is a recipe for disaster.
Absolutely everything that any business does, internally or externally, needs to be responsive to changing dynamics. This includes, but is not limited to, its: people, products, services, programs, meetings, IT infrastructure, logistics, and organizational design. You can respond to change thoughtfully, and you’ll have a good chance of succeeding, or you can put your head in the sand or grumble and fail. It’s a choice.
For this reason, it’s incumbent on every one of us to spot the changes that are taking place around us and communicate them internally in a persuasive manner. It’s not enough to know that something needs to change. You need to effectively alert and persuade others.
In a small company, everybody touches every functional area and engages with every relevant part of customer operations. In a larger business, work is more specialized. Accounting, for instance, typically engages with different people in customer organizations than sales and marketing. As a result, they hear different things. That’s why we all need to share what we hear and listen to each other when we speak.
Ideally, we should suggest solutions to address the things we’ve learned. Ideally, we should encourage others to embrace new programs, services, and processes, when they are introduced. But without fail, we need to be personally supportive. There’s no room, in any company, for people shooting arrows within.
One of the best ways to identify the things we need to change is by talking with new clients, new people who work at old clients and new associates. They bring a fresh, outside perspective to the way that we do things and the things that we do. They are neither accustomed or complacent. Sometimes we need to help them “see the light.” Sometimes we need to let their light show us what we need to do differently. As important as it is to educate them, it’s equally important to listen and learn from them.
It’s ok to be proud of the things that you do and the value you provide. If you work hard and you’re good at what you do, you should be proud. But we can’t let that pride blind us to the changes taking place in our markets, within our customer base, or within our own company. We need to be humble, open-minded, and responsive to change in a can-do fashion. That’s a good recipe for success.