How to Future-Proof Your Organization

Reprinted from “Make Change Work for You” by Scott Steinberg by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company (2015).

According to leading experts, there are no more static or predictable patterns in business anymore: Continuous change is the new normal for every industry. As a result, organizations that wish to remain at the forefront of their field must continually change and innovate, as well. To stay relevant in a fast-changing world, organizations must essentially rethink how they train employees to stay effective, stay up to speed, and stay more responsive to fast-changing business environments. This requires taking a new approach to leadership development, and emphasizing very different skill sets than in the past.

Interestingly, as research with scores of leading innovators for my new book, “Make Change Work for You,” reveals, making the shift to this new model can be far less challenging than you’d think. A key cornerstone of this new paradigm: Establishing a corporate culture in which workers feel comfortable continually speaking up and taking chances, so as to stay in tune with changing business landscapes. Today, organizations that are healthy and courageous look very different from organizations that are neither. They are more effective and capable of innovation because their people are more engaged, empowered, and motivated. Healthy, courageous organizations are organizations with the following characteristics.

  • They constantly prepare for bad times in good. While they don’t dwell on what can go wrong, they do make contingency plans in the event something does go wrong. They also build strong reserves of resources and resilience to weather any storm they may encounter. Likewise, they constantly look for ways to innovate, reinvest in themselves, and expand their learning and capabilities.
  • They encourage employees to find courage and to speak up and take smart chances. Employees often are afraid to speak up or to rock the boat, concerned that if they offend their managers or make mistakes, they will be disciplined or even fired for their transgressions. When this happens, your organization loses the input and good ideas of a significant portion of your workforce, often including its most informed audience, which puts the company at a competitive disadvantage. By encouraging your people to speak up and take smart chances, you’ll gain the benefits of their insight and talent and get their very best as a leader, manager, or enterprise.
  • They embrace failure and experimentation, as long as they are smart and cost-effective. Instead of punishing employees for failing or for experimenting, courageous organizations encourage them to take intelligent, affordable, and productive risks that have the potential to pay off for the company. Then they capture the feedback and insights provided from these efforts and apply them to future endeavors. The more you encourage your people to experiment, the less fear they’ll feel and the more smart risks they’ll take.
  • They pursue innovation and new avenues of potential growth doggedly and on a consistent basis. You want your people to be as creative and innovative as they possibly can be, so be sure to reward them for speaking up and sharing ideas. Encourage them to offer new opinions, insights, and strategies. Create ways to recognize employees who come up with useful ideas and applaud them publicly and with great fanfare.
  • They promote the sharing of ideas and resources throughout the organization. For an organization to function at peak efficiency, information, ideas, and resources must flow freely through every office, department, and building. Use today’s communications technology and information-sharing platforms to your advantage and break down the walls that silo information, money, and manpower between divisions, disciplines or departments. Make it a team effort.
  • They partner, ally, or collaborate to fill in gaps or areas where capabilities are weak. Understand that every organization has strengths and weaknesses. By deploying the right people at the right place in your organization at the right time—or by partnering with outside partners or collaborators to fill in the gaps—you can optimize the company’s effectiveness.
  • They celebrate a culture of ownership, leadership, and accountability at every level. If you treat your people like they are important, creating a culture that encourages an ownership mind-set while offering leadership opportunities and promoting entrepreneurial thinking, they will respond in kind, bringing out their very best effort.
  • They reward positive and courageous behavior. When employees act in positive and courageous ways, honor them for it. A simple thank you or pat on the back can work wonders. Alternately, you can integrate such efforts into your existing reward and recognition programs.
  • They make firm decisions despite imperfect information. Ultimately, organizations depend on leaders to make informed decisions to achieve their goals, and in a fast-changing world, we seldom have the luxury of ample time or perfect information. So make firm decisions as soon as you have enough information to ensure that your choices are well grounded. Then update and refine strategies based on results as more information is gained and you continue to move forward.

A healthy, courageous organization is one infused with positive mind-sets, including a culture in which workers think like both owners and entrepreneurs. Likewise, it’s one in which unknowns are equated with potential opportunities and long-term goals and rewards are prioritized over immediate upsides. The more courage you can instill in your enterprise through leadership training, the more capable of successfully changing, innovating, and future-proofing itself your organization will become.

Reprinted from “Make Change Work for You” by Scott Steinberg by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2015 by Scott Steinberg.

Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty.” He is among today’s leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops, and seminars for Fortune 500 firms. For more information, visit