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#BizTrends2021: 4 areas in which your business can practice its swivel

Unforeseen events give us an opportunity to not only overcome the challenge, but to consider how we could best implement change practically to achieve a better outcome. The same principle applies just as much to policies and procedures of organisations when the likelihood of change, be it interruptions of large- or small-scale, are top of mind before these events take place.
#BizTrends2021: 4 areas in which your business can practice its swivel

“Every business needs to relook what they do, what their business models are and what their purpose is.”

- Dion Chang, 2021. 

At the beginning of each new year – if you are anything like me and fascinated by change – so many of us scout credible news and industry sites for new trends to align with and help inform strategic decisions. I’ve always found that this annual ritual gives us the chance to objectively look at possible trends to shape the way we live, work and grow in answer. 

That moment, when you turn over a new calendar page, seems like the most opportune time for future thinking that is guided by reflection. What has worked? How can we better carve out a new or old directions?

We have tipped the half-way mark towards the end of another challenging year, and we are entering a new season. Perhaps now is a good time for organisations that are committed to walking a path of resilience to do some seasonal spring cleaning. In this spirit, I have stumbled across the quote above by Dion Chang, South African futurist. This sentence has deeply resonated with me then, as it does today. 

The era of the swivel

To me, Chang’s words at the start of the year highlighted that something (i.e., organisational business model) needs to change or evolve in order to remain steadfast in its purpose. 

For most organisations, staying on course to maintain a renewed purpose might have come under tremendous strain or resistance lately. Consider that organisations are still defining their own ideal hybrid work models. Many have seen their business continuity come under attack. Others might be navigating changes in privacy legislation. Customer touchpoints and omnichannel experiences are another additional consideration. It means that resilient and progressive organisations have very little choice but to explore the benefits of ecommerce and digital transformation of their services. 

I’d like to think that we have entered the era of the swivel. I resonate with the word because it implies strong action. The Cambridge dictionary defines swivel as the action “to turn around a central point in order to face in another direction.” A change in direction. A change in behaviour. But still revolving around the same axel. Consider that an organisation’s central purpose is to move forward and upwards, i.e., to remain operationally viable, to provide employment, to better the lives of its customers and stakeholders, to be meaningful in some way. Whatever your organisation’s raison d’être may be. Maximising shareholder value according to Milton Friedman’s outdated shareholder doctrine, is no longer sustainable. Instead, finding an organisation’s why and purpose takes centre stage to match commitment to broader responsibility towards society. 

Disruption stands in the way of accomplishing this. Or does it? Perhaps if organisations allow themselves to be guided by past trends, we can model change in such a way as to allow the organisation the best possible chance to stay true to its purpose, but swivel with ease.  

Looking ahead at the six biggest challenges that organisations might need to navigate in 2021, Mike Anderson, CEO and founder of the Small Business Chamber, anticipated that the sixth trend would be “considering your business continuity.” When you get this right, Anderson said organisations stand a much better chance of growing into a sustainable and resilient organisation in the future. One that can withstand any interruption. 

Let’s consider the areas where your organisation may need to practice your swivel to continue on course to meet purpose and remain resilient: 

Organisational culture that is pro-active and pro-change 

If an organisation does not have a culture that nurtures change, there is very little chance of successfully implement change. Cultivating a pro-change organisational culture is the first building block. Building consistent organisational resilience requires organisations to adopt inclusive and collaborative decision-making frameworks. The value that lies in aligning employees is immeasurable. 

It really works well when leadership identifies change champions among employees. This way, when the change is delivered by peers and managers that understand the work and the bigger purpose, it is more effective and sustainable. This model reduces anxiety and promotes accountability for seeing through the change beyond the policy, in the actual behaviour of the entire organisation.  

Modelling of change 

Sometimes, pro-change culture falls short as a result of misalignment among executives, management or leadership. Unfortunately, the reality is that leadership may fail to realise that they are the most accountable role-players in any changing situation. If executives are not involved, engaged or committed to the change, a key building block is missing – the modelling of change. 

In case of global organisations, misalignment between regional and head offices over how to best swivel may present conflict due to differences in cultural context. In a globally interconnected office, understanding what lies beneath the sub-cultural context becomes a consideration that executives need to keep in mind. 

Develop a risk response plan with all stakeholders in mind

Your organisation’s policy and procedures outlining how you will respond to foreseeable risk events that result in possible disruptions is not merely enough. Simply put, to have one is important, but not enough. Empower executives and employees to know what to do in any given risk scenario. Grade the likelihood of an identified event, and develop a phased response plan. Then conduct regular risk response ‘fire drills.’ 

Here it is very important to keep in mind all internal departments (such as Legal, Compliance, Information Technology, Human Resources and Marketing departments) and external stakeholders (such as clients, distributors, suppliers and customers). A smooth, rehearsed response may make a huge difference when the goal is to minimise financial impact and/or curb reputational damage. 

Systems and processes 

This next point relates to larger scale business disruption, especially as resilience in the fourth industrial era hinges on digital technology. A question that leadership would need to consider is what are those systems that will allow the organisation to keep the minimum viable operations going? Does it mean having a back up system, or default to manual processes? This is up to each individual organisation to decide upon at an early stage. 

Organisations would need to consider the practical aspects of their business continuity framework as large scale and immediate change in times of crisis need not be the cause why organisations cannot remain resilient. 

Unforeseen events give us an opportunity to not only overcome the challenge, but to consider how we could best implement change practically to achieve a better outcome. The same principle applies just as much to policies and procedures of organisations when the likelihood of change, be it interruptions of large- or small-scale, are top of mind before these events take place. I daresay, if we accept that change is part of who we are, the likelihood of unforeseen events may not be a thing we fear anymore.

More about Kriel & Co:

Kriel & Co is an IMCSA-accredited management consulting practice specialising in change management, data privacy compliance, digital transformation and mentorship. The practice actively serves clients in a variety of sectors with a proven track-record of delivering innovative, cost-effective and sustainable strategies for digital change. Consultants are primarily retained on a long-term project basis by clients to oversee holistic digital transformation projects and initiatives. 

About the author

Francois Kriel is an IMCSA accredited management consultant. He is the founder and managing director of consultancy Kriel & Co, specialising in digital transformation, change management and data privacy. He is also a member of Privacy Officers Africa and guest lecturer at Stellenbosch University's department of Business Management. Francois has extensive knowledge on data privacy (such as POPIA compliance) having established an inter-operable practice with the Technology, Media and Telecommunications department at top-tier law firm ENSafrica and advising several of the firm's clients.  Empowered by the most current digital and legal expertise, he confidently advises organisations on practically achieving their organisational goals, data privacy obligations and change management requirements to effectively fulfil the role of CIO.
Kriel  & Co
Francois Kriel is an IMCSA accredited management consultant with change management and digital transformation as specialisation areas. He works full-time as director at Kriel & Co where he leads a dynamic team currently facilitating digital change at several high-profile organisations. Francois also supports Stellenbosch University as guest lecturer to business management honours students. He is an advocate for collaborative leadership, mentorship and LGBTQI+ inclusivity.

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