“Win-Win” strategies are a recipe for mediocrity: go bold!
It seems so agreeable. Everybody wins. Each of us gets something out of the deal. No one is left out in the cold. After all, it is a “win-win” strategy. There is mutual back slapping all round.
The attraction of the immediate “fix” over a long-range solution is easy to see. Management –not leadership- likes “win-win” strategies because they dodge the toughest issues. Real change, means winners and losers. Deep change means taking accountability for who will benefit or lose.
But over time, “win-win” strategies can rot an organization’s boldness. Decisions become risk adverse. Options narrow. The calculus becomes internally focused. The circle tightens. Ultimately, customers are forgotten. Vested interests take precedence.
The fact is the bigger scale of change, the more profound the winners and losers will be. It is that binary. At its most extreme, disruptive change can tear the fabric of society or a sector. There will be great winners and losers. Whole businesses will implode. All disruption is unpopular, at the beginning. It is why many leaders fear and resist it. Even though the momentum is unstoppable.
It is also why we veer away from disruption in our personal, professional and business lives. It is uncomfortable. It affects real people. It changes you!
But are such strategies good enough for an organization’s long-term survival?
Our world is unrecognizable from a generation ago. Events far away, appear not only on our screens but impact our lives. In business, we have seen dozens breakthrough customer products and technologies that have made all others obsolete. Each of us has a mini-computer “smart phone” in our pocket. We have seen seismic shifts in consumer buying patterns, attitudes and expectations. These shifts have reshaped how and what we buy. What did we do before online shopping?
New business models have sprouted. Connecting people, rather than making physical things (think Netflix, Facebook, Uber), have shattered traditional assumptions of hierarchy, size and value generation. No one is immune. Least of all our institutions.
So if you cannot hold back the sea, how can you embrace greater change?
For a leader the first key is to accept that not all disruptive change can be controlled. Deep change will often be beyond your control. It is more a question of shaping its trajectory and outcomes. Trying to –and failing in the process — to control every variable is a recipe for staunching the flow of change rather than adapting to it.
Another question to ask yourself is, “are my change efforts bold enough?” The acid test for change is simple. If no one clearly wins or loses, your decisions merely maintain the comfort of the status quo, or at best, make the mildest of modifications. After all, change is about creating a break. A break from the past and replacing it with something new. If there is no visible difference, you have just merely made a lane change. Bold decisions impact people and courage is needed to see real change through.
Once you have embraced the idea that deep change will create winners and losers, it is easier to offset its potentially harmful effects. By accepting that you can onlymitigate, not prevent an affected group from being on the wrong side of change, you can do something about it. You can develop ways to help people find new lives and professions can offset the downside of major change. You can shave off its most negative consequences. Create softer landings.
Lastly, remember that disruptive change is a journey, not the destination. People are resilient. They will adapt. The tunnel may seem dark at the outset but it leads to a better place. Disruptive change is always seen as hugely positive, in hindsight. Think of how the digital photography killed Kodak and then how the iTunes made the record/DVD industry obsolete.
But it takes conviction to see it through. Breaking the existing patterns, behaviours and rhythm of an organization will create tension. It is tough. But not all patterns people hold on to are good and often there are symptom of inertia. Complacency is an organizational toxin. Deep change breaks the sense of security. But it also builds a pathway to better organization and business. “Win-win” strategies may be comfortable and seemingly risk free but long-term they will erode your organization’s vitality. Being bold and embracing deep change ensures both your survival and greater success.
About the Author
Simon Trevarthen is Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Elevate Your Greatness (EYG). EYG helps individuals, teams and organizations unpack the secrets of success by becoming even better versions of themselves through dynamic keynotes, seminars and workshops on innovation, inspiration and presentation excellence.
To learn more about Elevate Your Greatness see www.elevateyourgreatness.com
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