Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Effective change management as pursuit of a startup mentality, and vice versa

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 26, 2011

A few days ago I posted a note to this blog: Balancing Resources and Needs in the Startup and Early Stage Business – 3 in which I parenthetically stated “any business in need of change management needs to take a distinctly startup approach for this too.” I decided even as I initially wrote that line, that I would follow up on it with a full posting, explaining my thinking behind it in fuller detail. And that is my goal here.

• Startups, by definition have limited resource bases to build from, and need to plan and execute with liquidity and burn rate firmly in mind. And businesses that find themselves in need of change management usually face diminution of resources from the decisions and outcomes that brought them to this state, where they face those same basic limitations and requirements.
• Effective startups build a road map for moving forward, and for tracking performance with goals and benchmarks – a business plan. And it is a core requirement for any effective change management campaign that change be planned out and with buy-in from all key stakeholders who have to follow that plan. In effect, change management requires a carefully drafted business plan too, and with similar types of performance tracking and benchmarked goals and with a similar type of due diligence reality checking process in place.
• Startups need to define their products and services in terms that mesh with their plans for defining and capturing market share. So their efforts are not about doing “something” with some technology X or general product or service concept Y or Z, but rather in fulfilling some specific set of customer and marketplace needs. One of the commonest and easiest ways for a business to drift into a need for change management is for it to loose track of its customers and marketplaces and to simply drift into irrelevancy. Recovery from that means in effect rediscovering itself, and in terms of the real world of potential customers and markets it would sell to. That means developing a new vision and understanding, much as a startup has to do, and with a fresh foundation to build that on, where the old has not worked.
• Startups are business enterprises seeking to be born. Businesses in change management crisis are established but withering, and seeking to be reborn. And they face the challenges and uncertainty in that, that startups face but with the inertia of their ongoing history to deal with in pursuing this goal.
• But in all fairness, it should be pointed out that startup founders usually bring the fixed assumptions and inertia of their professional pasts to their new ventures too and certainly for first time startup entrepreneurs. Their preconception challenges and those of managers in need of change management solutions can hold a lot in common.

Startup founders can effectively and beneficially learn from the best practices developed in a change management context, and certainly for unearthing and resolving basic and unexamined assumptions, bringing that new product or service idea into marketable form and crossing chasms of potential misunderstanding and disagreement between stakeholders in all of this.

Businesses in need of change management have much to learn from startup best practices and the startup experience. Here, rebirth may not be exactly the same thing as birth for a business but from the marketplace and consumer perspective it might as well be. And that is particularly true if their brand has taken such a beating going into their need for change management that it at best serves as a neutral factor in their moving forward again.

So I offer this posting in my Business Strategy and Operations directory as being change management oriented, and also in Startups and Early Stage Businesses for its relevance to entrepreneurs facing those challenges and opportunities.

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