A stable business environment provides many benefits to a business. Clients crave a consistent product. Walk into any McDonald’s and the Big Mac that you order will be prepared according to a well-documented process, with recognizable ingredients, and predictable quality. Coca-cola experienced, first-hand, the consequences of changing a much-beloved cola formula with their attempt to introduce “New Coke” in 1985.
Employees and managers desire consistent processes. Standard operating procedures and best-practices simplify decision-making and training. The introduction of the assembly line, with highly-repetitive and specialized functions, enabled manufacturers to mass produce their product at a lower cost and at a higher degree of dependability than it had previously.
Unfortunately, sheer stability does not guarantee survival in a competitive market. The unwillingness to recognize the shift in consumer demand for smaller, more gas-efficient vehicles placed American automakers at a severe disadvantage when the gas-shortage in the late 1970s occurred.
Leon C. Megginson, the author of many business management books in the latter half of the twentieth century, once wrote that “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
Change can be messy and disruptive. It requires all involved to manage expectations, emotions, and frustrations. Change is full of uncertainty; not all things about change can be measured or understood before the demand for decision arrives. Reacting to change requires an appetite for experimentation and failure. In its purest form, change involves risk. However, where there is a risk, there is a reward or in some cases, at least survival.
Barnes & Noble changed their business model to embrace online shopping, and in 2009, they introduced their electronic reading device. Meanwhile, Borders doubled-down on their brick-and-mortar strategy. At the point of opportunity, the future of digital readers, MP3 players, and online retail was unsure. Nearly ten years later Borders is no longer on the scene, and Barnes & Noble are still fighting the good fight.
It is a delicate balance that must be achieved between stability and adaptability to navigate the rough waters of business, successfully. Fostering and promoting a culture of continuous improvement, collaboration, and innovation prepare employees and the customer base for the inevitable change. Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Nokia have become synonymous to this approach in their product development and business strategies.
It can be argued that the degree in which a business is adaptable directly translates into its degree of stability. These seemingly opposing philosophies in strategy are actually in concert with each other, they are the yen and yang of business.