I recently decided (in a fury of “decluttering”) to remove the perfectly good CD/cassette tape stereo from my office bookshelf and give it to charity. Truthfully, I hadn’t even used it in years. It was just taking up space that can be better occupied by something more relevant. Then, in another burst of energy and insight, I gathered up all the old cassette tapes stored away (for what?), the CD/DVD teaching packages that were regularly dusted but otherwise ignored, and gave it all away in boxes to The Salvation Army. I’ll admit that I had a moment of sentimentality. The information and music shared via these mediums was still good, but the method and technology no longer met my needs. I listen to music on my smart phone now, and watch videos on my laptop or iPad.
Technology is shifting in other venues as well.
My husband gleefully announced to me the other day that, in addition to the traditional blimps, drones were now being used to film golf tournaments. And the drones are able to get great angles and shots never before seen, making watching the game all the more enjoyable for him (a golf fanatic).
The owner of Columbia House, a formerly well-known mail order music giant recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They acknowledged that annual revenue from their membership based sales of CDs and DVDs had been dropping over the past 20 years from a high of $1.4B to just $17M.
Media companies announced disappointing 2015 Q2 earnings amid a significant ratings decline at the top cable channels. The concern is that more consumers are dropping traditional cable TV packages and “cutting the cord”, switching to streaming media services such as the internet and Netflix.
Technology is enabling far greater consumption of media. The difference is that we can now watch what we want, when we want it, and how we want it.
So where does that leave us in the business realm?
Remember that corporations are simply collections of people like you and I. We bring our traditions, preferences, approaches and personal styles to our individual roles; that are then somehow integrated into the organizational culture. Many companies have failed to adopt new methodologies, often because their people rely too closely on what worked in the past. They continue to utilize company resources to support products, processes and initiatives whose “expiration date” has past.
Instead, each organization should conduct an annual review of what they should STOP doing. Where are they holding on to old ways of doing things just because it’s familiar? Where are they getting stuck in the past because they used to make money that way? Where do they need to cut the cord, make a clean break, sweep out the dregs, and provide clean space to innovate on new approaches?
Obviously this isn’t easy because there are people who have a vested interest in some of these outdated, expired products, processes and services. But start the conversation by doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), evaluating the financial, client and public relations implications, and focusing on the leading edge of innovation in that space.
The role of leadership is to drive and manage change, bringing the internal and external stakeholders to the crisis of a decision, for the overall health and growth of the organization. Failure to let go of the past, blocks the ability to embrace the future.
So what do you let go of, and how do you replace it?
A business process that’s cumbersome and doesn’t serve your client’s needs. If it’s been in place for a long time, or the technology supporting it has changed, then now is the time to evaluate whether it’s still working, or to determine what would work better. How can you save time and money? How can you empower individuals more in the process?
A product line that has been experiencing lagging sales. Maybe there’s a small but loyal following, but is that worth the ongoing cost of marketing, manufacturing, re-engineering and quality control? How can you transition the client base to a new and improved product that can be enjoyed by a broader cross-section of the market? Exceed their expectations and delight them.
Technology that doesn’t deliver on the desired user experience. Customers shouldn’t equate your company with outmoded equipment or machinery, or systems that are slow to respond. Explore your options to leverage new technology in a lower cost way. Engage stakeholders to manage user acceptance. And most importantly, sit with the customers to understand their perspective on working with your organization, so that you can address their major issues.
Strategies that simply aren’t working or producing the desired results. No matter the amount of resources poured into developing them, there’s a point in time to recognize failure and cut your losses.
A job that no longer aligns with your career goals, developing interests or professional values.
Cleaning out the old creates the psychological and physical space for innovation and transformation. It gets your brain out of focusing on what used to be, and allows you to imagine on a new level. As a leader, don’t permit your team to cling to the past. Instead help them to make room for new opportunities.