While a tight turning radius and the ability to "turn on a dime" may be valuable characteristics of automobile handling, the ability to pivot is not often applied to corporate operations. In fact, just the opposite is often thought of as an attribute of business success. "Staying the course" and following agreed-upon procedures in order to meet goals is the common wisdom for achievement in the business world. Slow and steady is the maxim.
Recently I read a chapter in The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The author speaks of the role of continuous innovation in creating successful businesses. In this particular chapter, he addresses the need for constant evaluation and the importance of being able to abandon a strategy or a direction that isn't working. He emphasizes that doing so quickly is important as well.
Ries advises that every company should schedule routine "pivot meetings" in order to guard against complacency. By constantly evaluating such areas as target customers, value propositions and employees, the company can judge the effectiveness of current procedures and directions. Changing a business model should not be viewed in any manner other than as strategy to ensure greater success.
Ries notes that sometimes companies are reluctant to change, especially resistant to change quickly, because of what he terms "vanity metrics." But, continuing on a path just because it is familiar is not the best way to ensure success.
The Ability to Pivot
Changing course quickly can sometimes inject new purpose and vitality into a specific aspect of the business model. Savvy CEOs and business leaders must be willing to consider new and innovative methods to expand a customer base, to grow profits and to ensure employee retention. Sometimes, the speed with which changes are made spells the difference between success and failure. Continuing down a path that is not sustainable over the long term and is not achieving desired results benefits no one.
In fact, because people become emotionally involved and resources are committed to a greater degree, holding on to a "borderline" procedure or policy may be counterproductive and damaging.
Knowing When to Change
The importance of regular pivot meetings lies in alerting leaders to the need for swift action when it is warranted. Ries does not recommend changing course based on whim; but he does speak of the importance of using "the right metrics." You and your employees must be alert to the signs; if you constantly measure performance against goals, it should become second nature to embrace quick changes of direction.
In this way, you will find that your ability to build a sustainable competitive advantage is also enhanced. You will have mastering the art of pivoting.
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