Vari® CEO Jason McCann Sits Down with Dr. Abbie Shipp

26 Minute View

In the face of an uncertain economy, businesses of all sizes must learn the importance of embracing change as a strategic move to position themselves for future success.

The accelerated pace of change shows no signs of slowing, and businesses that want to position themselves for future success will need to find ways to embrace it. Dr. Abbie Shipp is a professor and department chair of management and leadership at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business, and she sat down with Vari CEO Jason McCann to discuss change management during times of crisis. Based on their conversation, here are some of the main take-aways high-growth business owners and leadership teams need to consider.

Part 1

Part 2

Embrace Change

“I think every business right now is saying, ‘if we don’t embrace change, we die,’” says Dr. Shipp. “Change is the only constant.” While it can feel tempting to maintain the status quo as a means of self-preservation, sometimes bold action and a new way of thinking are needed. Business owners must be willing to think outside the box and put aside arguments of “this is the way we’ve always done it” to brainstorm solutions that may be better suited, both for the present moment and the future. Because 50 to 70% of planned changes fail, Dr. Shipp says leaders must keep an open mind as they develop new strategies.

Become Comfortable With Ambiguity

As humans, we crave certainty. We long to follow a set of steps to guarantee specific results. But when it comes to change, there’s no four-step plan businesses can follow to guarantee a certain outcome, largely because companies are made up of people whose experiences, feelings, and perceptions are also ever-changing.

“I talk a lot about moving from change management to change leadership,” says Dr. Shipp. “Change management talks about, ‘What do we want to do? What’s the structure and the strategy?’ Change leadership asks, ‘What are people capable of? What are they interested in? What are they passionate about?’ Instead of focusing on what to do, you focus on who’s doing it and how they’re doing it.” Studies have shown that it’s better to choose a strategy that fits your culture rather than hoping your culture changes to fit your new strategy because people are such an important part of the change process.

Engage With Your Employees

“Management by walking around is an old technique, but it still works,” Dr. Shipp says. She recommends leaders mingle and engage with their employees as much as possible to find out what difficulties they’re experiencing and what issues they’re dealing with. It’s important to cultivate a mindset in your business where taking risks and failing is okay because it means you’ve tried something new. When you’re having a crisis, Dr. Shipp says the first thing you should do is check on your people to cultivate an employee-first culture.

Keep the Communication Lines Open

Businesses always face periods that challenge employees' hope in the uncertain future. “We’re not in the first few days of ‘how will we do business?’ We’re in the ‘What does this look like?’” Dr. Shipp says. It’s imperative during this time to keep communication channels open, answer any questions employees may have, and gauge what’s working and what’s not working. “You almost can’t overcommunicate,” says Dr. Shipp. “I’ve never heard employees complain, ‘This was too much communication."

By embracing change, fostering a culture of openness to ambiguity, and maintaining effective communication with employees, businesses can position themselves for success in the present and the future.