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The necessity of change: don’t fear it, embrace it

Ken Wong
Ken WongAP Senior Vice President and President
I lead a fortune 500 tech company's rapid growth markets in Asia Pacific across PCs, mobile devices, and data centre infrastructure. I have extensive experience over the last two decades managing complex geographies in technology leadership roles at global, regional and country levels. I enjoy turning data insights and analysis into a powerful strategic direction that has seen us deliver exceptional innovation.

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The only thing about change that never changes is that it’s inevitable. It’s a necessity not to be feared, but to be embraced.

I have no problem with change.

Everything changes continually, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. However, the very concept of change equates to vibrancy and movement, which keeps business and life interesting.

What I do have a problem with is inflexibility, lack of focus, extreme caution and an unwillingness to adapt. Change is a necessity, and working in harmony with it is more than simply reacting to change. An individual and a business must anticipate change to move fluidly with it, much like a pair of ballet dancers or ice skaters might ebb and flow in synchronised movement.


Understanding change in business

Organisations have a mixed relationship with change; some handle it better than others. There’s a reason change management is an entire industry. It’s often thought of and applied in relation to major business software installations, but it’s also applicable to mergers and acquisitions.

And of course it reaches everywhere. If it is cultural change you wish to enact, it is best to combine the desired cultural shift with leadership development – not just at the most senior levels of the organisation, but with a top down and bottom up approach as recommended by noted management professor Ryan W. Quinn for the Harvard Business Review. In our company, I’m a big advocate of instilling our cultural priorities across every level of the business, and training and development is part of this. Of course there is business strategy fuelling the culture: our employees are encouraged to adopt a start-up mentality and think differently, more so than you might expect in the context of a large organisation. We find this leads to greater innovation.

There are a great many varieties of necessary change – which is why it is such a constant. Digital transformation typifies the essence of ongoing change and improvement, as it’s all about digitising the delivery of products, services, processes and communications to enable great customer experiences. Where there is room to improve (and there always is) the transformation continues. There is no better example of the regularity of change than this.


Tracking change in our business

Our business and industry changes in ways that are both predictable and unpredictable. Over the last few years alone – in just our consumer space – we have seen movement from a commodity market led by price, to one which features increasing consumer preference for premium options, 2in1s, gaming machines and multimode laptops and tablets. It was important for us to anticipate, adapt and lead in these sub-segments.

There is one caveat with understanding change in business. Change’s twin is focus.

Change is connected to growth. One newer adjustment we have made is in response to seeing an upswing in personal computing, growing stronger in the commercial business sector. In the pure consumer space, there are a multitude of device options, whereas demand for PCs for businesses is growing. We anticipate and react, working with commercial customers as to new preferences, designs, and custom pricing and supply models.

More broadly, we now see and anticipate further changes across different markets. Certainly emerging markets continue to strengthen, but our internal research points to new growth from mature markets like the U.S. and Japan. Take, for example, the approaching 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. This event will bring with it a range of new economic activity for multiple industries; most organisations should be strategizing now on how to take advantage of that.

These examples will not be the same next year or the year after. Understand each change on its own merits and make the correct moves.

There is one caveat with understanding change in business. Change’s twin is focus. You cannot simply start flipping and flopping this way and that way with every movement in the market. My leadership team and myself are focused on streamlining our organisation’s energies into what we are best at. People are very good at adding to strategy, but taking away from it is more important. A few years ago a read a book I highly recommend: Good to Great by Jim Collins, which has an excellent framework of things to enhance or add to a growth strategy, and what should be reduced or completely eliminated. I am still applying these methodologies accordingly with how we run the business in Asia Pacific as the market conditions continue to fluctuate.

Change becomes much less of a burden when you know it is ever present, a performance partner as per my theatrical dance analogy! Get used to change. Expect and welcome it in everything you do, plan for it and work with it. And you and your organisation will find the fear of change will evaporate.

I welcome your thoughts, experience and ideas in the comments below, or please connect with me on Twitter at @Ken_Wong.


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