Good, Bad, or Just Different?
It is not the
strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to
Author unknown, commonly
misattributed to Charles Darwin
In today’s business world, change is inevitable – new
technologies, new products/services, new processes, and new markets regularly drive changes in the way that
organisations are staffed, structured and operated. Additionally, the environment in which
an organisation operates, in terms of the political landscape, government policies and legislation, or
industrial frameworks, can force or inhibit organisational change. No matter how
solid an organisation’s management, production, customer service, or market share, externally imposed change,
particularly if unexpected, can significantly impact a company’s operations and bottom
line. As the world around your business is continually changing, your business must also
change, or it may stagnate in, fall behind, or be consumed by, the
For an organisation to effectively respond to
change, it needs to anticipate, plan for, and control that change, rather than merely reacting passively to it, or
worse, not reacting at all. By being prepared, rather than caught off guard, a business can ride
the wave of change rather than be dumped by it. However, this is easy to say, but in today’s
environment of uncertainty and instability, much harder to achieve.
Take, for example, the Federal Government’s recent
decision to abolish the Commercial Ready program, a decision which has shaken the biotechnology
industry. The Commercial Ready program, launched in 2004, was a competitive merit-based grants
program supporting innovation and commercialisation by providing grants of between $250,000 and $5 million to
small- and medium-sized businesses, many in the biotech industry.
While the Government claims that abolishing the
program will save $700 million over four years, industry experts point instead to the $1.4 billion lost to
investment in innovation and commercialisation, factoring in the matching of private investment to government
grants. Furthermore, companies who had recently submitted a grant application, or were in the
process of completing one, are realising that their efforts have been for nought, unless the Government can be
lobbied to reverse its decision, or at least reconsider the date of effect to allow current and pending
applications to be assessed.
Organisations will respond to the axing of
Commercial Ready in different ways – some may seek alternative grants or investors for their projects, some may
take their operations offshore to reduce overheads and expenses, some may downgrade the scale of their projects to
accommodate reduced funding, and some may give up on their projects altogether. One could argue
that any of these responses could be detrimental to innovation, commercialisation and growth in the Australian
biotech industry. However, perhaps there are alternative responses?
Before deciding on the best response to any
change, there are a number of questions to be asked and answered:
Is change required? (or being imposed
regardless?) If so, what type of change/s, and to what?
- Who will own and drive the change process? (or, if
externally imposed, who will own and drive the change response?) Who else needs to be on
- Who are the other stakeholders? How will
these parties be affected by, and respond to, the change/s?
- What has the organisation’s past experience of change
been? And what about the owners/drivers, participants and other
stakeholders? Has their previous experience of change been positive, negative, or
What resistance, and how much, should be
anticipated? How can that resistance be overcome/minimised?
Given the organisational structure and
culture, how should the business consult and/or communicate with its members, encourage and facilitate
participation in the change process, and manage the implementation and review of that
In the above example of the abolition of the
Commercial Ready program and its impact on many Australian biotech companies, some of these questions are not as
relevant as others, or have already been answered by circumstances outside those companies’
control. However, even in the case of undesirable and externally imposed change, there are still
choices in how and how quickly an organisation responds. In the words of Viktor Frankl, who
survived the Holocaust and six months in Türkheim concentration camp, “When we are no longer able to change a
situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
So, if your business is affected by the abolition
of the Commercial Ready program or other externally imposed pressures or threats, how are you responding to
By Trevor Neville,
Principal, and Kirsten Ferguson (Human Resource Management Consultant), TranZition Professional and Executive
Recruitment, Level 3 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: