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Adapting to Change is Paramount in the Wine Industry

Columnist: Tim Carl
January, 2020 Issue

Tim Carl
All articles by columnist

For several decades, change has come gradually to the wine industry, but in the last few years the need for adaptation is accelerating. With the threat of yearly fires, ongoing intermittent power outages, changing demographics, shifting consumer preferences and growing health concerns over wine consumption the need to understand and adapt to these changes is paramount for grape growers, winery owners and everyone in between. For companies to stay relevant, they must not only adapt to change, but also create a nimble environment that encourages adaptability at its core. Following are the six rules of adaptability.

Use frameworks

When top business leaders are faced with daunting conditions, they often look to tried-and-true frameworks to explore and assess their own company and products compared with the competition. For example, using the simple SWOT framework (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) can often uncover unknown, or recently added challenges, that you may have overlooked, or left unaddressed by your current strategic plan. Or, what about using the Four Ps (price, product, position and promotion) to uncover how your company or products stack up to the competitors’? Another approach is to use the Four Cs (customers, competition, cost and capabilities) when analyzing a new product introduction or the general state of the industry? You can even delve deeper and explore Porter’s Five Forces, the Product Life Cycle Curve, Value Chain Analysis, or the Three Horizons of Growth. The point is to use well-tested frameworks to thoroughly explore and assess your company’s own value proposition and current market conditions.

Welcome failure

Welcoming failure does not mean accepting failed outcomes. The point is many companies spend a ton of time and resources to guard against every failure, and in so doing, they often create an environment where risks are shunned and innovation is hindered. Whereas accepting failure is to accept defeat, fostering a welcoming-failure culture acknowledges that embracing mistakes are critical steppingstones toward greater learning and adaption. Ask your managers to be error-free and they will either become risk-adverse, or hide their mistakes. Empower—and even incentivize—your team to make errors, share them with the team (with enthusiasm) and then work toward a shared solution and you have the makings for strategic innovation.

Foster internal communication

Does your company value constructive dialogue and feedback? Do managers and owners set aside time every day, week and month for open and honest conversations with team members? If so, who does all the talking? Who does all the listening? Are meetings a series of agenda items often with the intention or tone of a reprimand? Does your company have a toxic team member who bullies and directs all conversations? Are there safe zones where more junior team members feel comfortable speaking their minds? Do you have an effective way to share B2B (business-to-business) and C2B (consumer-to-business) feedback with the entire team? If you have answers to these questions, you’re on your way. If not, you probably need to rethink your internal communication strategy.

Encourage shared learning

Once you’ve used your frameworks to assess your company and the competition, welcomed failures and fostered opened lines of communication, craft a clear and consistent method for communicating these findings. It’s the next crucial step toward building an adaptive organization. One company I worked with created a monthly list of the top findings that went out in an email. Another aspect of learning is to have continuing education credits that team members might use to take classes at local colleges, online, institutions, etc. I recommend not having any restrictions on the topic of study as anyone passionate enough to take a class on poetry might just end up writing the best email to a disgruntled customer they’ve ever received.

Reward accountability

Without accountability at all levels of your organization—no matter how big or small—there will be an erosion of trust and morale. Beyond these toxins, the lack of accountability often goes hand in hand with a lack of transparency that fosters mistrust. Celebrate those who take responsibility, and you will help create a culture that is open to adaptive innovation.

Embrace an adaptive mindset

Having the ability to adapt means to encourage and reward risk-taking, while developing connections with internal team members and also externally with customers and shareholders. It means continuing to learn through listening and exploring business realities through time-tested frameworks, while providing space for team members to envision new strategies that address and advance your company’s distinct value proposition.

The power of change

Rumi was a Persian poet who lived during the tumultuous 13th century, a time when the Mongolian invasion was transforming the culture of the Middle East. Toward the end of his life he reflected on the meaning of change itself, writing words that are as true today as they were then: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”




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