Adapt or Die: How External software engineering consultancy can benefit your company
In the ever-changing, competitive climate the pressure can mount up on companies to keep at the forefront and adapt to their environment. Businesses can no longer rely on previous business models. New technology, change in consumerism, struggling economy; A global pandemic – Agility is key.
In an unfortunate twist of events, companies with higher employee engagement and retention of staff see more resistance to change. Employees are more likely to not adapt as they are rooted within the team and the politics of the company.
Muzafer Sherif in 1961 led a famous experiment, The robbers’ cave experiment, in which group conflict is explored. Two groups were formed both creating separate values and norms within them, both created a sense of team identity and members felt deeply embedded within their cultures. When the groups were brought together conflict arose, their strong engagement within their original group kept them from integrating, even producing hostility towards the other team.
This classic tale of conflict theory can be seen time and time again within companies where knowing or unknowingly employees will discount external change, safeguard other team members and honour the status quo.
Companies rejecting change, failing to innovate and ultimately leading to their demise can sadly be seen throughout history:
Arguably one of the leading giants in movie rentals in the late 80s and 90s failed to adapt to the changing consumer patterns and push in online streaming. Netflix famously approached Blockbuster in the early 2000s however the deal was rejected by the Blockbuster CEO as they failed to see the company’s worth. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010, while Netflix continues to dominate the online streaming service.
In the late 90s, Nokia lead the mobile phone market. The company was led to its demise by not adequately investing in its software, including seeing the importance of apps. Because of this rejection and inability to adapt to change Nokia was sold off.
Yahoo was the top choice for web search engines and news, valued at £91 billion at its peak in 2000. The company ignored the significance of its search engine and began following other business adventures, they passed on the opportunity to buy Google as they believed this was not what customers wanted. In 2016 Yahoo was sold at £3.5 billion.
The above companies are not the only ones that have fallen victim to a lack of adaptability and they will not be the last. Employees that are invested in the culture of their companies resulting in a lack of innovation, often fail to adapt, and ultimately die.
Change Agents: Internal, external or both?
Carefully selected change agents can support and promote a new way of thinking within a company that may be facing issues of lack of ingenuity. Companies trying not to fall victim to the inability to adapt can seek out individuals who will implement needed change. These advocates can be from within the company or external, many companies view their options as “either/or” and neglect the idea of having a mixture of external and internal resources. Companies must take careful consideration as to how they bring about change agents, contemplating many factors and possible outcomes.
- Many agree that having change agents from within the company is a lower cost than having external.
- Internal members of staff are familiar with the company’s culture, values and goals. They will already have meaningful relationships with other members of staff that could add to other members’ buy-in. It can also be argued that familiarity within the company can lead to bias, lack of credibility and blindness to companies’ pitfalls.
- Change agents from within a company have only their own company to focus on, their inside knowledge can lead to faster improvements and changes. This may also be seen as a downfall due to the capability of an internal change agent being questionable, due to not having any outside experience.
- Many companies do not have the resources within house to make internal members agents of change, their much-needed skills will need to be divided up, and their workloads will need to be reconfigured and directed elsewhere; many companies simply do not have the capability do this.
- External change agents are flexible and available on short notice. More can be provided by the talent agency firm if extra resources are needed.
- Change agents from outside the company are more likely to be non-bias and have objectivity toward the company’s culture. This allows them to be less impacted by the ‘norm’ within the company and allow more ‘fresh thinking’ – this is undoubtedly a massive advantage, especially within companies suffering from a lack of innovation.
- External consultants generally have a higher level of experience compared to in-house members. Finding a talent agency that can hone in on specific requirements that your company is searching for adds more value.
- Although Internal consultants are deemed cheaper by many, external consultants can be hired for a specific measured amount of time. This allows for more control over the purse strings and better manageability within the company.
Imbedding both external and internal resources allow the best of both worlds, mixing expertise, objectivity and budget options. In successful cases of change agents, the external consultant can be a catalyst for internal members, creating countless ripples within the company that will continue to grow in strength.
The relationship with mixed resources allows the internal change agent to view the external as a professional in the area, bringing in specific skills and objectivity, The external change agent is aware that the internal agent of change is ultimately in charge and the decision maker. The internal knows the culture of the company and how best to work, the external can challenge any troublesome values they uncover.
The different drives of the external and internal can also complement each other, external change agents must deliver projects on time and within budget, and internal change agents who hold more of an identity with the company will hold more pride towards the project and those working within.
The mix of internal and external change agents can lead to better success rates, having external expertise and experience is vital; but having them accepted from within the company is also key. Using a carefully selected talent and recruitment agency can help identify consultants that will best fit the company goals and targets. Muzafer Sheriff’s research into conflict in The Robbers’ Cave experiment (1961) found that by giving the two conflicting groups a similar goal that benefits them all helped create unity and cohesion. Having the two groups work together with a subordinate goal free from competitiveness allows them to pool together all their resources and skills; and ultimately achieve success.