“You hate change,” my girlfriend is always telling me.
To which I generally reply, “No. I don’t mind change. It’s the process of change I don’t like.”
And I think that’s true for all of us. On some level, we understand that our world is in constant motion, making change inevitable. And change is frightening. It takes up a lot of time and energy to try to figure out what is likely to happen, and what you should do in anticipation of those perceived outcomes. The pressure to get things right can be overwhelming. It can be a frustrating and expensive proposition. (Just ask anyone who opted to go with Beta videotape machines instead of VHS 40 years ago.)
Another commonplace reaction to coming change is to acknowledge that it’s coming, but respond with a wait-and-see attitude in the hope that you’ll be able to gather more information and can make better decisions as a result. Yet waiting until you have all the information can be worse than taking the wrong action – because by the time you do make a decision, marshal your resources and get in gear, you can be so behind the change curve that it is literally impossible to catch up.
That was the message Goodyear CEO Rich Kramer delivered to employees and North American dealers at the company’s annual dealer meeting in Grapevine, Texas, in late January.
Kramer focused his talk on the concept of inflection points, based on a book titled “Only the Paranoid Survive” by Andrew S. Grove. Speaking to more than 2,000 attendees during his keynote speech on the meeting’s last day, Kramer defined an inflection point as a permanent shift in behaviors that changes the way people think and act. “We don’t always recognize when an inflection point happens," he cautioned. "We only recognize it in hindsight.
“Many of the changes impacting business today have already started – even if you can’t see them yet,” he warned his audience. “It would be easier for us if those changes appeared all at once as kind of a 'Big Bang,' as traumatic as that might be. Because such an event would force us to act.”
In other words, it’s easy to read stories about last-mile deliveries, Blockchain, electric trucks, automated vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, Amazon, in-home grocery services, drones, robots and all the other changes rushing at trucking today and simply stay immobile. But now is precisely the time to be pondering and preparing for these new trends and technology – even if it seems they may be years away from mainstream use.
One way to tackle this challenge is to focus on the benefits of new technology, instead of the disruption it may cause. If you’re a P&D fleet, for example, take some time to simply consider whether an electric truck would make sense on some of your routes, and run some preliminary numbers on fuel savings, expected maintenance savings, possible government incentives, and whether they would save more money than the costs of reconfiguring a portion of your shop and power grid to accommodate those vehicles. Likewise, if you’re running a refuse fleet, ask yourself if limited autonomous vehicle capabilities at walking speeds could make your vehicles and their crews more efficient. And if you’re a long-haul fleet, ask yourself how the ability to put a near-future truck into autonomous driving mode in heavy Baltimore traffic, for example, might make your drivers’ lives easier and help you attract new ones and hold onto the ones you already have.
If change is coming – and we all agree it is – you might as well start thinking now about how it will affect your business and your bottom line. As Rich Kramer showed in Texas last month, savvy corporate CEOs have already been doing so for some time. Because they understand that the stakes are high and that hesitation today can be fatal for businesses tomorrow.