Haris Ahmed, a Chicago Consultant, Talks About Cultivating a Corporate Culture That Embraces Change

For Haris Ahmed, Chicago-based executive coach, business consultant, and CEO of Pragmatium Consulting, Inc., change is inevitable. Hasn’t it been said time and again that “change is the only constant in life”? Whether in the workplace, home life, or friendships —these will go through changes; and how you deal with them will determine your experience—including the benefits and losses. For first-time visitors, this blog site is all about change: adapting, adopting, aversion, acceptance, as well as the rewards and repercussions.

On the outset, change is such a scary, big word. Who wants change when you’re perfectly comfortable where you are right now? Never mind if you’re not living up to your full potential, or your company isn’t at the top of corporate rankings in your industry. So long as you’re surviving, you’re earning profits, and you have enough cash flow to cover operational and overhead costs, you’re in good waters, right? Why disrupt all of these when you’re not even sure what that change will do for your company, not to mention, your people?

But here’s the thing, unless we learn to adapt, adopt, or innovate, we’ll always be in the same boat. Soon enough, you could find your business lagging behind companies in your industry that you didn’t even consider as worthy competitors years ago. That’s the problem with not embracing change, you stay stuck; almost immovable.

Now that you’ve acknowledged the importance of embracing change, in business or even in your personal life, how do you cultivate a culture in your company that embraces and encourages change? In my opinion, the first thing you must do as the leader of your organization is to be open to change yourself. Remember that you, being the leader, set the example to everyone in your organization. If you give off the vibe that you’re not entirely open to change, and appear quite vocal about trends and shifts in your industry, harping on all the negative scenarios that could happen, then guess what? Your employees, soon enough, will pick up this vibe and follow your example. And those that don’t? You can expect them to walk out the door to look for a company that they feel they can grow with. Change is an effective tool that can grow your business by leaps and bounds, but only if you accept it and take positive action.

I mentioned here that being open is a key component to embracing change. And by being open, I mean communicating with your teams. Everything starts with proper and effective communication. Remember that communication is a two-way street; you talk, they listen; and when they talk, you listen too. Hear what your teams have to say, take note of their inputs and thoughts, welcome innovations that they may present to you, and then discuss, plan, and strategize.

Cultivating a corporate culture that encourages change is a team effort, but it all begins with you, the organization’s leader. What are your thoughts on this? Please feel free to share them with me, Haris Ahmed of Chicago, in the comments section below.

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Haris Ahmed from Chicago: 5 Events That Changed the Business Landscape in the Last 30 Years

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Hello, I’m Haris Ahmed of Chicago-based consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc. and I have worked with organizations from various industries teaching them how to adapt to change.

Change—it’s all around us, the only constant that keeps business owners and managers awake at night, ruminating on how to adapt to it and break any potential fall. In most cases, businesses are able to adequately prepare for change, ensuring a smooth transition as much as possible. However, there are times when preparation is also rendered futile because businesses simply do not have the capacity to accurately anticipate or forecast what type of change will hit them next. We’ve seen this happen with climate change, which continues to pose a threat to everyone, but this isn’t the first time such a change of this magnitude had greatly impacted the way business is done in the country.

In the last 30 years, we have witnessed several major events that caused, not just mere ripples, but high tides of change that affected businesses. Here are some of them:

1. The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989 – The end of the Cold War in 1989 brought about a never-before-seen revolution for American businesses as it opened new markets in Europe for American products. Some examples of companies that dominated and benefited from this sudden embrace of all things Western are Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Microsoft.

2. Netscape’s IPO, 1995 – A big segment of the workforce today, specifically millennials, were too young to understand the implications of Netscape’s IPO in 1995, but it’s worth looking back on this fortuitous event. This is because it paved the way for the World Wide Web’s successful shift onto the mainstream, changing the course of business forever. For many young professionals, the idea of an Internet-free world is unbelievable.

3. September 11 Attacks, 2001 – The terrorist attacks that happened on September 11, 2001 left deep scars on the business community, so much so that many still harbor fears and paranoia up to now. On that fateful day, the country saw its stock market crash and commodity prices such as oil and gas shoot up, which affected small business owners the most. In New York alone, it is estimated that 9/11 directly affected some 18,000 businesses, either abruptly ending operations or displacing them.

4. The Global Financial Crisis, 2007-2008 – No one saw it coming, but the housing bubble serves as a grim reminder of the brokenness of the financial system. When the bubble finally burst, small business owners suddenly found themselves with less access to credit, effectively paralyzing their business activities. Based on a report by Business Journals, the financial crisis killed some 170,000 businesses from 2008 to 2010, showing how the crisis’ effects have a lasting, haunting impact on entrepreneurs.

5. Fed Interest Rate Hike, 2015 – Finally, after close to a decade, the Federal Reserve finally found its foothold to hike interest rates from 0% to a range of 0.25% and 0.5%. The figure may seem small, but it nonetheless affected millions of investors, home buyers, and entrepreneurs, as well as college students.

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Haris Ahmed from Chicago: Using the PEST Analysis for Identifying Changes

Haris Ahmed of Chicago consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc. has provided numerous organizations with a high level of assistance in change management. Read his blog about the PEST Analysis below:

According to legendary military strategist Sun Tzu, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” What did he mean by this? And what can business owners and managers learn from the great Sun Tzu about dealing with change?

First, we must define and differentiate strategy from tactics. In its simplest definition, strategy can be thought of as the plan, while the tactics are the actions taken by the company which are in accordance to the plan (strategy) to meet the overall objectives. In this regard, we can conclude that proper planning and action go hand in hand if victory were to be achieved.

When it comes to change management, adapting to change smoothly and with minimal damage to the company’s reputation or market share, for instance, can be considered as the strategy. On the other hand, how to implement the inevitable change is in the realm of tactics or the procedures and maneuvers that the company will engage in to deal with the change.

However, before a company should even think about their plan or the actions they’ll take accordingly, they should look first into conducting a PEST Analysis as this framework can greatly help them analyze and break down further the different components and aspects of the change.

The PEST Analysis was first developed by Harvard professor Francis Aguilar in 1967 through his book “Scanning the Business Environment”. PEST is an acronym for the Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural, and Technological factors in the surrounding business environment. As a strategic planning tool, the PEST Analysis can give business owners and managers a bird’s eye view of the business landscape so they may take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.

Additionally, the PEST Analysis can help them further refine the direction of the change they are steering the business towards. Let’s take for example a small restaurant owner who wants to have a stronger digital presence. Based on the PEST analysis, he/she should take note of the current government’s stability, tax policies, and other economic agendas for the Political factors. For the Economic factors, he/she should look at inflation, interest and exchange rates, as well as unemployment trends as this can affect his/her customers’ purchasing power.

Meanwhile, for the Socio-Cultural changes, these could be his/her customers’ lifestyle choices, level of health consciousness, and attitudes towards eating out versus preparing meals at home. Lastly, for the Technological factors, he/she may want to invest in building a social media presence in order to access his/her customers, or simply offer free Wi-Fi connection for the enjoyment of customers.

The PEST Analysis has several variations, considering the legal and environmental factors, ethics, demographics, and intercultural factors. Regardless of which framework you go with, this handy strategic tool can help your business navigate the broad macro-environmental landscape and ultimately, lead you down the path of victory.

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Haris Ahmed of Chicago: Top 3 Technology Trends to Embrace

Haris Ahmed, a Chicago consultant from Pragmatium Consulting, Inc. put together this blog with the goal of reaching out to organizational leaders who are in need of assistance improve their operations.

The past decade has seen the business landscape change in such rapid fashion that many businesses find themselves trapped in their old ways of thinking and doing. Besides geo-political and geo-economic events whose effects reverberate throughout the world, one type of change that has disrupted practically every facet of daily living is technological change. Compared to the rituals of daily living, however, businesses are more pressured to adapt to technological changes, even to those that are seemingly outside of their industry. This is because best practices of market leaders are often visible and familiar to consumers, hence the expectations on other market players are greater. With that said, whether you’re in retail, real estate, or any other industry for that matter, here are some of the biggest technology trends to watch out for.

#1: Internet of Things – Soon, every imaginable device will be interconnected, and the data provided by these objects will transform the way we live and work. The Internet of Things has already found wide application among the transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors, and by 2021, it is expected to become a $123 billion industry, a hefty sum which should catch the attention of business leaders and entrepreneurs. While there’s still a lot of work left to be done in terms of infrastructure and security, IoT is seen to pave the way for an industrial revolution that is characterized by data-driven decisions and solutions.

#2: Augmented reality – Without a doubt, Pokémon Go has been the biggest success story of augmented reality thus far. Beyond nostalgia and fulfillment of childhood dreams of becoming a Pokémon trainer, however, the hit game by Niantic has also been found to have substantial implications on physical activity. In a study done by Althoff et al., mobile apps that combine game play and physical activity like Pokémon Go were found to have led to short-term activity increases. They noted that Pokémon Go alone added a total of 144 billion steps to US physical activity across men and women of all ages, a feat which should pique the interest of business leaders on how they can seamlessly integrate this technology to customers’ experiences.

#3: Artificial intelligence – Artificial intelligence started last year on a high note, thanks to Google’s AlphaGo system which beat Go world-champion Lee Sedol in 4 of 5 matches. The historic victory has led to a resurgence in the belief that artificial intelligence will one day be able to solve complex problems in real-life situations. Without getting ahead of ourselves however, AI appears to be well on its way to cracking more codes of ground-breaking technologies. Google, for instance, has also come up with a system that can generate natural-sounding speech and music. Called WaveNet, this neural network can potentially pave the way for smooth-talking robots in the near future.

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Haris Ahmed of Chicago: Communicating Change

Haris Ahmed, a Chicago consultant, is the owner of management consulting company Pragmatium Consulting Inc., a firm that helps companies improve their performance and operations.

When it comes to change, human beings—time and time again—have shown that they are wired for aversion, instead of openness. Generally, this is so because of fear, or rather, people’s fear for the unknown. However, managers and executives can clear up this cloud of uncertainty upon them by communicating change effectively. Whether you’re in a small startup or in a large organization, here are helpful questions to ask when crafting your communication strategy. These should break down your message of change further so recipients are more likely to be responsive to it.

1. What is the change?

Before anything else, identify exactly what the change is. For instance, is it a local or global event or trend that will impact the organization? Is it an internal one, such as a change in processes or practices? This may sound obvious but perhaps that is so because of the dangerous assumption that everyone is on the same page with each other. In large organizations especially, managers and leaders should be wary of having their message diluted or changed as it travels through different communication vehicles. In a nutshell, communicating clearly what the change is should not leave any room for speculation or misinterpretation, which can raise people’s defenses, thereby leading them even further to resist the change.

2. Who will be affected by it?

As previously established, people are commonly averse to change because of fear. Apart from this uncertainty, they may also be resistant to change because of loss of control, security, or some personal advantage they perceive. As such, it’s critical to identify who will be affected by this change so you can allocate more of your time in planning your message around them. When developing your communication strategy, ask: will it affect employees directly? How will they be affected? Is the change a one-time occurrence or gradual? On the other hand, how relevant is the change if it will indirectly affect employees only? Similar to breaking down what the change is in clear terms, the importance of this exercise is to protect the integrity of your organization. For instance, a planned layoff is a major change that should be communicated carefully. This is because its effects can go beyond those who are let go and affected directly, impacting overall employee morale.

3. Why do you have to adapt?

On the part of managers, executives, decision-makers, or professionals in positions of leadership, outlining the consequences of failing to adapt may provide them a sense of urgency that can spring them into action. Conversely, they may also determine the rewards of adapting to change which can give their organization a competitive advantage. Often, change is regarded by businesses as an obstacle or adversity but when viewed through a lens of opportunity, it’s potentially what can lay the foundations for a change-responsive workforce that is flexible and resilient all at the same time.

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Haris Ahmed of Chicago: Adapting to Environmental Change


Haris Ahmed, a Chicago consultant, has worked with organizations from various industries, both private and public, for-profit and non-profit.

When it comes to change, the first few changes that usually come to mind among business leaders are in the realm of technological advances and consumer preferences, or market trends so to speak, but one type of change that can greatly affect or impact entire businesses is the environmental kind.

If you think that your business is safe from the dire climate changes that are happening as we speak, because you’re in e-commerce, for example, know that no business is completely immune from feeling the effects of environmental changes. Think of it like a tipping domino that can trigger a chain of events; one day you may just find that the rug has been pulled from under your feet. Without a sound plan, your business will certainly have a hard time adapting, which is why now is a good time as any to think about how these environmental changes can affect your business in the first place.

Why is it that all businesses are vulnerable to environmental changes? For one, these changes in the environment can bring about price and regulatory risks, among others. Without being overly simplistic, recall that businesses are subject to the laws of supply and demand. In developed countries, there is a real clamor for factories and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. Thus, the government may have no choice but to step in and enforce stricter regulatory measures. For businesses, this may mean they would have to invest in greener technologies, reduce production output, or completely halt operations in extreme cases as a reaction. As for price risks, environmental changes can make it harder for businesses to harvest raw materials, for instance. There could also be a severe lack of raw materials occurring, which will can lead prices to go up higher. From there, businesses will be left to their own devices, finding ways to cope and keep their heads above the water.

Generally, environmental changes are troubling in the sense that there is often little that businesses can do to influence the outcome. Most of the time, it’s the environment that’s calling the shots and man can only be reactive to that. This doesn’t mean, however, that businesses should just give up and deal with the punches that come their way. It’s one thing to resign to fatalism and another to be realistically be open to change that’s out of your control.

So where does this leave businesses? For managers, entrepreneurs, or any other professional in a position of leadership, it’s critical to forecast different possible scenarios that can unfold and to plan around them. Just keep in mind that mitigating risk brought about by the environment may call for collaboration with others professionals or experts who are more knowledgeable about the climate situation where your business is, unless you yourself have a deep background in environmental science. In the end, acknowledging your business’ vulnerability to the environment is a good first step in learning how to adapt capably.

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Haris Ahmed of Chicago: Top 5 Examples of Businesses that Failed to Adapt

Leadership consultant Haris Ahmed is from Chicago and has provided high-level assistance to numerous organizations.

Businesses that fail to adapt are doomed to be taken over by their competition, or worse, file for bankruptcy. If you look back on history, you’ll see that it’s littered with names of companies that were once market giants but are now nothing more than has-beens. While business leaders of today arguably have it better—as they have the benefit of learning from mistakes made in the past—not all businesses find wisdom in their position and take advantage of the opportunity accorded to them.

To further highlight the importance of adapting, these examples of businesses that failed because they didn’t adapt will probably say it best:

#1: Kodak – A case study favorite, Kodak showed utter complacency with its film business. What was glaringly wrong on their part was their assumption that the film business would always be around. Surprisingly, Kodak squandered every opportunity it had to be the pioneer of digital photography. Not a lot of people know that Kodak actually invented digital photography, coming out with a digital camera in 1995, two long decades after inventing it.

#2: Nokia – Another classic example of what happens when businesses fail to adapt is the case of Nokia. The Finnish multinational company can take credit for bringing mobile phones to the masses, but their success quickly ran out of steam when Apple and Android came crashing the party. Nokia had underestimated the importance of software, clinging to their comfort zone in hardware too much and to their detriment.

#3: Motorola – For a time, Motorola was ahead of the game and could stand toe to toe with Nokia, for instance. However, what went wrong in Motorola’s case is that they were slow to innovate, and relied too much on their niche, which was fashionable but less tech-savvy mobile phones. As a result, the competition ate their market share and now, they have a new lease on life thanks to Google, one of the champions of innovation.

#4: Sony – Before there were mp3 players, iPods, and smart phones, there were Sony Walkmans. Like Kodak, Sony was considering pushing for digital formats, but ultimately didn’t until it was already too late. Sony was also on the same boat as Nokia in the sense that the Japanese tech giant neglected software in favor of hardware. In the end, Sony’s downfall from technology leadership has proven to be a painful and expensive lesson, and from the looks of it, the Japanese firm’s troubles won’t be ending any time soon.

#5: Palm – Like Nokia, Palm’s handheld devices were extremely popular back in the day, especially among working professionals. But where Palm invested heavily in its software, they dropped the ball in hardware with the PDA’s awful keyboard, overall design, and product marketing, which spelled the company’s tragic end. Just how tragic, you ask? For perspective, Palm’s shares traded at a high of $165. In 2010, HP was able to acquire Palm for a measly $5.70 per share.

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Haris Ahmed of Chicago Asks: Do You Adapt to Disruptive Change?

In today’s business landscape, shifts in external environments are taking place at a much faster pace. Where decades ago adapting to these shifts were regarded as merely options to consider; today, it’s more of a do or die situation. For Haris Ahmed of Chicago-based management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc., disruptive change has become the new normal in external and internal environments, and unless you pay attention to it and adapt to the changes as necessary, you could go from being the go-to resource of your customers to the company that no one remembers. In the blink of an eye, you could go from number one to nowhere near top rankings at all.

Disruptive change is anything that threatens to shake the established foundations of your organization; from employee productivity to industry performance, physical equipment, computer-dependent processes, vendor relations, and buying methods. Disruptive change, in a word, can affect all areas of your business, both internally and externally. Keeping up with these can make sure that your business or organization is headed in the right direction..

Alternatively, companies that fail to adapt have laid down their path to failure. In your industry alone, how many companies have you witnessed folding up in recent years because not only did they lack the foresight to predict looming changes in the industry, but worse, they failed to adapt. While there are other factors at play in this kind of scenario the inability of the organization to adapt to these fast-moving disruptive changes is almost always a determining factor.

Timing is another critical factor in keeping up with these changes. Implement a program too soon (before the market is ready) and you could lose a lot of money—money you invested in a new software program, technology, or marketing and advertising. Implement a program too late in the game and you could decrease your existing market by a considerable percentage—or you lose enough momentum that it’s almost impossible to recover.

Perception is fundamental in adapting to disruptive change

When a change in the landscape occurs, it is the responsibility of the leader to disseminate information to the organization; and the message conveyed is dictated by the way the leader perceives the changes. In other words, if the leader sees the change as something that is a threat instead of an opportunity, the organization may respond to this as a threat to be fought or avoided. When everyone is given cause to panic, the general consensus could be to take immediate action. On the other hand, if the change is seen as a possible opportunity, the organization, with the direction of its leader, may opt to wait awhile to see how this particular change will play out.

But even as you play the wait-and-see game, you would have already prepared enough to take the first steps, as a precautionary measure, in the event that it’s the right time to implement these changes.

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Haris Ahmed of Chicago Talks About Organizations Adopting the Culture of Change

The ever-changing landscape of business environments; from markets to industry trends, technology, communications, purchasing methods, and audience demographics, all point towards one important factor in organizational leadership: adopting the culture of change. Whenever Haris Ahmed, founder and CEO of Chicago management consulting firm, Pragmatium Consulting, Inc., is approached by leaders of organizations, one of the most common issues he comes across is their inability to effect the culture of change in their organization.

And this, in large part, is due to the employees’ resistance to change. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they do not see the change as something positive for the company or that this change will not be good for them individually; but rather, they resist change because they are hesitant about leaving their comfort zone. It’s not also about complacency because they want to move forward and grow. It’s more about not being sure if they will be able to adapt. They’d rather not cross the stream if they don’t know what’s on the other side.

As the leader of an organization, how do you imbue the culture of change in your members?

Your approach is a crucial factor here. How do you make members of your team feel on your day-to-day interactions with them? If they feel that they are being ordered around with nary a second thought about giving them the opportunity to be heard, then your team members most likely resent you for it. And if they already resent you, anything else that comes out of your mouth will be construed as another command to be followed, or else. They may feel that if they don’t show progress after adapting to the changes that you have implemented, they will be replaced by someone with more promise.

On the other hand, if you lead by example, where you yourself are taking the necessary steps to improve on your performance or further hone your skills, they will most likely welcome the changes that you want to make. And if you include them in the decision-making process, they will feel that their inputs and contributions are valued and appreciated.

There are times when you need to hold the reins and stay at the forefront, and times when holding the reins mean walking side-by-side with your team; knowing when to use one over the other shows good leadership.

In a nutshell, instilling the culture of change in your team members works better when you make them feel included and personally involved in the outcome. If you make them feel that you are invested and committed to their growth and development, they will be more open about welcoming change as part of your organization’s culture. Why? Because they know you’ve got their backs.

In situations like these, management consultants like Haris Ahmed of Chicago-based Pragmatium Consulting Inc. are brought in by the company to help the organization and its members ease into adopting a new way of thinking, moving, and operating. Transitions and transformations in organizations are time-consuming and require in-depth analysis, and a consultant is the best person to handle all the nitty-gritty details to prevent disruptions to day-to-day operations.



Haris Ahmed of Chicago Asks: What Do You Do When Change is Inevitable?

Change leadership, or leadership that’s open to change, is a critical factor in achieving the company’s goals. When management opts to keep things as they are despite the warning signs, they inevitably hamper the company’s growth and have reduced its profit potential. For Haris Ahmed, CEO of Chicago management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting, Inc., being adverse to change and refusing to adapt to changing environments could spell disaster for the organization and the business as a whole. Where once you were the leader of the pack, you could suddenly find yourself lagging so far behind that you become a cautionary tale.


But if your leadership style is geared towards pliability and flexibility and you’re not afraid to bend when the wind blows, you give the organization a better shot at achieving its goals. Businesses have the same objectives: to enhance profits and become the leader in their industry. The difference lies in the direction that they take to achieve these. And for the most part, those who do succeed recognize when change is the only way to stay in the game, and undertake a strong pro-active approach to implement these changes.

So what do you do when change is inevitable?

First of all, good leadership entails recognizing factors that point to changes looming on the horizon. Simply put, your research and analysis skills should be sharp enough to allow you to identify these factors before your competitors see them. Or you take action before the rest of the world does.

With that said, the most important component of your change leadership is your team—the people that you lead. In order to have an effective strategy for adapting to the industry’s changing climate, you need to have the right people to work with. New talents or expertise may be needed, and acquiring these is your first step towards developing a strategy that shifts you from where you are to where you want to be.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the members of your organization should be able to help you make that inevitable shift. No matter how well-researched and solid your plan is, without the right people, the plan may fail or fall short of forecasted outcomes.

And when you do get the right people on your team, the second most important component for an effective strategy is communication. Remember that you got these people on your team to help you adapt to change, and listening to their inputs is critical to the strategy development process. Each member of your team has his or her own skillset and expertise, and they will bring these to the drawing board, if you let them.

To sum it up, research and analysis, talent, and communication are essential components for adapting to change. When you have all of these factors taken care of, you have the right foundation to adapt to, or even create, change in your industry.

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