field service

Technology and a New Mindset Are Driving Growth in Primary Industries

by Sasha Viasasha
July 19, 2018

By 2025, projections show that New Zealand businesses will be responsible for adding 140,000 support service jobs in primary industries. New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) oversees businesses related to farming, fishing, food, animal welfare, biosecurity, and forestry. Support services in this sector include just about anyone who helps businesses get the job done, including sole proprietors, field service workers, consultants, researchers, truck drivers, IT experts, and repair professionals.

As banking expert Richard Hegan, general manager rural for ASB Christchurch, recently pointed out, “To encourage more people into the primary industries, we need to think way more progressively…. To make the [agricultural] sector more attractive, we need to be more agile and start challenging some of the sector's longstanding unwritten rules.”

The next generation of workers are already taking on leadership roles and starting to challenging those rules, written and unwritten. They are bringing with them upgrades in technology that allow the to keep up with customer expectations, and in the process rewiring the nature of work itself. The most competitive businesses in primary industries have discovered that by adopting an innovative mindset, they can do more, lower their costs and adapt more easily to rapid changes in uncertain markets.

The 5 Most Significant Changes

The change in thinking brought about by this new mindset has been illustrated by QAspire’s Tanmay Vora, summing up research by Aaron Sachs and Anupam Kundu at ThoughtWorks.

 mindset

  • Instead of putting profits first, companies are organizing around a purpose. This helps them secure a loyal community of customers and partners who support that purpose, no matter what competitors do. 
  • Instead of locking down the businesses in slow-moving hierarchies, leaders create teams who collaborate in networks. Information travels much faster and technology helps people talk to each other directly from anywhere.
  • Instead of managers who control the actions of their direct reports, the company gives workers the right training and tools that empower them to make the right decisions.
  • Instead of sticking to long-term plans and trying to learn from mistakes after the fact, innovative companies experiment and discuss results in real time, lowering costs and capturing new opportunities as they arise.
  • Instead of keeping decision-making obscure, new companies open up to transparency

Sachs and Kundu wrote, “A responsive organization is one that can adapt rapidly to the pace of change and deliver new customer-focused products and services with a motivated workforce, on-demand. Such an organization is capable of leveraging short opportunity cycles and creating wonderful businesses out of simple concepts and use evidence-driven judgment to scale, pivot or kill initiatives.”

6 Guidelines for Overcoming Resistance to Change

While these observations are just as true for businesses beyond the primary industries, it is in these prime sectors, especially in rural areas, where resistance to change has been strongest.

According to Gartner analyst Bard Papegaaj, “Resistance to change is often based on emotional tension between conflicting commitments and beliefs — not on rational arguments.” The good news is that resistance in the workplace normally stems from positive emotions, like responsibility, empathy, circumspection, and curiosity.

His assessment agrees with finding from an investigative report released by the University of Auckland Business Review. They proposed a set of guidelines that help turn opposition to collaboration:

  • Understand that there might be winners and losers and that people naturally defend against loss, not against change itself. Together with affected stakeholders try to work out how to either minimise the losses or compensate people for them.
  • Note that people react (and resist) on cognitive, emotional and behavioural levels and that these reactions are not always aligned.
  • Handle resistance with care. Do not assume that it is wilful or ignorant. Do not equate doubt, dissent, disagreement and alternative proposals with refusal, disobedience and disloyalty. Understand that resistance may be conscious, semiconscious or unconscious and that behavioural resistance may be overt or covert.
  • Consider resistance as an orange light, not a barricade to be stormed. The management proposal or action may not have been thought through well enough and alternatives may be more appropriate.
  • Before choosing strategies to deal with resistance, consider their ramifications and, in particular, the power of other parties to undermine the effectiveness of the change or to derail it altogether. Will participation simply waste valuable time while problems grow or opportunities wither? Will coercion or manipulation get the job done but alienate the staff in the process, leading to more subtle forms of resistance? How helpful – and costly– will emotional and tangible support be?
  • Whenever possible aim for just processes and outcomes and underline them with regular, full and honest communication. For example, laying people off by email or text message – which has been done – exacerbates resistance to change.

The 21st Century Upgrade to the Most Traditional Sector

Change is here, ready or not. Even within the most traditional primary industries in New Zealand, support service workers are achieving better productivity at lower costs by adopting a set of technological and culture changes to the way business operates in New Zealand.

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