In my last blog post I talked about process and how it was a blunt instrument in a volatile world of change and that I thought People were the answer, let me explain.
Up until recently, when it came to business big was beautiful, big was financially strong and was hard to replicate because you had to buy all the infrastructure needed to compete. Over the last few years that has all changed, the proliferation of the cloud and social networks has meant almost anyone can take on the big guys and win. Instagram build a business in 2 years which sold for $1.5 Billion whilst Kodak founded in 1888 (the inventors of the digital camera) filed for bankruptcy.
My point being big is no longer a guarantee of longevity or success. In fact it now can be detrimental to success. In a world where new businesses and market share can be built in months, your ability to respond and change quickly is paramount. But that’s not easy for large organisations, they’re filled with lots of complex legacy systems built up over many years. They are filled with governance, process and hierarchy which stifles creativity and constricts the flow of information. They are slow and cumbersome, built for quality and efficiency not speed and adaptability.
I believe fundamental to this shift of being more adaptable will be empowerment of their staff to create stuff, experiment and make decisions.
Because in a world where the pace of change has accelerated to the point where no-one can predict what the future will bring, ADAPTABILITY is the key. Nature gives us the best example of this ‘Evolution’ (the species that prevails is the one most able to adapt to the changing environment).
The ability to adapt has many attributes but I would say at the top of the list is the ability to get things done, doing, action align to the objectives of the organisation. In a changing world the faster your ability to respond the better off you’ll be. ‘Response’ being your ability to be in action following the exposure to new information.
This is a world where decisions can be made quickly, where information flows at speed around the organisation to the people who need it most, where people are free to experiment, test and learn and fail fast, where showing is preferred to telling and where more frequent smaller changes are the norm and most importantly where the customers needs are integral to the outcomes.
So how do you move from a model based on process and designed for efficiency to one designed for adaptability?
The new digital breed of companies focus on talent density, they call them ‘A players’. When you have a company full of ‘A players’ you can more confidently empower them and trust them to make the best decisions for the company. The challenges with hiring ‘A players’ is they demand the best salaries in the industry, but other attributes motivate them equally, such as the purpose and cause/mission of your organisation. So you’ll be competing with the new breed of companies with their sexy visions and funky cultures.
Also, it wouldn’t surprise me in the future to see these ‘A players’ interviewing organisations to understand what are they going to get from working there rather than the other way round. I think this because in their current definition there potentially wont be enough of them to go round. Which in itself could break this strategy.
So what’s the alternative?
I believe there are more ‘A players’ than given credit, there is a potential to be unlocked in all of us and this is achieved by motivating and inspiring people behind a common cause, an inspiring purpose which has people do their best work, go the extra mile. In some organisations this can be seen as a ‘calling’, to do good in the world, but many people don’t find their ‘calling’ and many organisations don’t give it to them with their bland and commercially driven visions.
My advice to leaders of these large organisations is simple. Decide what the real purpose of your organisation is, the benefit to the world, the true benefit and create an environment where people can help you achieve that cause, which unsurprisingly contains many of the attributes described above.
Integrity is the key, people see through it in an instant, be consistent in the people you hire, the values and behaviours you want your company to be built on and be intolerant of anything short of these behaviours. Hire people with passion care and ingenuity. Engage, equip and empower them to work at their best, giving them the safe environment to experiment, test and learn and they will reward you with productivity a process driven environment could only dream of (and the profits which go with it).
This will take an act of inspiring and brave leadership but the sooner its started the sooner the benefits of an inspired team focused on your companies outcomes can emerge and you’ll be surprised how infectious it is.
People are capable of some amazing stuff, you just need to give them the ‘calling’. They crave autonomy, mastery and fulfillment. Self determination, learning new stuff and a higher purpose (to me and you).
The ball is in your court. Be bold (or be disrupted).