Is your business headed in the right direction? How to set, lead and thrive on a new course.

Happy and safely in the middle?

In most of the industries there has always been a distinction between trendsetters (those who shape the industry), real laggards (those who stay behind) and the mass of organisations that is in between; adopting new practices and changing markets at just sufficient pace.

It may have been easy in the past to go for this just-good-enough mediocrity in the mainstream, do what everyone else is doing and follow the beaten track. “Play it safe”, so to say (and yes, why would you care if you make your targets each quarter… that being the main KPI).

We have entered an era that calls for and brings change on more fronts than we have ever seen in modern history: whether it is supply chain disruptions, combatting the cause or dealing with the effects of climate change, navigating wars, changing social sentiment, regulations, vanishing borders of privacy or resource scarcity. Every organisation is affected in some way.

Playing it safe by waiting to see what others do, riding it out or hope for the best, is not a viable strategy and not even “safe” anymore. The short term is already catching up with you, and the next disruption is knocking at the door. The question that leaders of/in all organisations, not only those in the trendsetting category, should be concerned about is: “how to better make use of this turmoil, move to a more lasting positive impact and set us up for the future?” ; or as Erica Jong puts it: “if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more” .

Where’s the manual for rewriting the manual?

So why are not all organisations dealing with this question successfully?

We find that most organisations, are just not equipped to make structural and profound changes to (the way they run) their business. Streamlined and set up to run the status quo efficiently, but not always effectively in a changing world. It may require enlisting external help to make sense of what to do next to be successful for the years to come AND how to make that happen in practice. This could be strategy consulting on (digital) transformation, using abilities from software companies or systems integrators’ services. Constructive forward-looking management sees this as positive and challenging reflection.

There’s absolutely no shame in soliciting help and it is just smart business leveraging others’ expertise and services for things that are not part of your core and differentiating business. But: the real transformations required at this moment ARE exactly about that core and differentiation. Therefore they do require the organisation to be truly involved in, committed to and aware of the consequences of the decisions required as part of it. And that often provides a catch-22 situation.

The organisation knows everything about their business and market, and the “external help” knows all about implementing their “digital” solutions – but these parties rarely speak the same language. Often there is also an inherit conflict of interest, due to the way they each measure success/value differently and how selection (RFX) processes and contracts are drawn up.

Raise the bar, change the normal

That does not mean that each transformation program has to end with a high bill and meagre results. If all truly want to be ready for a new era (and those that follow suit), it is now the time to place high standards on the own organisation (including each person involved), suppliers and other stakeholders (including shareholders).

Thus, a callout to you: Educate yourself, surround yourself by professionals that share your aspirations and broader objectives and give you honest feedback, welcome a good discussion and differences in points of view. Keep asking, (there are no stupid questions!) and make sure you make any decision consciously i.e. understanding the end-to-end consequences. Making sure you can explain it to all of your stakeholders and enlist their support for making the transformation a sustainable success, delivering the value you seek and need. Don’t assume anything, stay curious and be a challenger.

If you are in a work culture that does not welcome this mentality, you may start to question the longevity of this organisation (and/or your association with it).

No more mediocrity, settling for less. Take the high and hard road, if nothing else: the views AND stories are better.

Curious about how to apply this in your organisation and with your suppliers and other stakeholders (or asking for a friend)? Or just interested in how we see the world?

Reach out to us!


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