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The Natural Evolution of Things (Part 2)

Editor’s Note: The Natural Evolution of Things is an in-depth is a 5-part series that describes 13 the catalysts of Organizational Change and Competitiveness, based on the theme of Michael Porter’s Five Forces. To read the full series, take a look at the author’s profile page found here.

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Continued from part 1…

pexels-photo-325185So let’s have a ‘brief’ look at each of the 13 Catalysts that we think you need to assess your organization against in terms of how you are already trying to address or will soon have to address each one because for sure they are all coming at you – some have already arrived but may not be at full strength yet such as the impact of the millennial generation in your workforce. These are the pseudo-change agents and motivational forces at work which we think will influence how you will shape your organization in the future (future shaping) and what as well as how you will have to compete in that bold new future that lies ahead. These 13 Cataysts will all test your organization’s systematic approach to adaptation. Insights Paradigm, by the way, recommends an easy, practical relevant 6-Step process if you don’t have one for dealing effectively with change. And as we know from reading a quote from Arnold Glasow, noted American author and philosopher, ‘The only problem with the future is that it is usually here before we are ready for it’. We suppose too that you can consider that some of these catalysts are more ‘internal’ in nature while others are more ‘externally’ oriented. Let’s have just a quick look.

Business Model Evolution

Any senior executive who believes you can design an organization’s business model and then push the ‘autopilot button’ is in for an unpleasant surprise especially given that we know clearly that the only constant has become change; that change is happening faster all the time; and the impact of that change is growing in intensity over time. The consequence, of course, is that your business model quite conceivably could become a dinosaur soon to be extinct.

A business model can be very much like a brittle piece of metal which when stressed too much, cracks or breaks. In this same way, some senior executives try to design and build their business models so robust to hopefully withstand any ‘pathogen’ that they are, in fact, rigid. This leads, as the research on anti-fragility clearly indicates, to stress fractures and often significant reductions in performance in response to these stresses – one major stress clearly being ‘change’.  This is why we believe every organization needs to be aware of the 12 vulnerabilities that most organizations have in times of rapid or unexpected change – vulnerabilities that lead to performance deterioration under such stress. These need to be clearly identified and then these points of vulnerability need to be strengthened to prevent future unpleasant surprises and performance decline.

The business model must be pliable or flexible and it needs to contain an element we refer to as ‘renewal’ which keeps the business model evolving – re-energizing itself over time to always be in alignment with the operating environment and withstand any of the dynamics of that operating environment that could threaten the organization’s competitive performance.

Social Innovation and Societal Well-Being

Any organization that soft pedals these issues is not acting responsibly – period. Every organization, no matter how large or how small should have in its strategic plans some elements related to answering the questions: ‘What are we doing or what should we be doing to bring about social innovation and improve the social well-being of at least the communities in which we do business?’ To do any less, as stated above, in our opinion would be to shirk your responsibility as an organization – an entity which is a vital part of that social setting in one or more communities.

Yet, over time it seems to us that these issues have lost their ‘steam’ so to speak – they have just become something else which organizations guess they should do something about – whether they choose to or not or whether what they do is, in fact, of value. Some just throw money at it, never knowing if the money is being utilized properly or whether the actions taken as a result of that money spent are having any impact – there is no audit trail to follow and even if there is many aren’t inclined to waste their valuable time following it. There is little accountability for achieving the best outcomes for society in the system.

What is required, we believe, is to bring a whole new level of creativity and energy to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In effect, we are saying it is high time to re-invent CSR. This new generation of CSR will also greatly enhance the brand strength and overall image or reputation of the organization and hence its competitiveness.

Social issues aren’t going away – they are growing. Your workforce is usually much more sensitive to these issues than you as senior executives. Many times your people wonder why you are doing little or nothing to help when there is such as great need and they themselves would be willing to make the necessary sacrifices of time, talent and creativity to help. They wonder if you are really the role models you should be – leading by example. This just chips away at the motivation, level of commitment, passion and the energy your people have to give their best consistently to help your organization be as competitive as possible. We say, don’t take the risk – step up and do the right thing. As Peter Drucker has said, true leadership has always been more about ‘doing the right things’ than about ‘doing things right’.

Human Performance Excellence and Generational Changes in the Workforce

If you read Dr. Marra’s recent whitepaper on ‘The Age of the Tool to Human Performance Excellence’ which looks at the past 5000 years, you see that it has not really been until the past 35 years that some glimmer of hope in the way employees are valued and invested in has changed.  Before that they were viewed simply as a tool to get a job done.

Yet, even today in many organizations around the world we find organization after organization that is over-managed and under-led. Organizations where the ‘3C’s’ of management are still firmly implanted as the prevailing mindset of the senior executives. The ‘3C’s’ being command, control and coordinate. Basically, as management I’m going to tell you what to do, when to do it, how to do it and who to do it with and all we want from you is for you to nod your head yes and get your feet moving!

Clearly such practices which focus on obedience, diligence and expertise – the latter when reached being considered the route to greater efficiency and reduction of errors and rework, but still never breaking through to the next level we call human performance excellence where employees are allowed to take initiative with no fear of making mistakes because we all learn from mistakes; they are free to do what is in the best interest of the organization or the customer – they are empowered and lastly they are passionate – juiced up and energised about being the best they can be and helping the organization reach its full potential for success or competitiveness.

On top of this, of course, we have the almost (in some organizations) gut wrenching impact of the generational changes in the workforce. Daily we see articles regarding the millennials and how their whole perspective on work and life style are so significantly different than previous generations. What they look for or want from an employer are not the same as those generations which have come before and many, many employers struggle to find out what that is and how to address it. Then, of course, there are the Type X and many other generations coming along behind as well each of which has their unique profile and unique requirements from an employer as well as from life in general compared to others. Diversity is a great thing – it used to be simple – men and women. Then we added cultural differences. Now we are adding generational differences. Yet if we as an organization wish to inspire all the generations, to make them the best they can be, to release their full energy and creativity to contribute and help their organization maintain its competitiveness – to be as successful as possible, organizations had better move quickly to figure it out or they will see their performance decline, not improve.

About Dr. Ted Marra

Dr. Ted Marra is a strategic facilitator, organizational mentor and writer. He has lectured in MBA/EMBA programmes at universities in Boston, Detroit, the UK, Switzerland and Croatia. He is now a Member of the Board of MAX/Knowledge Now, a global learning organisation. He is also Sr. Partner for Insights Paradigm, a strategic advisory organization in Dubai, UAE. You can find Ted on LinkedIn here.

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