fit for future

4 mins read

Is your organization well positioned for the future? What new things have you been doing lately? Or were you more focused on day-to-day business or productivity than new things? When is an organization well positioned for the future? How do you recognize that? Is there such a thing as a good set-up, a status indicator, so to speak? An indicator to determine whether the organization is heading for a good future at any moment? Wouldn't you have to know the future?

Presumably, there is no quantitative status indicator. Qualitative properties are more important here. Beinhocker describes that strong cultures are only valuable if they show a capacity for adaptation and the ability to learn. Otherwise, they are a commitment in times of accelerated change [1].

Barrett complements the two abilities to the five evolutionary characteristics (ability to adapt, to learn, to bond, to cooperate and to master complex situations) [2].

Ability to adapt

How does your organization handle changing conditions? Imagine, one or two major major customers break away. Or you win several large accounts at once. Or there are new methods for customer acquisition and service. How fast and how well can your organization adapt to these situations? Has your organization learned to make use of new skills or new knowledge? How open are the employees for a change? What are you doing to keep your employees' skills up to date? How quickly can you get people involved in new topics on a large scale?

Good adaptability manifests itself. It does so in agility, resilience and leads to inner stability and external balance. Even if some external conditions change. For example, Mr. Wagner reported on the introduction of agile methods in the development teams of ​​his company to reduce time to market. In his company 80 of the approximately 500 employees now work in the agile ways [3].

How much space does your organization have to handle unpredictable situations? Situations that need flexibility and creativity compared to the day-to-day processes? With too little room for flexibility, the organization stresses itself and efficiency drops. If there is too much, the organization wastes resources. The dynamic trap [4]. The ratio of regular process activities to flexibility might need a tweak.

Ability to learn

W. Procter and J. Gamble had once pioneered marketing and branding soap. They were one among a hundred former soap manufacturers. Would they have stayed on track, they would most likely not be around any longer. They have expanded their knowledge base and then applied it to marketing.

Ability to learn means, to expand the knowledge base and apply new skills on a large scale. Only this will trigger new growth. It might also smart to forget knowledge if it is no longer up-to-date.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to identify the right extension of the knowledge base. Are they new technologies, new customer segments, markets or new management methods and ways of working? Some organizations rely on employee appreciation or purpose and meaning. One thing should be clear. Your activities should be different compared to the activities of other market players. Only then you have a chance to leapfrog.

A good way to learn is to do many small experiments to test markets early. To build a portfolio of options, so to speak. The most promising options will continue to be promoted.

Ability to bond

Entering new partnerships in ecosystems can expand the organization's capabilities. Some organizations find that hard, they think they need to have everything under control or in-house. This was also a recommended recipe for success in management literature to keep competitors away. In the present time, this is rarely possible to stay in solitude. An organization must have the ability to build new relationships. This can take the form of joint development agreements, joint ventures, or supply relationships. Relationships need some care, the ability to bond can also be challenging. Imagine a situation in which the list of suppliers is kept short for the sake of efficiency.

Ability to cooperate

In complex or novel situations, a collaboration between organizations based on a common purpose can be very helpful. The temporary or permanent combination of teams or units from different organizations can create things that each organization cannot do by themselves. An openness to cooperation is very conducive to tackling new things. It requires plenty of empathy for the other organization to ensure the win-win situation for both sides over time.

Ability to master complex situations

To master complex situations for which there are no processes or references, you need a stable core.

R. McGRath describes this stable core in her study of growth outliers (4793 companies) [5]:

  • management focus on culture and values​​,
  • no dramatic divestments,
  • talents are retained and promoted,
  • top strategies do not change often,
  • reliable customer base,
  • stable leadership team.

It sounds almost paradoxical, but the stability of the inner attitude allows to deal with the external complexity. The secret is the willingness to take small risks by running small experiments.

Summary

Future viability consists of several aspects when viewed through the "eyeglasses of evolution". Each of the individual abilities is fed by leadership style, culture, process, and dealing with growth or innovation ideas. With a little guidance, you will succeed too! Contact us! 

[1] E. Beinhocker, "Strategie at the Edge of Chaos", McKinsey Quarterly I (1997), 25-29

[2] R. Barrett, "The new leadership paradigm", 2010

[3] T. Wagner, "Umstellen auf eine agile Arbeitsweise in der FuE", Hannover Messe 2019, 8. Tag der betrieblichen Führungskräfte im Ideen- und Innovationsmanagement

[4] G. Wohland, M. Wiemeyer, "Denkwerkzeuge der Höchstleister", Unibuchverlag Lüneburg, Verlag Monsenstein und Vannerdat, 2006

[5] R. G. McGrath, "How growth outliers do it", Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012

strategy

I work with clients who have the courage to grow.

Dr. Holger Laabs

founder and CEO
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