Brave New World - Plan your year 2023 successfullyJan 06, 2023
When we contemplate our future, we are confronted with aspects of a brave new world – but not the Aldous Huxley version.
There are two fundamental dimensions of our future: how will we as a society, a species, transform into a new reality; and how do we and our organisations adapt to this new reality?
OUR SOCIETY AND OUR HUMAN SPECIES
There is little doubt that both our society and our human species have attributes that other non-human societies and species lack. Our science, our technology, our ability to leave our planet, our medical understanding, and so many more dimensions that mark us as “special”, and in the minds of many, mark us as “superior” to all other societies and species.
If these are the criteria of superiority, then there is little doubt about our supremacy amongst living species.
However, is that all there is to our species – to any species?
Unfortunately, together with these generally positive skills and capabilities, come a range of negative attributes that make our society and species vulnerable and may ultimately see its demise.
Take for example the concept of “justification”. Justification is the explanation one provides for what one is doing or intends to do. Other species don’t justify – they don’t need to because their motivations are relatively easy to understand. And they don’t need science, technology, and the other things we’ve created for our own advancement.
Other species live within and adapt to their context and their environment – and don’t need our scientific attributes. All other species live their Darwinian destiny. We are the only species that is attempting to change the Darwinian algorithm for ourselves and the lifeforms that we rely on (e.g. farm animals, agriculture, and similar).
If an animal, for example, kills another animal, it’s either for food, the protection of self, protection of family, or protection of its community. There is no other motivation or necessity to kill.
Mankind, on the other hand, can and also does kill for glory, for desire, for love, for jealousy, for power, for self-aggrandisement, for self-enrichment, because of hatred, due to intolerance, in support of one’s God, and so on.
We are unique here – and it’s not a thing to be proud of. More harm has been done through the justification process in our minds and in society, than through any other human behaviour. Because we as humans have the ability to reflect on our own behaviours and on the probable reaction of those behaviours by others, we find it necessary to have a reason, or an excuse, to do to others what we do. And that excuse is our justification.
While “justification” is a mighty negative characteristic of our species, it’s by no means the only one. Greed, intolerance, lying, arrogance, egoism, aggressiveness, unethicality, immorality, illegality, disloyalty, disrespect, slavery, dominance, fame and infamy, pride, and many more. These characteristics are all an integral part of our human species and will continue into the future.
The logical question that arises is, so what? If this is a “natural” part of our society and our species, what are we to do about it, if anything?
Is it likely that we can eradicate the negative characteristics from our species?
Probably not – at least not for maybe a thousand years or more provided we don’t annihilate ourselves before then.
The key learning from this understanding of the true nature of our species is to learn to live with it knowing that it exists; acknowledging our weaknesses; knowing that it affects people; knowing that it can hurt and harm.
How does this reality impact how we navigate ourselves through this challenge, and how do we operate our organisations?
THE SURVIVE AND THRIVE ALGORITHM
It’s my view that our social and species destiny relies on five core attributes:
1. Having strong empathic skills to better understand the motivations, thoughts, feelings, impacts upon, and behaviours of others.
2. Having a strong reliance on facts rather than the subjectivity of justification.
3. A recognition that a difference of opinion shapes destiny, rather than destroys it.
4. Difference should be a positive attribute, and not a weapon or a target.
5. The ability for Mankind to live together in difference and in peace is the ultimate way to save our species.
How do these attributes impact organisations in a pragmatic, understandable, and workable manner?
The brave new world is likely to bring us more challenges – at a faster rate – with bigger impacts if we get adaption wrong (and great benefits if we get it right).
We all know that there are no “perfect” organisations. They all struggle with their own problems, challenges, issues, and opportunities.
Sometimes, a group of executives knowledgeable of the issue, sit down and navigate path forward. It may not be an ideal solution, but it “works” with as little pain as possible… and that’s fine and reasonably typical.
Then there are the new world problems which, according to Buchanan (re wicked problems 1992) are “a class of social problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing.”
If you’re not experienced is dealing with these problems, then the chances of achieving an outcome that “works” and is “painless” is highly unlikely. The reason for this is that many issues are very complex, interconnected, interdependent, and they impact on, or are impacted by:
• The political, regulatory, and legal environment.
• The lack of clarity and definition of outcomes that are favoured by owners, or in the case of NFPs, NGOs, or government, is clarity of outcomes defined by the organisation’s Charter or equivalent.
• The generic nature of the organisation’s KPOs (Key Performance Objectives) thus causing confusion in management of the exact outcomes they are expected to deliver.
• The lack of certainty of the markets or operating environments the organisation needs to operate within to secure the required KPOs. Also, not understanding competitors and economic and industry dynamics confuses, distracts, and leads to impactful mistakes. And then there is a failure to understand your customers in their varying segments and their needs related to those segments.
• The lack of clarity of the tri-level critical match of market segments, products, and services, and required outcomes.
• Lack of clarity and understanding of the necessary alignment between the market segment and the products and services pitched to those segments, and the operational impacts on channels, support requirements and sales technique and messaging.
• Hiring the wrong people.
• Supporting a culture that does not assist objectives.
• Installing the wrong systems.
• Structuring management in a manner that does not make sense to the way the organisation needs to operate.
• Not modelling decisions to ensure that the time, cost, effort, and outcomes expended deliver the required objectives.
• Operating via the cash book instead of an approved strategic and business plan.
• Struggling with determining which factors are relevant and which are not.
• Reconciling competing stakeholder objectives.
This common and depressing view of organisations is the reality for most of them. If that is their current, then how do they deal with the complexities of preparing for, and operating within, an increasing complex future?
THE 12 PIVOT-POINTS OF EVERY ORGANISATION
Now image all these wheels spinning simultaneously. How do you navigate all of that and determine a path to the achievement of your organisation’s objectives? It’s difficult, and that’s why every organisation has issues, and none are “perfect”.
There is a way to work with such complex problems – the 12 Pivot-Points method that seeks clarity, purpose, inter-connectedness, and specified outcomes for the 12 fundamental parts of every organisation. If you get these 12 Pivot-Points right, you will be much more likely to achieve your organisation’s objectives within the brave new world.
In a nutshell, here are the 12 Pivot-Points and their sequence. Something for you to reflect on.
1. Your Purpose: The myth is that every organisation is crystal-clear about why they do what they do. We have plenty of examples that this is not true. And when it’s not true, or even only partially true, then the organisation is at risk.
2. Targeting quantified objectives: Being “bigger, better, or satisfying customers” are common and “nice” objectives that drive many organisations. The problem is that you do these and many other things for a purpose. We have many examples of organisations whose purpose is not clear, acknowledged, and measurable. As a result of management’s subjective (but normal) view of things, there is every chance that your purpose and objectives won’t be fulfilled.
3. Your Market: The market you choose must deliver 100% of your objectives – because there’s nowhere else to get them from. By carefully analysing the segments in your market you can ensure delivery of your organisation’s objectives. We have many examples of when not understanding this will cause failure.
4. Your products and services: Only when you have clarity of the nature and needs of your various market segments, can you effectively sell your products and services to those market segments. We have many examples of organisations that pitch their products and services to market segments that don’t want them and ignoring those segments that do. A recipe for failure.
5. Your channels: The channels used by organisations selling to businesses (B2B) are different to those selling directly to consumers (B2C). We have many examples of organisations that mix up their channels and fail to give the customer their preferred method of interaction and sales. We also have many examples of organisations failing to recognise the true nature of the modern multi-channel universe we all now operate within. That’s a recipe for failure.
6. Your support: It’s wonderful selling customers products and services, and it’s wonderful that customers like and appreciate what we provide. However, not all things go to plan. We have many examples of organisations whose support strategies and actions disappoint themselves and their customers. When customers are unhappy, they spread the negative word about you – and that can become a real problem.
7. Your systems: We love it when our technology, systems, and processes do what they’re meant to do. We have many examples of organisations who established (and paid a lot for) their technologies and systems without understanding the impact that they have on the rest of the organisation – and wiping the smiles off the faces of their managers. Technology, systems and processes are enablers and cannot be resolved without a clear understanding of the functions they support and who relies on them. Failure to understand this causes organisational failure.
8. Your sales and communication: The only way to effectively communicate with and sell to, is by having a clear understanding of the nature, character and needs of those with whom you’re communicating with and selling to. We have many examples of organisations who wrongly believe that everyone wants their products and services, regardless of their real needs and preferences. Another recipe for a lot of wasted effort and expenditure, and inevitable failure.
9. Your people: People are in the organisation for a purpose: they have a role to fulfil and an organisational outcome to contribute to. This is a simple concept, yet we have many examples of organisations who confuse the roles people play and the culture they’re immersed in, with the roles they need to play and a culture that nurtures them – such confusion leads to failure.
10. Your management: Structure is not the first consideration in managing your organisation. Structure is “merely” an enabler that helps you deal with the context, nature, complexity, and needs of your context. We have many examples of organisations who change their management structure without fully understanding its harmful impacts.
11. Knowing the impacts of decisions: Management regularly makes decisions (it’s their job) that impact the organisation. However, those decisions aren’t always modelled and quantified for time, cost, effort, impacts, and resources required. That can have disastrous results and cause failure. We have many examples of organisation that have made significant decisions without modelling the impacts of those decisions on internal and external stakeholders.
12. In the drawer or on the wall: Your organisation spends around 3-months building its strategic and business plans. Do you then “stick it on the wall” and run your organisation according to it, or do you stick it in the drawer and run the organisation by the cash book? If you stick it in the drawer, then you will fail to achieve your plan’s objectives. We have many examples of organisation who are guilty of the drawer method – and they fail.
Missing some of these Pivot-Points or considering them out of sequence can be disastrous and can have huge impacts on the organisation’s ability to deliver its objectives. Does this sound familiar?
THE IMPACT OF OUR HUMAN SPECIES ON YOUR ORGANISATION
So, how do you align and adapt your organisation to the realities of our society and of our human species?
Businesses and organisations exist for a purpose.
• How clear is the purpose of your organisation – what is it trying to achieve?
• Does your organisation’s purpose act as the principal determinant of what the organisation does and doesn’t do?
• Do all those in the organisation who make important decisions share the same understanding of purpose?
• How happy are your shareholders/stockholders/owners and investors?
• How different are shareholder objectives?
• At your last AGM, did any shareholders/stockholders or investors express any dissatisfaction?
• Do you ask all shareholders/stockholders what they want from their investment in your company?
• Does the pursuit of a specific purpose have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If you have or suspect negative responses to these questions, then your organisation’s purpose isn’t as clear as it needs to be – and management is harder because of it – and your organisation’s results are probably compromised.
If your organisation’s objectives lack measurability, then you won’t know where and when to focus, where and when to apply effort, and where and when to allocate funds.
To make the management process easier and more successful there are specific things the organisation must know.
• The organisation’s objectives must be defined so that everyone involved understands what is being sought.
• The priority of each objective must be stated because not all objectives “cross the finish line together.”
• There must be clarity when each objective is due – the “must complete by date.”
• What metric will determine completion or progress?
• Does the pursuit of a specific metrics have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If you can’t confirm these requirements for your organisation, then your organisation’s objectives (KPOs) aren’t as clear as they need to be – which makes management harder because of it – and your organisation’s performance is probably compromised due to rework, unnecessary costs, and waste.
The way you define your market is the first and fundamental foundation of your revenue potential. Get this wrong and you will either fail to satisfy your objectives, or you will do things that aren’t necessary, or you will waste a lot of time and effort, and probably disenfranchise your customers.
Ultimately, all your objectives must be secured from your definition of your market or markets – there’s nowhere else to get them from.
• How clear are your various market segments?
• Have you done the research to understand the decision-makers in each segment?
• Why will the decision-makers in each segment buy from you?
• To what extent do you need to tailor your offering to each segment’s needs?
• Does each segment satisfy the fundamental criteria for market segments of “identifiability, accessibility, stability, and sufficiency”?
• Does the pursuit of a specific market segment have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If the pursuit of your market segments isn’t as clear or as fact-based as it needs to be – then management is harder because of it – and your organisation’s results are probably compromised.
4. Products and Services
The effectiveness of matching your product and service offerings to the decision-makers in your market segments is the critical second platform of revenue determination. Get it wrong and your organisation will burn money, effort, materials, and probably reputation.
Ultimately, all your objectives must be secured from the products and services you’ve placed in your market segments – there’s nowhere else to get them from.
• How clear are your various market segments and what products and services they want?
• Have you done the research to understand the decision-makers in each segment for your products and services?
• What are the critical product and service requirements of those decision-makers?
• What features and differences does each market segment require you to build into your products and services?
• Why will the decision-makers in each segment buy those product and services from you?
• Does the pursuit of a specific products and services have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If the pursuit of your products and services isn’t as clear or as fact-based as it needs to be – then management is harder because of it – and your organisation’s results are probably compromised.
The way you get your products and services to your customers and the way you sell to them and communicate with them will impact the degree of your success. These channels are crucial and your different market segments probably prefer and use different channels.
Get it wrong and your organisation will burn money and effort, probably lose customers who prefer to use channels that you have failed to adopt.
If you’re not “talking” to your market, then they can’t “hear” what you’re offering.
If you’re not “playing” in the same space that your target customers “play” in, then you won’t be “playing” together.
• How do your channel choices match customer channel behaviours?
• Have you done the research to understand the decision-maker’s channel issues in each segment?
• What are the critical and minimum channel requirements of those decision-makers?
• What features and differences does each market segment require for the channels that it uses?
• Does the pursuit of a specific channel solution have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If your channel strategy does not match the desired or preferred channel behaviour of decision-makers in your chosen market segments, then you will waste time, effort and funds, and almost certainly fail to offer your value proposition to target customers.
The way you support your products and services in various market segments is crucial in optimising customer satisfaction, reputation and leveraged selling. Get it wrong and you will waste money, effort, and decimate your reputation.
Your customers have support expectations – not only relating to the products and services you sell, but the way and timeliness in supporting the customer. Failure to be efficient, effective, and customer-supportive will destroy your reputation.
• How well does your support strategy focus on and accommodate the support needs of customers in various segments?
• How well do you understand the support needs of your various marker segments?
• How well do you understand what current clients think of your support ability?
• When was the last time you asked them?
• What are the critical and minimum support requirements of customers?
• If you sell B2B and B2C, do you have different support strategies?
• What features and differences does each market segment require for the support that it needs and uses?
• Does the pursuit of a specific support solution have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If your support strategy does not match the desired or preferred support needs of decision-makers in your chosen market segments, then you will waste time, effort and funds, and almost certainly fail to offer your value proposition to target customers.
7. Sales and Communications
The way you talk to and sell to the decision-makers in your various market segments may be different. Get it wrong and you will waste money, effort, and lose sales that you might have secured with the right message and pitch.
Your customers have a set of needs that may or may not involve your products and services. As an organisation, what you say, how you say it, and what you offer them needs to resonate with their needs. If you fail to resonate, you can’t sell anything.
• How well does your communications and sales strategies focus on the needs of customers in various segments?
• How well do you understand the needs of your various marker segments?
• How well do you understand what current clients think of your offerings?
• When was the last time you asked them?
• What are the critical and minimum product and service needs of customers?
• If you sell B2B and B2C, do you have different communication and selling strategies?
• Does the pursuit of a specific communication and sales strategy have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If your communications and sales strategies do not deliver their contribution to the organisation’s KPOs, then you are wasting time, effort and funds.
8. Human Resources and Culture
The organisation needs specific people and technical skills to do what needs to be done. If you fail to get the skills you need or the numbers of people needed, then outcomes will be sub-optimal.
The organisation is also the entity that impacts upon its employees and to a lesser extent, its customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. The organisation’s culture is the environment within which employees, customers and others react with and to – if it’s positive, it will assist the organisation but if it’s negative, it will hurt the organisation.
The organisations that fail to get the skills or the numbers of people required will experience a serious impact of the organisation’s ability to achieve its objectives.
• Do you have all the people you need?
• Do you have all the skills you need?
• Are all the people and the skills “in the right places”?
• Is the organisation’s culture a good fit for what it’s doing?
• How easy is it for your people to adopt the organisation’s purpose and contribute toward it?
• Does the pursuit of a specific HR and culture strategy have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
• Does the organisation practice empathy or does it have an authoritarian environment?
• Does the organisation rely on facts or the subjectivity of its people?
• How does the organisation deal with difference?
• How does the organisation deal with conflict?
If your HR and culture strategies do not enable and support the organisation’s strategies and activities, then their contribution to its KPOs probably involve the wasting of time, effort and funds.
9. I.T., Systems and Processes
The organisation might have the best purpose, KPO-clarity, market definition, and so on – but unless its systems and processes support those definitions and capabilities, then wastage of time, effort and funds is inevitable.
I.T., systems and processes are fundamental enablers of performance. If they don’t work well, then the rest of the organisation won’t work well.
• How frequently have the organisation’s “way of doing business” been modified or changed?
• How well have the systems and processes adequately enabled changes to deliver their objectives?
• How hard is it to change systems and processes in the organisation?
• What is the status of the change culture in the organisation?
• How much confidence does staff have of management to deliver promised changes?
• Does the pursuit of a specific I.T., system or process strategy have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If your I.T., system, or process strategies do not enable and support the organisation’s strategies and activities, then their contribution to its KPOs involve the wasting of time, effort and funds.
10. Management and Structure
The way you manage and structure the organisation must enable it to deliver its purpose. In other words, both management and structure are enablers – and they are not fixed. They must change as the needs warrant it.
Those who change or amend management and structure within the organisation without fully understanding the impacts of those changes on the organisation’s ability to deliver its purpose - are contributors to sub-optimal performance and occasionally to failure.
• When structure and/or management are changed, does the organisation assess its impact on its ability to secure its purpose/KPOs?
• Do managers accurately understand the impact of their area of responsibility up, down, and across the organisation?
• Do managers accurately understand the impact of their area of responsibility on the organisation’s KPOs?
• Does each manager and supervisor have a clear role description with clear performance objectives?
• Do managers know how they’re progressing toward their role-related performance objectives?
• Does the pursuit of a specific I.T., system or process strategy have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If your management structure doesn’t enable good/better performance, then it’s time to consider changing them. Poor management and structure will harm performance, demotivate people, harm authority, and threaten reputation.
11. Assessing Performance
Plans are only worthwhile if you have a reasonably good understanding of the impacts of the decisions you make on the objectives you’re trying to achieve. Therefore, you must model your decisions and understand their impact on the organisation and the outcomes you’re trying to achieve. As time elapses, you must progressively compare progress with the likelihood of achieving those objectives. Ultimately, you must compare what you achieved with what you were trying to achieve – and learn from the experience.
Only fools think they immediately understand every impact – remember that nobody knows everything about anything.
• In your organisation, is it the “loudest voice” that gets things done?
• Are the things that the “loudest voice” pursues, ever modelled so that their impacts and costs are understood?
• How does your organisation assess performance?
• Does “everyone” have an opportunity to contribute to assessing performance?
• If the modelling shows that decisions made won’t deliver the objectives sought, what then happens?
• How does the modelling process have an impact on some or all aspects of the organisation?
If decisions can be shown to deliver or not deliver the required outcomes before expenses are incurred and commitments made, then mistakes can be avoided, expenses saved, and resources freed.
If the organisation goes to the effort of carefully strategizing its purpose, KPOs, and its wide range of market, product and enabling strategies – and has all of those decisions deliver its objectives – then to ignore those decisions and manage the organisation by the cash book is sheer stupidity – but many companies do.
Use your careful assessment and planning as an advantage and differentiator – and not as a waste of time.
• Does your organisation manage by plan or by cash book?
• If by plan – does it help deliver the KPOs?
• If yes, how?
• If no, why not?
• How frequently is your operational plan updated?
• Do line managers get an opportunity to meaningfully contribute?
If you plan to plan, then plan to use the plan. You won’t regret it.