Three Critical Things You Need to Focus On in 2015
As another new year dawns, we’re now left under no illusion: the world is currently going through a period of major disruptive change. The ways in which the world works are changing more now than ever before, and its affecting every part of society, from politics to economics, from religion to culture, from the Vatican to the Boardroom – the world is undergoing some fundamental shifts.
For business people, this brings new challenges and opportunities. And it’s going to require new ways of working, new ways of doing business, and new ways of thinking about strategy.
Back in the 1980s and 90s, Michael Porter made a name for himself by spearheading a new look at business strategy, focusing specifically on competitor analysis. There’s obviously still value in knowing the competitive landscape of your industry and marketplace, but in 2015, this is not enough anymore.
There are at least three key areas you and your business should be watching if you want to be successful in times of disruptive change.
1. Look Outside – focus on the horizon
The biggest issues your business might face in just a few months are quite possibly nearly invisible to your industry at the moment. Disruption very rarely comes from your existing competitors, but rather tends to come from new entrants to your industry or from replacements your customers can make. You need to spend more time looking for the weak signals that indicate potential disruption at the fringes of your current operations. To do this requires focused time and a deliberate effort – it can’t be the result of luck, serendipity or done in your spare time. You need to allocate specific time to look for disruptive change, investigate forces that are beyond your industry at the moment and scan your horizons.
Very few teams that we have worked with spend much time on doing this, and almost none of them do it formally. No wonder so many companies feel that their strategies are precarious and have a continuous sense of stress in their systems.
What do you and your team need to do in 2015 to deliberately and consciously look outside your current industry and marketplace? Where are your horizons, and how can you ensure you’re watching them?
2. Look Around – focus on the “enemies within”
When companies fail to achieve their targets or deliver on their strategies it is easy to blame external circumstances or market conditions. Although it’s true that we live in a turbulent world, with aggressive competition, changing market conditions and new, complex expectations of customers and stakeholders, our team’s research across multiple industries and geographies suggests that these are not currently the major causes of corporate failure. The most common issues hijacking success actually come from inside organisations. Leaders of companies may know what needs to be done, and be very clear in their strategic objectives, but we find many of them frustrated in their attempts to get their teams to what needs to be done to bring success. Specifically, many companies are incapable of the agility, nimbleness and speed that are all necessary DNA elements to thrive in a rapidly changing world. The ability to change seems beyond the leaders and their teams.
Corporate DNA refers to the many factors that make up a company’s culture, defining “how things are done around here”. Many organisations have outdated DNA and are not ‘future fit’ or ready for the rapidly changing world they now inhabit. This includes out-dated business models, ill-suited organisational systems, and internal clutter that prevent, inhibit or nullify the essential changes that leaders know are needed.
At TomorrowToday, we have identified nine key DNA issues that are holding companies back from success and refer to these as “enemies within”. They are:
2. Physical Environment
5. Structures and systems
8. Development of people
You can read more about this in a white paper our team recently released: http://bit.ly/enemywithinpaper.
Do you know of any system, process or structure in your business that could – in fact, should – be improved in 2015? What are the implications for your business of doing this? And of NOT doing it?
What are the most debilitating DNA deficiencies in your organisation? What are the most significant factors that could stop you achieving your strategy this year? What do you plan to do about them? Do you know of any system, process or structure in your business that could – in fact, should – be improved in 2015? What are the implications for your business of doing this? And of NOT doing it?
3. Look Inside – the power of self-understanding and reflection
In order to lead the type of organisations that can both watch the horizon to see disruptive change coming and to look more intently internally to identify potential disruptors, we’re going to need a new type of leader. Leadership competency models designed for a turbulent world all emphasize self-awareness as a critical component to successful leadership. And key to self-awareness is the ability to engage in reflection.
Leaders need to step back from their daily work and scan their horizons and identify enemies within. But they also need to look inward at themselves. Different people do this in different ways. It could be meditation or a growing global trend of mindfulness. It might just be developing better skills with a variety of profiling tools, to understand personality, gender, culture or different generations. There are no simple formulas for success in this area of focus, but it is work that needs to be done. In turbulent times where the future is more uncertain than it’s ever been we need leaders who know what to do when no-one knows what to do. Old models of leadership that are built on leaders who are all-knowing, unflappable, commanders-in-chief, who should not be questioned and always have the answers, as coming up short. New approaches are required. New skills are needed. And it all starts with taking time to look inwards.
How much time have you taken per week in the last six months for deliberate self-reflection? What do you need to stop doing or delegate in the next six months to make more space for self-reflection? What do you feel are areas of self-development that deserve your attention in 2015?
Of course, these are not the only three things that your business needs to do in 2015. You still need to develop and deliver on your strategies, with all that this requires your business to do. But doing only that will leave you and your business critically exposed to sudden and disruptive change inside and outside your organisation. That these changes will take place is now almost a certainty. How you respond, and whether these changes will end up as opportunities or threats for you, will be largely determined by how focused you’ve been on looking outside, around and inwards. Don’t let 2015 rush by without taking some time to focus on these three critical things.