“Forecasting is very difficult, especially about the future” thus spoke a well-known forecaster, Herman Kahn, when starting a course on the subject. That was fifty years ago. Today he might have substituted the word ‘impossible’ for ‘very difficult’. All the more reason to try harder. If we don’t forecast we cannot strategise. If we don’t strategise we fall into the routine of fire-fighting. If as a CEO or Departmental Head you are fire-fighting, take a step back. Think – and start to forecast. Cynical comments about forecasting confirm the need to.
The start of a new year is a good time to review your company’s purpose, to reassess who, as a business, you are and what you are for. Massive opportunities have been lost by people defining their mission too narrowly just as many errors are the result of recklessly diversifying into unknown markets and technologies. You find the answers to these questions by systematically going through all the things you do, how well or badly you do them and who else could benefit from what you have learnt by doing them.
Take a big picture approach using startup analytics to delve into your inherent and latent skills. Think of yourself as a football team. The locker-room discussions are critical, the coaches strategy vital; on the pitch the tactics have to be responsive, adaptable and fast – but never forgetting the strategy agreed before the game started. Half-time the coach may advise a change of tactics. If he then also has to devise a new strategy something may have been fundamentally wrong with the first one.
In all of this, talent management is key to your success. You cannot make a silk purse out of sow’s ears. Corporates often think they have adequately dealt with talent management by appointing a Talent Manager. They are wrong. A Talent Manager can be useful but if top management doesn’t choose, decide and take responsibility for all appointments, sell the shares. Good strategists choose first, apply light-touch management second.
How often we hear “I see my boss formally once a week / month / quarter for an hour”. We call this a waste of an hour. Worse, it is dangerous from every point of view. If you are a Senior Person, resolve to spend much more time on your Talents. Engage them, help them, develop them, encourage them, don’t bug them, get them talking to you about the business as though they were doing your job. Reward them all the way through the company from top to bottom, not just the upper crust. Our current bonus systems are anomalous and a disgrace. Sort them out or your shareholders and staff will do it for you.
Consider the effect of the new generations joining the business. Review all SOP with a view to eliminating everything that isn’t essential for safety and efficiency. Think how the use of photographs is replacing words in so many aspects of life. Words are a language or a dialect. Pictures are universally understood. Is your business using cameras properly? Are you monitoring comments about your business and its products on social media? Does the CEO see these, or a competent and honest summary of them? Are you teaching young people how to get the best results when dealing with management?
Once engaged, use your Talents to roleplay options for the development of the business. Ernest discussions about trends are for the birds. Opportunities abound for all businesses. People just don’t see them. Play as if at war, because you are. ‘What if’ has to be the start of every sentence. Penalties for negative thinking, points for positivity.
Outstanding success is usually the result of outrageous thinking.
Cast your eyes overseas. For all the seemingly protectionist behaviour of the US President the world is becoming more unified. Borders are crossed without notice by the internet. Technological knowledge is easily available elsewhere. Expensive workforces have yet to learn that additional money comes from productivity not Santa Claus or the Government.
In a word the strategy for 2018 is think more, fuss less.
If you do you will transform your business.
All the very best for the New Year