A virtuous circle linking growth opportunities to the growing capabilities of your people ….. to feed more growth

Virtuious opportunities to people graphic


Earlier this week John Kay reminded us of the Technological uncertainty in our complex world in his Financial Times Column.


PESTLE To varying degrees I could paint similar pictures for a range of the external factors that influence enterprises and use this as a foundation for an argument for corporate agility – a capability in the DNA of some enterprises that enables them to maximise value from emergent opportunities and flourish in a competitive world where more powerful and less loyal consumers demand more value and more powerful and less loyal workers demand higher compensation and a work environment that supports their development.

How can enterprises raise their agility – efficiently and effectively? In this Blog, I will explore two dimensions of this challenge – firstly strategic direction and secondly agile implementation. I sense enterprises have a great opportunity to involve their people more and achieve a win-win of better informed strategic direction and more engaged people.

Strategic Direction

Richard Stacy’s blog, recently quoted by tomorrowtoday suggested that we can consider Big Data as an opportunity to turn a haystack into a needle. Where our BigData sources can draw on the insights from our own people (as well as external sources) – in a transparent way – I believe that there is great potential to develop a more effective foundation for developing employees engagement – or indeed the employee passion identified in a recent Deloitte paper.

For example, by looking for patterns that could give us early insights on potential substitutes for the products / services our enterprise provided.  My bottom line is that Boards and the Executives of Enterprises would benefit from considering strategic direction regularly rather than reserving it for strategic retreats once a year and more proactively consider the consequential needs to improve the capability of the enterprise’s structure, systems, skills, staff or indeed evolve the style or shared values of the enterprise. 5Forces

A practical approach to achieving this could be to conduct an Excellence AuditTM based on the Tom Peters “Future Shape of the Winner TM” thinking.  This would capture the thinking of the talent across an enterprise from the perspective of both current performance and future requirements and help galvanise the leadership team around a new agenda. Moreover initiatives to grow the capabilities needed to close the gaps that have been identified can serve as the basis for a “Next Generation Leader” programme that involves high performers developing themselves as they lead cross-functional projects across the enterprise – a great win-win.

Agile implementation

Some years ago I contributed to a rapid project to gain the insights of colleagues into the design of a new eCommerce site for a client – a new mail order wine company.  The project team were challenged to develop both quickly and innovatively and they saw the consultancy firm’s employees as a valuable source of “market intelligence”. Ideas (such as capturing attributes of the wine buyers tastes), the buying process and the technology were all explored in rapid prototypes.  I sense that many enterprises could do more to leverage the insights and capabilities of their people in this way to improve the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of new product and service development.

I sense that the traditional “nailing down the scope” and the “command and control approach” that have been used as foundations for successful project implementation are not fit for purpose in our agile world where our markets are evolving fast, society expects more transparency and our peoples’ expectations are so varied. As you consider project implementations how much have you thought about the full continuum individual motivations – from an expectation of skills and opportunities that will be a platform for career growth (in either your enterprise or elsewhere) to a payment of salary for the minimum amount of work (and perhaps minimum “interference” from their managers so that they can maximise time on Facebook and internet shopping!) “Realism” checking of ones planning assumptions and then reviewing them more regularly – with the best available information can in my experience help reduce implementation surprises.

Many years ago as an Aide de Camp to a Commander in Chief I leaned at first hand the value of “management by walking about”.  We spent a very high proportion of time traveling and ensured that we visited all the 200+ units under his command. For the bulk of our time on these visits we were in “receive” rather than “transmit” mode and by listening and asking “seek to understand” questions, we picked up numerous insights. The information management researchers would classify as “weak signals” and information that would almost certainly have been lost in “organisational noise” or as a result of the “sandpapering” that management reports and papers receive on the way through enterprise hierarchies.  Reflecting on this experience it brings home to me the value of “strategic listening” and the value of getting out from ones comfortable office and engaging with people right across an enterprise.  Over the last 20 years while I have served in various roles in the in the commercial world I have been constantly surprised by how little Management by Walking about has taken place notwithstanding the demands of our agile marketplace and the appetites of our people.

A Take Away:

Petle 5Force FSW Balance

Further involve your people in setting strategic direction and in the development of your capabilities – in both cases being sensitive to “weak signals” be they identified in big data or from management by walking about.  I believe strongly that doing this will help your enterprise spin like a gyroscope, growing staff capabilities that in turn are a foundation for more enterprise growth.   Efficienarta would be delighted to help you!



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