27 April, 2010

Understanding Your S Curve

I recently read Jim Collins book – ‘How The Mighty Fall’ which was a suspiciously thin book compared to his previous classics. It was an interesting reminder of what goes wrong when companies capitulate into decline. I have worked in two organisations that experienced significant decline. I remember seeing the significant changes in technology, government support and new emerging client needs. I also remember the blindness of those companies in addressing these changes and leading indicators.

Collins highlights 5 stages of Decline:
1. Huburis Born of Success – here you are at your peak, arrogance emerges
2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More – greed
3. Denial of Risk Peril – blinkers are on and excuses emerge
4. Grasping of Salvation – clear that the business model has fundamental flaws
5. Capitulation to Irrelevance – death of the business

Collins makes an interesting observation that you do not know when you will decline, everything on the outside looks good but there is a disease forming on the inside.

Things to avoid:
-People with too much vested interest in the old ways of doing things
-Poor succession planning, leaders forget to build the capabilities of the future
- Arrogance
- Not believing in luck
-Stop learning
-Stop focusing on core strengths and capabilities
- Working in isolation to market trends
- Believing your own ‘BS’

I do believe organisations can extend their S curve lifecycles if they keep humble, open to their market, competitors and substitutes, deal with uncertainty in a constructive manner, keep learning and benchmarking their performance and develop future scenarios and contingencies. Organisations need to be prepared to stop investing in dying businesses and reinvest in future business opportunities. Keeping an active business and client portfolio is a key success factor for extending growth – companies such as Wesfarmers, Siemens, GE practice this very well.

In our own strategic planning process we religiously review external forces that impact our success and the success of our clients, suppliers and partners. The Leading Indicators that we monitor include changes to government legislation, new technologies particularly around web/social networking and connectivity, tax reforms, unemployment, % of companies experiencing bankruptcies, ageing population and implementation of carbon taxes.

In our own scenario planning we see the ageing population, energy transition/environmental impacts and healthcare needs as key areas that will impact growth and create new opportunities for us and our clients. We also anticipate X factors – things that just happen like Volcanoes, 9/11 and other natural or manmade traumas. We just don’t know what the X factors will be and in preparing for these we know we should have a cash flow base to ride us through these events.

It is OK not to know about the future, but it is not OK not to be open to it and prepared.

The reality is there is a lot of luck associated with reinventing and extending your business life. Being open and aware helps you attract and realise these opportunities.

Untold Stories

I have worked with the Lominger Leadership competencies for nearly 12 months now and there is a lot for me to learn. The comprehensive Leadership Architecture outlines the 67 ideal competencies for talent and career development. I am now accredited in the Voices360 assessment which is one of the most comprehensive 360 tools on the market.

The breadth of the research highlights a lot of untold stories such as the Big 8 competencies most Leaders struggle in and the skills required to be politically savvy, another understated competency that is essential for career development.

Insight 1: Big 8
Through Lominger’s extensive research conducted globally over the last 15 years they have discovered the Big 8 competencies that are the most challenging, less practiced and super essential. The Big 8 are - Dealing with Ambiguity, Creativity, Innovation Management, Motivating Others, Planning, Strategic Agility, Building Effective Teams and Managing Vision and Purpose. The insight I gained from this is that these big 8 are the areas that keep me most employed. I would probably add a ninth, which would be Political Savvy. Most of my clients engage me for one or more of these nine competencies and the realization that there is a world wide need in this area, highlights the great challenges and opportunities available to make a positive difference to leadership and talent management.

Insight 2: Political Savvy
Lominger’s 48th competency is Political Savvy, which is the capability to maneuver through complex political situations effectively and quietly to achieve goals. It is refreshing to see Political Savvy written down and assessed as a real competency, because in practice it is not often spoken about openly. Lominger provides tips on how to develop this skill in a very constructive and ethical manner. By combining Political Savvy (No. 48), Comfort Around Higher Management (No. 8) and Interpersonal Savvy (No. 31), suddenly you have a palette of behaviours that supports managing up and other key stakeholders. This combination of skills strongly supports effective stakeholder management and enables Leaders to know who to influence in the best way possible. I’d like to express a different take on the old phrase ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’ to ‘It’s important to know what you know, who to know and how to access both expediently’.

Insight 3: Connecting Business and People
Helping others to find their light, purpose and reach their potential and their business’s potential is most motivating for me. The Lominger Competencies provides me with another colour to add to my palette of paints to share at the appropriate times with the right clients. I look forward to creating rainbows and creating greater insights to achieve sustainable personal and business results.