The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined a number of issues with the design of our organisations in both public and private sector. We have been shown to be ill prepared and slow to adapt in the face of such a challenge. There will never be a perfect response. These challenges are unprecedented. But organisations that had prepared for dramatic but much narrower changes in their own sectors will have fared much better than those that were optimised for the status quo. Because though the scale and breadth of the challenge might be different, the fundamentals of the response are the same.
At the core of any new model must be this principle: build for adaptation, not optimisation. Whether the change that disrupts your world is affecting just you, or everyone, it is going to come. And as I argued in High Frequency Change, our hyper-connected, low friction world, means the challenges that come may be many and varied. They will only be visible on the near horizon before they arrive and turn your world upside down. You have to be ready to respond.
So the question becomes about your objective: are you here to make hay while the sun shines? Or are you preparing for the inevitable rainy day? Do you want maximum profit today? Or do you want to build sustainable success?
If you want to build sustainable success, then you need to change the way you think about your business.
A new blueprint
In Future-proof Your Business, I make the argument, and offer the tools, for three fundamental changes in the way we design and operate our organisations. It is focused on a business audience but the lessons are just as valid for the public and third sectors.
Focus on the future
Most organisations are terrible at planning. It is true of their annual budget, frequently a drawn-out and rancorous affair that does little to inform business operations. It is true of their strategy documents, often disconnected from the budget that supposedly backs them. For the most part, outside of some critical moment’s in the business life cycle, we only do real strategic planning under duress. I prescribe that every leader should spend 1% of their time focused on the future. This isn’t a day of dreaming, but the use of structured tools to scan the near and far horizons and reset the direction accordingly.
We move too slowly in response to even the most powerful stimulus. We need to accelerate business decision-making if we are to be truly resilient. That means speeding the flow of information to the core decision-makers. But more importantly it means distributing the decision-making more widely. Future-ready businesses give their people the autonomy, the responsibility and the tools to react to changes in the environment.
Structure for agility
Giant monolithic operations, directed from the centre, have little hope of responding at speed, or of ensuring the right response for every one of their stakeholders. Distributed organisations, networks of semi-autonomous components, can react much faster. Like a box of self-assembling Lego bricks they can reorganise to meet each challenge.
Future-proof Your Business
Given the relevance of these tools and messages at this challenging time, my publishers and I have decided to bring forward the launch of Future-proof Your Business in its digital form. Rather than launching at the end of July, it is available from today on the Kindle store. An audio version will be following as soon as we can make it happen.
I will be doing a series of digital seminars around the launch with partner organisations. Already in the diary is a talk and Q+A hosted by Herb Kim for BIMA at 6:30 pm on the 23rd April. And a session with Downtown in Business at 2pm on the 24th. Watch my social media for more details and joining instructions.
Future-proof Your Business is available now on the Kindle store. Download your copy.