Staying Ahead of Your Enemy (Part 2)

StayingAheadoftheEnemyTank497448237BlogInnovation and efficiency are easily derailed when you’re not aware of the battlefield.

In part one of this blog series, we covered some of the key elements of agility — how resilient individuals and organizations tend to plan ahead to identify the skills and knowledge required to get the job done. They tend to innovate and add value to processes by thinking out of the box and developing practical solutions.

They are also good at situational awareness and tend to see reality in the midst of confusion.

This is an extremely positive quality when we consider one of the most crucial questions for survival and growth: “Who are my current and future enemies?”

In other words, today or tomorrow, what is most likely to derail your organization or life? Among all the positive opportunities, where are things most likely to grow wrong if we’re not paying attention? If this one hasn’t been recently analyzed and if you haven’t done some strategic (i.e., data-driven) thinking around this question, it really should keep you up at night.

We covered one of the classic responses — “competition.” The expansion of global markets and the speed of digital change make this one unlikely in most markets. Coopetition is a bit difficult on the lips, but the concept is solid — we tend to compete and partner with the same organization under different circumstances.

We certainly can’t ignore the competition, but the classic, “dismiss them as inept and evil” approach is rarely a safe play in modern, strategic marketing organizations.

So let’s move on to the next potential enemy — one that should never be there in the first place. As technology, business and workforce disrupters increase pressure across organizations, it’s exceedingly common to look for the enemy within the organization. And unlike in TV reality shows, major internal disconnect rarely leads to anything good.

In large corporations, divisional competition easily expands into animosity. With SMBs, it’s usually related to resource allocation — if I can’t get resources, why should you?

Closely related are “not invented” here and “cross-generational” enemies such as:

  • We thought of that long before you showed up,
  • We don’t do it that way here; or
  • Let’s change everything that was working because it’s fun to do something new (or I’m unwilling or unable to learn legacy practices).

All are equally challenging and detrimental to organizational growth and agility.

Of course, self-defense mechanisms are natural. And much like external competition, limited, controlled cross-organizational competition can be useful — if the underlying issues have already been addressed.

But it’s clear to anyone on the outside that efficiency, ROI and innovation (all hallmarks of agile organizations) are negatively impacted when “we” are the enemy.

So what’s left? Executives, strategists and lobbyists spend a lot of time focused on the political ecosystem. Global trade and tariffs, regulation and governance, labor vs. management — these are very real and major variables that must be tracked and managed.

However, it’s also clear that these are costs of doing business and businesses have many options, including withdrawing when confronted with unfavorable circumstances. Of course there are factors that are totally out of your control, however, the only reason to rail against these “enemies” is to influence public opinion, policy and legislation.

However, hot-blooded, emotional responses against this “enemy” can be the fastest way to paint yourself into an unfavorable corner. Do your research, get your Q&A together and make the external statements that reinforce your position.

But don’t confuse political challenges with the enemy. It’s a lot like coopetition — you may need some favors from this “enemy” before too long.

If you chose Supply Chain as the enemy, you have a good point. As a major potential disrupter, it ranks up there with competition. But that’s the reason we don’t focus on this single variable as the ultimate evil — it’s simply one of many disrupters that agile organizations must track in order to survive.

In case business transformation and agility are new to you, here’s a fast reminder of some of the major organizational disrupters:

  • Technology/digital: Cloud, big data, predictive and pervasive analytics, mobile, social, BYOD and IoT
  • Workforce: Attracting talent and retaining talent, retirement/baby boomers, aging skill sets, millennial culture change, telecommuting, updating job roles and faster onboarding
  • Business environment: Global competition, coopetition, speed-to-market pressure, M&A, Internet competition (storefronts need Internet and vice versa), offshoring, reshoring, cost reduction, supply chain disruptions, taxation and governance/regulation

 

Once you see a list of disrupters, it becomes clear that they can’t be the enemy. They are diverse, interconnected and unstable. Your nightmares start when they shift and negatively align and then something horrible happens and your market disappears in a year.

Imagine a shift to cloud (so that marketing can push offers faster) while you reshore customer service (providing a better customer experience) as you juggle international tax havens (think Google in the U.K.).

We’re getting closer to a “Nightmare on Elm Street” alignment if something goes wrong.

It doesn’t matter which of these, or other related disrupters, are the biggest challenge for your organization. Any of them can combine to bring serious pain and all of them lead to skills gaps.

There, we said it. Skill and knowledge gaps are the true enemy.

Think about it. As an individual or organization you can measure, you can plan, you can prepare to execute — but if change is moving faster than skills and knowledge, you can’t execute. And you saw the list, technology and business roles are impacted by every one of the disrupters listed above.

So if skills and knowledge gaps don’t scare you — if they aren’t the single largest problem, if they aren’t the true enemy to everything that individuals and organizations want to accomplish — then you must be way ahead of the curve. Or you may live in one of those exceptional industries that we addressed earlier. Either way, it’s likely that you’ve already undergone workforce transformation.

And that may be the best way to understand the enemy. Business transformation / workforce transformation removes the gaps and that’s where you want to be. “Mind the gaps” becomes far more important than simply keeping your legs attached to your body in the London Underground.

While we were researching customer needs at a recent PMXPO event, one of the attendees made an excellent point:

To me workforce transformation is a shift in the way of thinking about your labor force. It’s the next evolution of how employees are viewed. A shift away from the industrialization era where workers were quickly replaced. There’s a greater need for stressing “knowledge” itself as a valuable organizational asset.

 

If you recognize the enemy, if skills gaps need to go, if agility is crucial and if you’re ready for workforce transformation, give us a call.

As technologists move closer to the customer, we help close interpersonal and process gaps. Leadership, finance and communication skills are all necessary as T-shaped roles expand.

What about business roles, where a deeper understanding of technology helps connect the dots? Start by exploring the various training solutions offered by Global Knowledge:

  • Generic cloud — To get a vendor-neutral understanding of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, architectures and strategies to get the most out of cloud planning.
  • ITIL® experience — IT Infrastructure Library experience helps you align technology strategy, architecture, operational and change management with the business to maximize ROI and customer experience.
  • Business Analysis and Product Management training helps everyone add value, maximizing productivity, reducing rework, and aligning tactics with strategy.

And what if you need help analyzing skills gaps, designing training plans and managing change? That’s what Global Knowledge Business Transformation Services are all about. When our experienced solutions consultants review your strategic objectives, you will understand why effective workforce transformation is the key to business agility.

Focus on the enemy! Close the gaps! And learn how Global Knowledge keeps the nightmares at bay.

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2 comments

  1. Geraldine Fusciardi Reply

    The “Mind the Gap” analogy is a nice one. And while I agree with your conclusions it does bring to mind (and I hate having him brought to mind) Donald Rumsfield with his known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns – the things we don’t know we don’t know. I find this very regularly when working with companies about their strategic objectives and goal setting. They don’t even realise what they are not doing well and don’t have proper goals set for their organisation. When they send me copies of their “goals”, I sometimes find myself tearing my hair in frustration at the lack of SMART goals and even worse, the lack of realisation that these are not proper goals. Many of these are companies doing relatively well – but could do so much better. We are working with them on a very particular type of transformation that they often don’t realise they need.

  2. Michael Stierhoff Reply

    Geraldine, exactly—and the next time Global Knowledge is hiring consultants give me a shout:)

    You nailed it- with the speed of current innovation a market can literally shift in months and it’s hard for some of the old school to imagine the rate and required processes for change and goals get set in a vacuum.

    At the other end of the spectrum, the younger generations often don’t have the experience to see the value in a minimal viable approach, test, tweak and repeat. It’s easy to forget the number of Facebook competitors that failed.

    ‘Unknowns’ is a perfect example, and the best way I know to get the mind out of the past and assumptions about the future is to shift focus to the customer. It can be as small as recognition that bounce rate is high using default language ‘that always worked before’. Of course, it’s often very difficult to get senior management to pay attention to this level of detail but it’s a great place to start. You can build up a lot of small examples quickly, and in a relatively short period you can collect enough data to connect to revenue, profit, conversions — whatever language has the most impact.

    And glad you liked ‘Mind the Gap’. I hear they’re fixing all the gaps, but at least I have the T shirt;)