Uncertainty is everywhere. In fact, the list of potential disruptions reads like the script from the Ginsu Knife commercials of the 1980's--just when you think you have identified all of the potential challenges, someone says "Wait! There's more!"
There are the obvious examples such as increased competition; governmental regulation; the need to innovate; and the potential for a new technology to make your organization--or your job--obsolete. On top of that, we are bombarded with global factors such as the impact of a strong U.S. dollar on export prices and the impact of a potential loan default by Greece on the global economy.
There is one consolation to the today's accelerating change and complexity: Every indication is that one day you will look back on today's uncertainty as "the good old days."
How You Win
Your ability to thrive in a world of accelerating change and uncertainty will increase when you and your organization take these five steps.
1. Be great at executing today. This is fundamental. If you can't deliver an excellent product or service today, your chances for making it to the future are substantially less. In a world where products and services are virtually interchangeable, you can't hope to thrive when you are starting from behind.
2. Learn from the uncertainty of the past. Humans tend to believe that their initial experience with a situation is the first time that it has occurred. Every change that makes you nervous, uncertain, and sometimes a little crazy has occurred in some form before.
The Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637 shares an eerily similar feeling to the banking and mortgage crisis of 2008. New technology has always been a disruptive and beneficial force in how people work and live. Globalization has existed since the beginning of time.
Why would the world be different today?
Make no mistake. You face daunting challenges, and they are coming at you faster and from more directions than ever before. But, there is value in the lessons about what did and didn't work from the past applied in today's environment.
3. Make change a competitive advantage. Complete these sentences: You change a light bulb when ...? Athletic teams change the coach when ...? Organizations change when ...?
If your initial responses were about things going wrong, you are going to hate the future. The very best organizations will wake up every day searching for opportunities to be faster, better, cheaper, and friendlier with solutions that serve their customer AND maximize their internal processes.
Now is the time to become obsessed with being so good at anticipating the future that you create a new standard of certainty for the marketplace. Start by making continual change and growth an expected competency atr every organizational level. Teach leaders how to create an environment that encourages and empowers change...and then hold them accountable for doing so.
4. Align the culture with your vision, values, and strategy. Attracting and retaining top talent is important. So are being respectful, valuing diversity, working safely, providing great service, and having fun. And, you won't thrive if your definition of a great culture is limited to those areas.
Creating and sustaining a culture focused on how people are treated and behave is no longer enough. The culture you need to thrive must also be relentless in adding value to your customer while driving out every excess cost to the operation. Get this right, and you can compete with anyone anywhere.
5. Grow leaders at every level to generate urgency, confidence, and accountability. You know that leadership is important. You have been expecting those in the traditional leadership positions to develop others for the future; encourage innovation; and engage people. Are you seeing the results you need as fast as you need to see them?
If not, now is the time to double down on your expectations for and investment in leadership. And while you are at it, expand your focus to include non-traditional audiences. You will need every piece of help you can find to generate urgency, confidence, and accountability to thrive in the future.
Hall of Fame baseball player and philosopher Yogi Berra said, "The future ain't what it used to be." That's absolutely true. It could be worse, and it could be magnificent. The answer will be determined by the things you do today win in an uncertain future.
Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. His keynote seminars and workshops are informative, engaging, and memorable. To learn more or to hire Randy for your next meeting, visit www.penningtongroup.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 972-980-9857.
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