More than ever, companies are urged to deliver good products and services quickly, affordably, and reliably. And this again and again. How to do that? A good way would be to treat ongoing development as an important permanent task. One that needs to be organized.
Even if it sometimes might seem differently
we usually work reasonably well and also successfully. And we do this by making our processes as smooth as possible. If problems arise, we mostly solve them by simply removing the grit from the properly maintained machine:
Processes are automated, or at the very least, reengineered and, yes, often personnel are replaced or laid off. At the same time, the work is redistributed to colleagues, who in turn are trained to do the jobs well again, and preferably even better.
This is how it has worked in the past. And it worked very, very good.
However, for some time now, it is obvious, that things are no longer running quite so smoothly.
So will the proven means of success also help us now?
One might doubt it
At least if we leave it to those measures alone. For in this way, we just take into account only one, albeit important aspect of good corporate governance: that it is crucial to handle the current business as well and as profitably as possible.
However, a smooth day-to-day business is just half the way to success.
To shape the future
at least as important is to provide new products, product improvements, new routines and adapted, changed structures. At any time.
Forgetting, ignoring or deliberately ignoring this part of management puts the success, perhaps even the continued existence of the company at risk.
Without further development, it is not only impossible, that customers and staff (!) will become dissatisfied over time. It rather is very likely that both will turn their backs to the company in the medium to long term. And they will not return for a while.
This has always been true, of course.
But it is especially true in those dynamic markets that have rapidly emerged over the past digital years. It therefore cannot be overemphasized:
In just about all industries, an awful lot has changed very radically. And it is likely that this will continue to happen.
Unfortunately, this is precisely what our organizations, which are focused on stability and stable, controllable markets, are not prepared to deal with.
But what exactly has a changed?
First of all, that today customers have many more options, which they also prepared to use. There are many more different products, offers, solutions and communities available to customers today than there were just a few years ago.
As a result, everyone can inform him- or herself today and thus also decide more confidently what is relevant, worth consuming and experiencing for him/her and when. And also what the service is or should be worth to her/him.
As a result, customers today make decisions much more independently of what producers and retailers communicate or suggest to them as important or valuable.
Put it that way: Our manageable markets for mass-produced goods are more and more off for good.
They are now being replaced by
a confusing field of the most diverse offers, products and services, in which a great many different players are active. Here, different, new value-creating rules apply.
This is a rather unfamiliar business than the one we have known so far. The very business with which we have been successful — and according to which we still organize ourselves today.
“Practically minded men who fancy themselves quite free from intellectual influences are more often than not the slaves of some late economist.” John Maynard Keynes
But if we want to be successful today and in the future
it is necessary to review our previous ideas about organization and how to design it, and probably to throw some of them overboard. Above all, we have to adapt without delay.
Now it is important to handle the existing business smoothly, profitably and efficiently as long as it still carries us. And at the same time (!) to improve our products faster and always close to the market or to (find) completely new solutions, meaning: We need to be innovative.
In the past, innovation was a comparatively cozy thing. That’s why we lost sight of this crucial point. One reason for this: Our quite successful hierarchical routines
From an organizational perspective, we therefore have little to no practice in repeatedly recognizing larger and smaller innovative business ideas and swiftly implementing them close to the market.
“You may not want to upgrade, but you must because everyone else is. It’s an upgrade arms race.”
Because of this circumstances
we very likely won’t be able to avoid learning just that: Turning our companies into learning, more flexible, self-organized organizations. This time for real. Of course, this means completely different demands to our hierarchical organized processes.
In the future, employees, executives, management and owners will act, make decisions and take over responsibility in a different, more open, more self-organized, more self-motivated and also more self-confident way than before.
Anyone hoping or waiting for this to happen in an uncoordinated, magical way, and also in a good manner, should prepare to be disappointed. Because such a change is not a matter of course. Rather, it must be initiated and organized as a strategically important entrepreneurial task.
From today’s perspective
a self-organized, learning organization may seem unusual or even impossible. However, there is good reason that it will happen. And this is because our actual means are no longer suitable for the situations that we are encountering today and we will encounter even more so in the near future.
In short, we simply have no choice but to change this way.
The good thing will be that we will be able to swiftly solve one or the other urgent organizational and also existential economic problem. And, at the same, time learn to secure our entrepreneurial future. Again and again.
For me, that’s good for a start. Don’t you think?
- Kelly, Kevin: The Inevitable. Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.
- Kline, Peter: Ten steps to a learning Organization
- Kotter, John P.: Accelerate. Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World.
- Rother, Mike: Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results
About the Author
Edgar Rodehack is a teamwork enthusiast with a preference for Agile forms of collaboration. So it’s good that he does this for a living. He is an organizational consultant, business and agile coach, moderator and facilitator. Also, he’s married with three kids, and he really enjoys making music, writing and reading.