In a previous article I talked about the importance of knowing what business you are really in to get a firm hold on what’s going to be critical as your business emerges from the current crisis.
The business you are really in is another way of discovering your deeper purpose or as Simon Sinek puts it, your “why”. But it’s only one side of the equation: as well as understanding this purpose you need to have customers who share that purpose in some way. To use Sinek’s example, Apple would not be successful if their why didn’t resonate in some way for their millions of customers.
Like most other people I know my diet has changed since the lock-down began. There’s a definite emphasis on “comfort food” – perhaps more carb-heavy than normal, an increased choice of desserts and a definite nod towards the foods enjoyed in childhood (rice pudding hasn’t featured yet but it’s on the to-cook list).
The collective psychology of this is interesting: in a time of stress we gravitate towards certainty and things that make us feel better, even if they don’t necessarily make healthier in the long term.
The “elastic band” reaction to change is becoming apparent
It seemed like a good idea at the time: take the first three months of 2020 “out” on a project whose full-time, full-on nature didn’t allow much time for writing or video work, come back and resume my regular posting of ideas on change and related topics.
This all went swimmingly… until coronavirus happened. First impression was that all would be OK. I simply stopped travelling to the client’s site and completed the last two weeks of the project remotely, with technology – and the client’s own nimble action in organising remote participation – helping immensely.
The “dead cat” strategy – dropping an outrageous or provocative topic into the conversation to divert attention away from a difficult subject you don’t want to talk about -was much in evidence in the recent UK General Election.
However, dead cats – controversial, difficult, or hard-to-solve problems – litter most organisations, diverting attention away from the necessary but difficult conversations required to deliver aagainst their real purpose.
In this video I illustrate the problem (with some dodgy animation) and propose a simple three-step approach to dealing with your dead cats and enabling a focus on your organisation’s purpose.
It’s possible to get hung up on detail and precision when writing a business plan, a bit like writing a piece of classical music. In fact, business planning is more like writing music for jazz musicians: less detail and space to improvise.
In this short – and hopefully not boring – video I offer a cure for what could be termed “Founders Syndrome” – a focus on the core mission and purpose that can obscure the dull but necessary tasks required to help the organisation grow.
The exciting mission and purpose need to be balanced against the dull stuff – and good planning is essential
Are you excited by your working life? Does every problem
seem like a solution waiting to happen? Do you spend most of the day in a state
of feverish anticipation about the next curveball that the world is going to
sling at you?
If the answer is “no, not often” then you have much in
common with 99.9% of people in organisations around the world: however much your
organisation has a great cause, a compelling purpose, whizzy products and funky
offices with great coffee on tap and a pinball machine in the basement, you
have to spend a large chunk of your day doing stuff that’s – when all’s said
and done – pretty boring.
In a large business the stuff that we might find a bit dull
can be allocated to people who don’t find it so: that’s why we have Finance, HR,
Procurement and so on. If you’re lucky, those departments will be full of
people who can eat a purchase ledger for breakfast without batting an eyelid
and will be happy to do so day in, day out.
I was in conversation with a fellow consultant recently where
she described her horrendous experience returning a sofa she had bought. You’d
think this would be a straightforward exercise – these days I find it’s straightforward
to return unworn or undamaged products to suppliers and get a refund – but not
so. In this case the sofa had been covered with a fabric that, after a few
weeks, had stretched significantly, making the whole thing look worn and unattractive.
My friend’s initial attempt to sort out a return was
rebuffed but she was undeterred and sought out help from a fabric expert, who
confirmed that the fabric used was too stretchy and therefore unsuitable for
use as a sofa covering, and a lawyer friend who obliged her with a suitably
We tend to think of plans as precise specifications like compositions, but writing for jazz musicians is a better analogy
I specialise in creating robust, implementable strategies
and plans for organisations going through times of change. Somewhere along the
line a plan gets delivered, whether it’s me writing it or my clients, but I
think there’s a bit of a misconception about the role of plans and to me it’s
best explained with an analogy.
We have a tendency to think of a plan as a precise
specification of what will happen, a bit like a musical composition. In western
classical music – at least for last 400 years or so – it’s been written down
precisely so that the musicians play exactly what the composer intended.