Friday, October 24, 2008

Leading on the Edge !

Some thoughts about the way the world is evolving and the emergence of the new professional and learning organisation, learning to lead on the cutting edge of success.....

Management gurus and their disciples, thinkers, strategists and business process re-engineers have been busy propelling the corporate world and the corporate mind into not only coping with, but also keeping in step with the rapid changes of an ever shrinking, increasingly competitive and exhaustingly demanding global market.

Undoubtedly the 21st Century is playing host to the greatest revolution in communication the world has ever seen, and consequently, the businesses of today will have to constantly re-engineer and restructure their approach, ever so keenly, to first survive and then ride the crest of this tidal wave of change.

Today, the ability to mass communicate instantly, has drilled right down to the level of any individual choosing to use the Net, and is no longer the sole domain of large corporate houses with inflated advertising budgets. Information and yes, dis-information can be broadcast for over a billion to view, in the mere blink of an eye. Business transactions on the Web, or e-commerce as we know it, is only part of the almost immeasurable progress the world has achieved in less than a decade, decidedly overshadowing the undeniably tremendous evolution of the world over the preceding half century.

The changing times and tools....

As times change, so have the tools of the trade. Today anybody in the business without a certain savvyness on the internet or for that matter without a personalized email address or a Home Page on the World Wide Web, may as well close shop and go home. A dinosaur.

From the beginning of time, as the world and life itself evolved, Mankind has constantly striven to push the pace of progress, leaving the weak to die, and the strong to live and thrive. We called it the process of Natural Selection. And as I reflect on the changing world, so it seems today too, with even greater ferocity and ruthlessness.

The arithmetic is very simple. The size of the pie being constant, to eat more of it, somebody else has to go hungry. That is, unless somebody has the wisdom and the ability to make another pie and another. Business strategy is increasingly pointed in this direction. How to make another pie!

Reconstructing the ladder ......

For a business of the new millennium to succeed, organizational structure and operations have to be focused towards the Sun — that is, the entire organization and its various subsystems have to be energized to support each other, in one common direction. Organizational structure has to be redesigned or reconstructed to support operational efficiency and effectiveness. Knowledge based competences have to be ushered to positions of leadership.

Whether product or people, success will lie with those at the cutting edge of technology and a finger firmly on the market pulse. An explosive combination, such as this is, will always keep the business Leading on the Edge!

The Kaizen of Learning....

To arrive here, would necessarily involve continuous learning — structured training and exposure to the market needs, constant communication with the market place and the ability to discern, decide and function independently at critical operational levels of the organization, especially those interfacing with the market.

In the emerging market order, the factory will no longer produce what it simply can produce, of original capability or capacity, but will bend every resource it has or has to procure , to supply what the market demands of it — be this product or service. Because the customer ( read you and me too ! ) now has literally, a world at his or her fingertips, and the decision making process has crashed down to almost a heartbeat.

Marketplaces have already begun to shed their parochial boundaries, and with the world increasingly becoming one giant market, any business, which seeks to dictate terms to the market, is perilously close to the edge of survival.

Protection to local industry has been slowly and painfully recognized as insulating them from the real world. Enhancing their growing incompetence in the false bliss of restricted competition, leaves them totally unprepared for the awaiting onslaught, when the curtain on competition is raised.

The new reality : wake up or die ....

Needless to say, horrible deaths await such placid and in the most liberal sense, merely "reactive" organizations. It would therefore be a matter of plain common sense that at the micro level, should you ever as an individual, feel protected and comfortable, this is to be feared most. Because this means, that you have already lost touch with reality.

It seems to me that , anybody within reach of reality, must always recognize the compelling need –of discomfort, of constant change, of threat to survival, of creating and fostering change, of continually learning, of challenging the established norm and only when you can catalyze change continuously, can you truly consider yourself to be Leading on the Edge.

The organization that must carry this task through will demand man-management skills of a dimension far superior than ever before. Even today, empowerment of manpower has become the watchword of progress in Human Resource Development efforts across the globe. Every man, must view the business as the CEO regardless of his position in the organization, says one management guru, for the view is best at the top.

The organizational pyramid : shaken and stirred....

In order to do this, unshackling the operating executive from the traditional organizational bonds forms part of the key objectives of an enlightened management. It is a known fact that, any business entity is as good as the people who represent it. Tapping and cultivating individual potential has reached Critical Mass point in context of the business environment today.

The pyramidal Boss-Subordinate structure has to give way to flatter organizational structures, with teams of people spearheading identified tasks towards a larger common goal, interlinked with each other-, cross functionally too, providing a freer and wider berth of operation, with authority and responsibility extending beyond localized short term goals and targets, to encompass the overall aims and objectives of the organization.

The role of the traditional Boss, or the CEO of the firm – this may even be the Head of a Department or Division - has to mature into one of being a Facilitator and Motivator. At the cutting edge of business competence, the strenuous demands on individual performance and achievement need to be complemented and supported with the Boss providing a highly positively charged work environment, along with the necessary tools of the trade, continuous training in the techniques to perform and produce results, counseling at regular intervals and most importantly, leading from the front.

Frontline leadership ....

No better performance and achievement can be demanded, than by the sheer example of the leader. This has been one of the most major transformation in management thinking in recent times, and more often than not, organizational performance can be judged not just by that of the team, but more so, that of the team leader, Leading on the Edge, himself!

The new order of world business today demands performance right from the Top of the Pyramid, which provides the platform on which organizational vision , goals and targets to achieve this vision are laid in clear view of every element in the organizational network. Skilled man-managers should easily recognize that High Performers and achievers have to be recognized and allowed to perform with the complete support of the system.

The power of knowledge, the might of technology : staying relevant to the business....

Typically a high performer will also be high on knowledge and techniques of the trade, which have to be continually updated to keep abreast with the times. They will also often be subject to self imposed high level stress, as a result of demanding more of themselves than even the organization does of them. Their paranoia of complacency and stagnation, driven by a very high order of ambition, is the very force that powers the organization forward.

And they no longer need to fear for their jobs, for they are always in demand. They must have the freedom to choose the environment in which they can perform best, to their own lofty expectations of themselves. They exercise the choice to stay or go. And more often than not, they choose to go. Not always because they are dissatisfied , but because they have better options at each level of success.

The price of success....

The price usually paid by an organization on a victorious battle pitch, is the poaching of its top lieutenants. Organizations will have to recognize the inevitability of this and plan for it, with what is now being called the perpetuation of, or at least restricting the flight of, Intellectual Capital. In addition to the tangible ingredient "knowledge" which can be data based , intangibles form the other vital ingredients which cover Capital Resources involving the Company Management , the Employees, the Customer and indeed the Processes built into the system.

Almost any company on the Edge of Competitiveness and Growth would realize that their business is not just a result of well oiled systems working in unison, but instead, the cutting edge is indeed provided by the people who operate these systems. People involvement will always mean un-catalogued information and personalized knowledge, that affects the company and its business, often not shared with the system.

The Twain shall meet : the knowledge and information expressway to success

Managing the flow of information within the company and the smooth transfer of knowledge, where stagnant knowledge repositories are transformed into dynamic vehicles of growth, is one of the special skills that will daunt the abilities of corporate leaders.

While top human resources of a company can turn out to be, a critical casualty of success, in this New Millennium, more than ever before, any organization that can attract, nurture, retain, continually motivate and empower such people, and can at the very same time, conserve and build on its intellectual capital, will find itself invariably Leading On the Edge of Success.

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