Published Random House Business Books, 2011
These are turbulent, ever-changing times. How do we ensure that our business is continuously set to take advantage of emerging opportunities and avoids the many pitfalls that may lead to our performance and position in the market taking serious hits? “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen outline a number of areas and approaches we do well to heed. the contents of "Great by Choice" can be seen as a companion piece to Jim Collins’ “From Good to Great” and “Built to Last” with Jerry Porras.
Disciplined, Consistent and Persistent
Consistency and persistence are the parents of success. Consistency, when it comes to sticking to our values, core purpose, long-term goals, standards and methods. We can choose not to be reactive, not to be ruled by expectations and pressures from our environment. We plot our course and maintain it no matter that we way appear an oddball for doing so.
Persistence comes into play regarding the execution of our activities. We carry on in a given manner until our goal is reached. It means pacing ourselves so our effort is constant; not cycles of frantic activity followed by a drastic slowdown, because we have run out of steam or resources.
We must get away from the typical industrial age ideas of discipline: regimentation, measurement and hierarchical obedience. Instead, we need to center on ensuring our core purpose is carried out in such a way as reflects who we are as a company.
Try, Try, Try Before Going Big
How to know which ideas and activities to pursue in an ever faster changing world? Do we do look at our competitors and industry and listen to experts’ advice? More likely than not this approach will not produce the hoped for results despite our having committed large chunks of resources.
Instead we can build our own store of empirical evidence regarding which of may possible ideas are worth pursuing on a large scale. We can launch small trial projects for our ideas and see which ones swim and which sink. For a minimal investment we get the knowledge that allows us to determine which ideas to terminate, which ideas to tweak and try again, and which ideas are so spot-on that they should be pursued. Resources are committed to ideas very likely to succeed and we reduce the risk of launching unsuccessful initiatives.
A sort of double vision is required: we must have a firm grip on details of our current setup and also be able to see the bigger picture of what is on the horizon and what it could mean for our company. Not all things on the horizon will be good. We need to be conscious of which risks we run and how to handle them in a satisfactory manner, i.e. being well-prepared and have put buffers in place for seizing opportunities and manage through bad turns.
situation changes our decision-making process should be matched to the actual
urgency of the situation. Quick decisions may be necessary in some cases where
delay will produce significantly worse outcomes. However, if we are not dealing
with the truly urgent situation, a considered, data-based response will most
likely produce better results, despite taking longer to reach. Once we have decided
how to adjust and act, the execution must be consistent and persistent.
Level Up Our Ambition
What is our ambition? Hopefully it is to create a lasting success that serves a purpose and contributes to customers and society and is attractive for employees. How to realize this ambition? One way is to create a stable set of guidelines to interpret your purpose and strategy into everyday executable decisions and actions.
guidelines must tell people the principles of what will be done and what will not
be done. Change to guidelines should occur only if a new situation gives you evidence
of the need to revise your key strategy. Most changes and project trials are
not of that caliber. The guidelines give us stability and consistency. Our
ability to make considered changes to them allow us to move forward with the
The Luck Factor
Does our company need luck? Over the course of time we will face what can be considered lucky breaks, but bad things will also happen. Great companies get the same allotment and distribution of luck as other companies. The question becomes how good are we at getting the most from the luck, good and bad, we receive; what is our “Return On Luck”. Using the concepts described above will give us an edge in handling our luck. We need to develop the ability to recognize the luck for what it is and evaluate whether it truly requires us to adjust our course.
Being a great company in turbulent times builds on the same principles that were presented in “From Good to Great” and “Built to Last”. Discipline, experimentation and fulfillment of the company core purpose. In a turbulent world we have to be very careful to change only when change is truly necessary for us. Risk management plays a great role, in that not being prepared for risks to materialize could spell disaster for us. Thus vigilance to external signals pairs with careful interpretation and considered responses; maintaining your core while remaining adaptable to essential external signals.
Feel inspired? Have ideas? Need to launch initiatives?