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Uncertainty

In 1997 there was no Google. In 2002 there was no Facebook. There was no Twitter in 2004, and the iPad only made it’s debut in 2009. There is no indication that the pace of innovation will slow, so how can you plan for the future when the target is moving , and moving quickly?

At a corporate level, three-and-five-year strategic plans are being shredded by external market shifts that change the very assumptions on which the plans are based.

At the personal level, many are finding it tough to keep up, and are “opting out”: either purposefully avoiding science and technology, or lashing out at society and joining – or sympathizing with – the Occupy movements. (We don’t see, interestingly, any Occupy Facebook movements, despite the fact that the Facebook ownership group are amongst the richest on the planet.)

There may not be a simple answer to the question of how to plan when change is constant, but here is some perspective that might help:

  1. Be the change: If there will be change, it is far better to be setting the agenda, than reacting to it. This suggests that organizations that are flexible, entrepreneurial and invest in “the new” will be more successful than those who are set-up only for the status quo.
  2. People are key: Dofasco, a large steel mill, used to advertise “Our product is steel – our strength is people.” While the name may have changed slightly (they were acquired), the slogan stands: A thinking workforce that can track the market and reinvent itself as conditions change is critical. Furthermore, within each organization there is an internal social network, teams, processes, and infrastructure — that functions because of the people. To do list: recruit the best, invest in them, and let them reinvent themselves – and the organization.
  3. Partnerships: No longer can one entity hope to have 100% of the skills internally for any eventuality – or to take advantage of any immediate opportunity. Partnerships can be set up for the long or short term, for all or some of the value chain, to provide a non-core capability, or to provide peak production capacity. Planning for an uncertain future requires an understanding that anything might actually be possible, when looking beyond your internal capability.
  4. Intellectual Property: We’re only now seeing the beginning of the patent wars between Microsoft, Google, Apple, Samsung, and others. These organizations have realized that a sustainable competitive advantage is only sustainable if they have something unique that differentiates them in the market. IP does this, and so does Brand. Not surprisingly there is a direct connection between the quality of the people, and the quality of the IP. In an uncertain future, IP is critical: can be exploited, licensed, and sold.
  5. Competitive Intelligence and Market Research: Especially amongst larger organizations, it’s too easy to focus on the internal, instead of the external. A sensitive antenna – market research and competitive intelligence – provides an early warning of potential paradigm shifts. And this early warning allows the organization to react accordingly.
  6. Directional Planning: While three-year strategic plans will always be done, a slight shift in approach can increase the organization’s resilience. Instead of choosing an endpoint, and then choosing tactics to achieve that goal, consider the opposite approach: Set the direction first and then forecast the year one-two-three endpoints. If there are any major market changes, then a mid-course correction can easily be made, and new end-points can be established.

Planning for an uncertain future is difficult, but it can be made far easier when the organization itself is built to thrive in a changing world.

This week’s action plan:  What are you doing as an individual to make sure that you survive and thrive in a world where change is constant?  Look through this list again through a personal filter:  Are you setting the agenda or reacting to others?  Are you investing in yourself?  Do you seek support from others?  Are you generating your own IP?  Are you aware of what’s happening in your field? Do you have a plan for your career (and your life)?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
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Focus on the Question

by Randall Craig on February 17, 2010

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Strategy

Tagged as: , , ,

Whenever there is uncertainty, we look for answers. We investigate alternatives, and then choose a course of action. Often, however, we are unsatisfied with the results, or have a sinking feeling that we’ve missed a key piece of information along the way.

Albert Einstein had an interesting approach to this: “If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it.” Or said another way: to get to the right answers, you need to ask the right questions.

While common sense and experience might suggest what these questions should be, we don’t always have the requisite experience. (Or the common sense?) Thankfully, many of these questions are embedded within Analytical Frameworks, and can easily be applied to the problem at hand. Some of the frameworks may be familiar to you, others not. For more information on each, just Google each of the framework’s names.

Examples of corporately-oriented analytical frameworks:

  • 4P marketing analysis: Price, Product, Promo, and Place.
  • Consumer analysis: Who/what/where/when/why/how.
  • SWOT: Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats.
  • Porter’s 5 forces: Supplier power, threat of substitutes, buyer power, barriers to entry, rivalry.
  • Internal vs External Factors.
  • PEST: Political/Economic/Social/ Technological.
  • Fixed vs Variable cost analysis.

Examples of personally-oriented analytical frameworks:

  • Job Quality Checklist: When to leave your job.
  • Personal Balance Sheet: How to evaluate and set your work-life balance objectives.

Of course, just because you might know and use one of these frameworks, doesn’t mean that you ignore your “gut” – it just means that you have more questions to choose from, and more avenues to explore.

This week’s action item: When faced with a critical decision, don’t immediately rush to conclusions, but focus on the questions instead. Whether you use analytical frameworks or not, asking great questions is the best way to get a great answer – and great results.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com

www.108ideaspace
.com
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com

Alternative options

by Randall Craig August 12, 2009

At any point in your life, have you ever found yourself backed into a corner, uncertain how you were going to proceed? It may have been a tough client, a project gone awry, a personal relationship gone sour, or maybe a financial crisis. When this happens, there are a number of common responses, some helpful, […]

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Dr. No

by Randall Craig April 22, 2008

It can’t be done. We’ll look bad if it doesn’t work. We’ve tried it and it didn’t work. So-and-so said that we shouldn’t do it. That’s not the way we do it here. That’s not your job. That’s not my job. You’ll tick off so-and-so if you do it. You’ll tick off so-and-so if you […]

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