Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tough Questions (Part Two)

Continuing with a business application to Reggie McNeal's The Present Future...

Just because customers aren't flocking to your door doesn't mean their not interested in what you have to offer. They just might be tolerating the way you try to get them to your door (or website or ...). Involvement in customer loyalty programs and special events (frequent user points, Groupon (r) users, Crowdcut (r) users, etc.) does not necessarily meet their needs. It's wrong to wonder how to get them to participate more.
             Tough question: How do we get our customers to make us a part of their lives?
Smoking is a hard habit to break. Besides the addictive chemicals in it, smoking is linked with activities in a person's life. I've had several people tell me that it's difficult to keep from reaching for a cigarette when watching a football game, or after a stressful day at work, or when laughing with friends. Similarly, grief is hard when the person who's missed is missing from certain holidays, family events and other activities at which they would normally be present. For our business, we need to figure out how to become a part of our customers' lives so that we're hard to displace and easy to miss. Likewise, what life activities or experiences can we enhance for them? How will they benefit?

Everything about business changes at least every six months. "You cannot step into the same stream twice" (Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, several thousand years ago). Cultural aspects, regulations, composition of your employee pool, your customers' expectations and wants, economic forces--fears and greed--and many other things all impact your company. You should worry less about planning for the future.
             Tough question: How do we prepare for the future?
If we create a corporate culture of adaptability, we'll be prepared. We'll be looking for the signs that we need to change something. Everyone will be ready for the next change. They won't be wondering if change is really necessary and resisting it. They won't be surprised that you're changing some part of the company. If you don't adapt, they'll be wondering why you aren't changing. Many times, resistance to change occurs when we surprise people with change. If you're consistently affirming change, they'll also trust that the change is important and credible, not just a "fad of the month", thus reducing resistance even further.

Managers are key to any organization, especially those stuck in the middle. They're key to smooth operations. However, they will not lead the company into the future. One person described that managers have a 20-year perspective, while visionaries have a 90-day perspective. In an adapting culture and a self-empowered, employee-development and coaching culture, managers will feel uncomfortable. The question is not how do we make them comfortable or better at management.
             Tough question: How do we develop leaders who can find the future?
There seem to be several aspects that need to be developed in our company's leadership: paradigm issues, skill adaptations in themselves and others, resource development and personal growth for their own well-being and optimized effectiveness at work. Your leaders need to pay attention to those considerations that can't be duplicated by your competition: culture, extent of collaboration and how well systems thinking is utilized. These are related to values regarding your people, your customers and other stakeholders. They are related to the values on how you want to look at the world around, and the behaviors you want to see inside the company. If you want to find the future and be prepared for it, what values will be important? What behaviors do you want to encourage? Which ones should diminish? What skills need to change? Who needs to work with whom? If "this" changes, what else is affected? How can I make sure I'm not hindering others through ignorance, distractions from my personal life, a lack of emotional intelligence, etc.?

These are the tough questions. The answers can be difficult to find. Isn't your company worth finding them? Aren't you worth it?

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