Fit for purpose 2020 and beyond?

After my last blog post I have been thinking about what business might look like when we return from our enforced close-downs.

Life is not going to be the same again, that is for certain. People will have had time to re-evaluate. Business needs to re-think how they behave. Our old habits will need to change if we are to retain the good people and let them grow again. This won’t be easy.

Although everyone is focussed on ‘return to work’ not much thought seems to be given to what ‘work’ might look like. The reality is that we do not know what our respective markets might look like. There will be some opportunities – as there always are. But there will also be some casualties.

The key question for business (which I heard from a number of clients) seems to be summed up to a great phrase heard on the Netflix show, Ozark – “Will the juice be worth the squeeze“. In other words, are we ready for an inordinate effort to get a few drops of profit. Will we have the energy to ‘go again’. In some cases the answer may be no.

But if we do have enough drive to get the train back on the track, we may need to think again about our organisations. We know some of this stuff, but in good markets we can ignore the issues, especially if the profit drops in nicely each year. It might have been more, but who cares if it is ‘profit’?

In tougher markets we may need to think about this stuff. We will need to change our ways to survive a new canvas?

I was reminded this morning of the research done by Purdue University biologist William Muir – he ran a project with chickens which has become a great metaphor for business. The experiment took a group of average chickens and then over a period of time, selected the most prolific egg-layers for a super-group. Whilst the average guys just kept on laying eggs, the super-producers after two generations were decimated. Only three survived – having pecked each other to death!

The moral of the story is that we can’t have all super-producers. We have to have a mixture of talent to make the business’s work. We have to engage with everyone. We have to give the talented ones their space, but we need the ‘average’ too. Everyone should be able to bring something to the party.

If you have a moment watch the TED talk from Margaret Heffernan – Forget the Pecking Order at Work. It starts with the chicken story above but also picks out three key characteristics of great teams in successful business to;

  1. They show showed high degrees of empathy for each other
  2. They gave roughly equal time to each other, no one voice dominated
  3. They had more women than men in the groups

This may well be the moment when our businesses need to re-think how they are, how they behave, who gets the microphone and how they are made up.

We will still need our ‘why’ but the ‘who’ just got pushed under the spotlight!



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