These are chaotic times. And we are in crisis mode. And while there are significant problems, there are also great opportunities. We can re-create our companies and ourselves for the future. No doubt it’s going to be very different. The challenge, however, is that people are uncomfortable when there’s no certainty. What I am suggesting is that this is the time for us to begin to use new tools and to see how we can adapt ourselves, our companies, our staff and our customers in innovative ways.
We often tell our clients that if they need to reignite their business or change their market strategy or create a new business model, they should have a crisis or create one. Well, with the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, the crisis is here, and change is all around us. So what can you do individually and as a business to adapt?
First, don’t panic. Don’t be the proverbial deer in headlights. By being willing to change in big ways and small, you are doing something good to help others and protect yourself. It is ok.
Next, how do you help your folks respond so they too know it is ok? This is a time for exceptional, emotionally intelligent leadership. Keep it simple. You need to lead so others trust your judgments and want to follow you. No one knows exactly what to do right now, so it is a time to learn how to deal with an unknown crisis together.
Every industry has been experiencing massive, fast, and sometimes devastating changes over the last decade or more. Take Lyft and Uber, for example, and how they’ve upended transportation. Or how Airbnb and the sharing economy have disrupted the hospitality industry, or how Spotify forced Apple to rethink its iTunes business proposition. Apps and mobile devices continue to cause major market shakeups as they either change the way people interact with a market or find their way into new markets. And it’s not slowing down, it’s speeding up!
Once again, it’s awards season in Hollywood. And once again, women have been largely (and very noticeably) snubbed by the film industry.
At the recent Golden Globes, none of these female directors were nominated: Greta Gerwig (“Little Women), Marielle Heller (“It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”), Lorene Scafaria (“Hustlers”) or Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart”). What’s going on here? Is the male grip on Hollywood really that tight?
Apparently so. Take a look at this year’s list of Oscars nominees and you’ll see the exact same story: no women directors.
Should we be surprised? In 91 years, the Oscars have recognized only five women in the Best Director category: Lina Wertmüller (“Seven Beauties,” 1975), Jane Campion (“The Piano,” 1994), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation,” 2003), Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” 2009) and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird,” 2017). Bigelow is the only one woman who’s ever won, and no woman of color has ever even been nominated.
Sidelining women in film is a recurring pattern, not a one-off
Back in the 1990s, the only way to communicate with out-of-office employees was by sending a personal message via colleague or landline phone. I can also remember when we wanted someone in the office to read something, we passed it along with a “buck slip.” And if you were at the end of that slip, you might not see it for months!
Yet today in the age of the internet, smartphones, streaming and the cloud, we are always connected, and the line dividing our personal and professional lives is increasingly becoming blurred. New technologies are constantly coming at us, causing organizations across industries to experience digital disruption. What does it all mean?
Digitalization is changing the workplace so dramatically that the acquisition of new digital skills has become a prerequisite for success
Back when I ran a company, at one point we thought a situation was one way, and then the facts changed and it became another way. Yet when we reviewed our strategy, the new facts were not considered. New facts…no shift in direction! Nothing changed in our strategic planning and yet there were big changes in the external environment.
Sound familiar? How frustrating is it? As a consultant or manager in your organization, how many times do you point out something that is obvious, that should be fixed, and yet nothing gets done! And then you get that dreaded comment, “I know you’re right. Sometime when I get a chance, I will fix it.” Or how about: “I know but I just don’t have time to fix it.”
To me as the consultant or the outsider looking in, this is very deflating. It’s a real downer, particularly when the log jam is over something we discussed before. I sometimes want to ask, “What didn’t you get, or hear, since this is an important element in what we are doing right now?” No excuse, right?
Performance outcomes are directly a result of a sound (or unsound) strategic plan
I recently read an article (third in a series) in the November 22, 2019 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “Admin 101: Tips on Carrying Out Your Strategic Plan.” The author, David D. Perlmutter, a professor and dean of the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University, readily admits that “one of the great paradoxes of higher-education leadership is that most of us who find ourselves in administrative positions have not studied the kind of work we end up doing on a day-to-day basis. We manage budgets without understanding financial theories. We work with people but never learned interpersonal communication principles. And we carry out new strategic plans without even looking at the research on the relationship between planning and performance outcomes.”
When we think about today's most celebrated business leaders, usually Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk come to mind. They are often portrayed as prophets, and with good reason. Once asked about his strategy, Steve Jobs said it was first to change his company, then to change the industry, and finally, to change the world. These highly accomplished visionaries are not only able to “see” the future but also create it.
Possessing highly speculative mindsets, futurists like these chart their companies' strategies over the long term, with foresight that spans decades, not years. This type of outlook allows them to create products and services that fit into their long-term vision, kickstarting a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. As they repeatedly tell the story of this vision, their customers' brains get accustomed to the leaders' futuristic ideas, further accelerating and ensuring their vision's success.
Every last one of us makes mistakes — that's a given. If you aren't making any mistakes, chances are you're not trying anything new, which is a mistake in itself. The famed UCLA basketball coach John "the Wizard of Westwood" Wooden said, "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
Although they often feel like huge gaffes or missteps (especially when it’s you who’s made them), mistakes can lead to great ideas and innovation. But in reality, they are the stepping stones that propel us out of our comfort zone into the growing zone, where great lessons can be learned. After all, how can you tell if something works if you don't try it?
Contrary To Popular Belief, Mistakes Are Not Failures
At SAMC, we are rather passionate about the power of Blue Ocean Strategic thinking. In fact, I recently spoke to the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association on Blue Ocean Strategy, and I was reminded how the theory, methods and tools of this unique business growth approach are so timely for an industry like this. On the one hand, consumers expect vendors to provide them with the services they need when they need them, not when vendors can deliver their home fuel or when fuel trucks can re-fill gas station tanks. On the other hand, the petroleum industry has collapsed over the past decade, shrinking from 12,000 distributors to less than 4,000. Clearly, this consolidation reflects the changing nature of the fuel delivery industry.
But it also reflects the trends that are coming next. WaWa is a perfect example: a gas station with high quality food that also sells gasoline. This dual-service model has enabled WaWa to outsell 7-Eleven stores and even McDonald's. Its secret? WaWa realized that people want quality food fast, but don't necessarily need a drive-up or a place to sit down to eat. By redesigning their operations, WaWa's leadership found their Blue Ocean Strategy and out-performed the rest of the pack, which were still competing over having the best gas prices in the right locations.
What the oil and gas industry is discovering: cars are going to be electric or hybrids, now or soon