Change happens faster and on a greater scale than ever before. Immense change has already happened - government interventions on unprecedented levels, global corporations crumbling, commodity prices crashing. Your organisation has probably already reacted - reduced costs, increased efficiency, re-focused on core markets. So is that it; do we now just keep our heads down, work hard and ride out the storm? If only!
The reality is that the shock waves from the global financial crisis have barely begun. In the coming months every sector and market will see customers, suppliers and competitors fail, bringing still further change. Experience will count for little - the PCC (Pre Credit Crunch) rules of success have been torn up. The game has changed ... and will continue to change.
Experience will count for little; the commercial landscape has been transformed. To succeed, or even survive, managers will have to create their own maps. There will be no substitute for observing, analyzing, thinking, innovating, testing. The distinction between the winners and the liquidated will be: speed and quality of learning.
Few of the challenges facing businesses today can be neatly divided into functional areas. Staff from every area need a broader understanding that connects each part of the business; a perspective that sees the business not as individual departments, but as a dynamic integrated whole. They require a new toolkit that enables them to work together on the key performance drivers, not the minutiae of their functional area.
People need to gain a common language and engage in discussion about how best to create the future. And this must happen at every level in the organisation.
Commercial learning doesn't simply happen; it requires nurturing.
An article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, "How managers' everyday decisions create - or destroy - your company's strategy" emphasises the importance of Commercial Awareness throughout the organisation - not just at the top. Senior managers rely on information from managers within the organisation - but if those managers are unable to see or understand what is happening around them, then they are likely to make poor decisions, whilst executives remain in the dark - unaware of the impending doom or unable to exploit opportunities.
Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company, said:
"The only way to sustain competitive advantage is to ensure that your organisation is learning faster than the competition."
If this is so, then a fundamental question for all organisations is:
How do we learn faster?
You may be familiar with the Chabris and Simon experiment involving a group playing basketball and a woman dressed in a gorilla suit. Around 90% of a group failed to spot the gorilla pass between the players, stop, look at the camera and beat her chest. Amongst other things, the experiment illustrates the power of our Reticular Activating System (RAS). This cluster of cells is our filter on the world - it enables us to focus and concentrate on what we see as important (most people in the experiment correctly counted the number of passes) whilst filtering out other things. You may already see the link to sustaining competitive advantage:
If managers do not tune their RAS in the correct way, they will miss the indicators, clues and signs that aware managers will recognise as the beginnings of major threats and opportunities. commercial-awareness.com can help to awaken managers to the factors that are changing the competitive environment.
Of course, awareness is only part of perception. We may see it, but do we understand it? Managers need to interpret what they see and decide what it means. As Deming said:
"If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”
This is the value of management models; they do not give the answer but they help us to ask the right kind of questions. commercial-awareness.com courses are designed to help managers find the questions that will help to create new perspectives and a greater understanding of the competitive environment.
So, we now have managers who are good students! Of little value to the organisation unless learning can be converted into effective action. But what constitutes effective action?
Financial criteria are obviously important. I believe that all managers need to move beyond a simple focus on quarterly results and understand the real drivers of shareholder value - knowledge, relationships, brand, processes etc - and how investment in these drivers can be justified in financial terms. One of these intangible drivers - brand - is of particular importance because every manager, whatever their position, has an impact on brand. Brand is how the telephone is answered, the way staff dress, the dirt on vans. commercial-awareness.com can help to increase the financial acumen of your managers, enabling them to make effective decisions that balance long and short-term results.
To achieve sustainable competitive advantage it is not enough that individual managers "learn faster", the organisation itself must become a "learning organisation". For this to happen, managers have to communicate in all directions:
"The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished."
George Bernard Shaw.
- upwards - so that senior managers are aware of the signals from the grassroots that should shape strategy
- downwards - to translate plans into consistent effective action with their teams
- sideways - because outstanding performance depends on departments and functions working seamlessly together
This communication can be facilitated by providing a common language for managers and helping them to identify what actually needs to be communicated and how.
If communication - in any direction - is to have the necessary impact, the manager must have credibility. Having the best soft leadership skills will be of little value if managers are lacking commercial awareness. People must respect their knowledge, analysis, interpretation and judgement. My workshops can help to provide these elements and also imbue managers with greater enthusiasm and confidence to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
If your organisation is to achieve sustainable competitive advantage, it must learn faster than the competition. To discuss how commercial-awareness.com may help in developing managers who are able to:
more effectively, please contact us.
+44 (0)845 680 8425