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Set a course out of the storm – the strategic view

A series of views – view 5, the strategic view   

Why you need to use research to set a course out of the storm now

1. Where are we now? (Strategic analysis)

We have been using the analogy of being in a major ‘storm’ during the pandemic and post Brexit to give context to the critical importance of organisations using research to create suitable strategies for the future.

“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over a long term, which achieves advantage in a changing environment through its configuration of resources and competences with the aim of fulfilling stakeholder expectations” Johnson, Scholes & Whittington

Over the last four articles we have looked at some of the key areas to consider in gaining current insight into our employees, customers, the markets that we operate within and our organisation.

Last week in the UK we experienced taking ‘Step 2’ of the Government’s COVID 19 response ‘roadmap’ with businesses such as retail, personal care and outdoor hospitality reopening. Research from the DMA last month (March 2021) indicated that although the majority of businesses (70%) are still being negatively impacted by the pandemic, nearly two thirds (63%) are starting to see signs of recovery. This is reflected in the estimates of revenue decline. The findings do however, suggest there is a potentially long road to fully recover from the challenges of the last 12 months. Other respected research sources such as Gartner and McKinsey are also highlighting a more positive outlook for many organisations.

“Before we get too carried away on a wave of euphoria it is important to note that…the world has changed”

This is very encouraging news for all of us. Before we get too carried away on a wave of euphoria, it is important to note that many consumers’ and business customers’ attitudes and perceptions have shifted significantly. The world has changed.

2. Plotting your organisation’s course (formulating your strategy)

This framework helps to explain how the insights we have gained from our research and analysis enable us both to formulate suitable strategy and to create a roadmap that can be shared with all stakeholders.

3. What does our strategy need to include?

  1. Direction
    • setting a course
    • providing a clear roadmap
  2. Scope
    • deciding what we will do and, most importantly, what we won’t
    • what products or services to develop
    • which projects to prioritise
  3. How to achieve advantage
    • there needs to be a value to both the organisation and its customers
  4. Changing environment
    • how the organisation will address the changes
    • how it will respond to the speed of change
  5. Configuration of resources and competences
    • pivoting or aligning these to our chosen market or markets
    • which markets or parts of markets to target
    • where to invest resources – human and financial
    • market positioning
  1. Fulfilling stakeholder expectations
    • How it will fulfil all stakeholders’ expectations including: employees; customers; communities; investors etc…

Given the ever increasing speed of change our chosen course or strategy needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. Setting any course will need adjustment to allow for tides, currents and changing weather patterns so the changing business environment needs to be considered in the same way.

4. What are other organisations saying they need to do?

Our research, conducted late last year, identified the importance for many organisations of the following actions to successfully navigate towards the ‘new normal’:

  • Look at fresh ideas and how to adapt using existing skill sets
  • Identify the right things to focus on
  • Review the purpose of the organisation.
  • Review brand values
  • Closely manage changes
  • Train employees – especially in the use of IT and digital
  • Retain talent
  • Develop leadership skills – especially to support the shift to hybrid working and the changes in employee expectations
  • Provide some certainty in an uncertain business environment – use a clear roadmap with stage gates, communicate it, review it regularly and stay agile
  • Keep scanning the internal and external environment for change
  • Keep reviewing and adapting plans
  • Seek help early. None of us know it all. How others have adapted to the new world can inform our own thinking.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

“We need to provide some certainty in an uncertain business environment – use a clear roadmap with stage gates, communicate it, review it regularly and stay agile”

“Seek help early. None of us know it all. How others have adapted to the new world can inform our own thinking.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Uncertainty and volatility will continue to feature in 2021 and beyond.

Some things are likely to have changed irrevocably. Changes to employees’ expectations mean that hybrid working is likely to stay for many. Changes in customer behaviour and expectations will require increased ‘real time’ data collection approaches and an agile approach to providing an engaging customer experience.

Challenges and shocks are inevitable as we move towards a new normal’ – whatever that might end up being.

Charting a course and communicating a clear roadmap to all stakeholders is a must to successfully navigate towards the future.

We help organisations to deliver transformational change. If this article has given you food for thought, get in touch. Perhaps we can do something for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eye of the storm – why you need research now – organisations

A series of views – view 4, the organisation view   

Why you need to research your organisation now 

We have used the ‘perfect storm’ analogy to give context to the critical importance of organisations having current insights to create suitable strategies for the future.  As we start to see the first tentative steps out of lockdown in the UK it may feel as if we are reaching a period of calm. For some organisations, though, this might literally be the eye of the storm that continues to rage around us. The future for many remains uncertain and ensuring that we have insight into critical elements now is more important than ever to be able to successfully navigate through it.

In the first three articles we looked at what to consider in gaining current insight into our employees, customers and the markets that we operate within.

Understanding your organisation

Having understood the needs arising from research of these three elements we need to consider how well our organisation is aligned with them.

Our own research, conducted at the end of 2020, revealed that some of the key impacts of the uncertainty wrought by COVID and Brexit on organisations were seen as being:

  • Supply issues (especially initially)
  • Workplace structures
    • Employees – e.g. working from home, motivation, management, support, anxiety and retention
    • Culture – maintaining positive aspects of organisational culture in the absence of face to face contact
    • Service quality pressures
  • Cost cutting
  • Leadership style challenges

Pivoting strategies’ suitability

When we think about strategy we will often think about suitability and fit. For example:

“Does the proposed strategy fit the culture, leadership style and structure of the organisation?”

During the ‘eye of a storm’ it is well worth looking at this from another viewpoint. From a research perspective the question could be posed the other way around:

“Does the organisation fit the required strategy?”

The ‘six’ elements

What should we consider against this thinking?

There are numerous aspects of the organisation that might need to be researched.

Here are six key aspects for us to explore:

  1. Structure

An organisation chart can reveal so much about the way that an organisation works and its culture. Looking at your own structure, consider the following:

  • Is it up to date? Organisation charts are often in need of revision.
  • Does it accurately reflect the interactions that take place? For example, charts are typically in straight lines – would a 3D view be more appropriate?
  • How relevant is it to the current situation and the needs that have arisen from your previous insights (employees, customers and markets)
    • Does it suit a shift to working from home?
    • Is there still a requirement for the same premises, for example?
    • How does the structure impact on processes?
    • Is the structure relevant to the market or markets that you are in or need to be in?
  1. Leadership

How does your organisation’s leadership align with the insights gained so far?

  • What is or are the predominant style(s) of your leaders?
  • What are the gaps in leadership capabilities? For example:
    • Digital know-how
    • Innovation
    • Change
    • Communicating future direction
    • People selection and development
  1. Culture

“The way we do things around here”

What is the organisational culture? Can you define it? How would others define it?

Culture has a massive impact on the way that an organisation works.

A cultural audit is invaluable to consider where there may be issues with strategic fit. Is there any inertia evident as a result of the significant uncertainties over the past 12 months, for example?

One excellent way of doing this is to use the Cultural Web – a tool created by Johnson and Scholes.

You can find out more about how to use this here.

  1. Values

What are the values of the organisation? How do these resonate or otherwise with your employees, customers and markets?

Values are increasingly important and can have a key impact on how your brand is perceived too.

For example, think about your stance on societal issues such as diversity and equity.

  1. Processes

You may have already considered where key processes are impacting on customer experience but what about some of the less obvious ones.  There are so often things that we do that are no longer questioned.

Challenge the processes in place across the whole organisation. Which are aligned to what you have discovered so far and which are creating barriers to your future success?

Consider digital transformation, for example. To what extent has the organisation adopted digital technologies into its processes?

What about barriers to positive behaviour?

Crawford Hollingsworth wrote an article in impact magazine about auditing ‘sludge’. It is not a term that I had heard before but seems quite apt to undertaking research on the organisation now. Sludge is..

“…when consumers or businesses face high levels of friction that obstruct their efforts to achieve something that is in their best interest, or are deliberately misled or encouraged to take action that is not in their best interest.”

Crawford Hollingsworth

This is all about making behaviour easier for organisations and customers alike. You can find out more about ‘sludge’ here.

  1. Internal communications

Explore how your organisation communicates internally. There is no intent to state the obvious in terms of how important this is or to suggest that it isn’t already top of mind. Like all the above elements, the focus has shifted significantly over the past year so demands review.

Consider some of the following;

  • How have your internal communications approaches changed to recognise the shift in working patterns? Are the approaches appropriate?
  • Who is responsible for the overall management of internal communications? Is this in the right place?
  • Are you communicating a clear roadmap to employees for how and when the organisation plans to navigate out of the storm?
  • How are you getting feedback on your communications? Do you need to consider new channels?

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Fundamentally…

… is your organisation as aligned to the expectations of your employees, customers and markets as it needs to be?

What do you need to change to make your organisation the right fit for the strategies that will take it successfully out of the storm?”

If you would like someone to talk to about any of this, give me a call.

 

 

 

 

 

LEADERS – What can you do to be more effective?

Invest time in discovering which of your personality traits can help you to succeed and those that could hinder you.

We offer a completely confidential assessment.

How it works:

1. We send you an invitation to complete a short questionnaire (typically 8 to 10 minutes)

2. We arrange a one to one initial feedback session with you via video conferencing (Skype/Zoom/FaceTime) or face to face (if preferred)

3. Following the session you will receive a detailed report that suggests how you can develop your leadership style Invest in the effectiveness of you and your team now.

To find out more see our article here

LEADERSHIP CAPACITY – SELF-DEVELOPMENT – TOP TIPS

Understanding your own capacity to lead as well as this in that of others can significantly add value to your organisation and its stakeholders.

What is a leader?

“A person who influences others because they willingly do what he or she requests”

(Armandi et al 2003)

I like the simple idea that if you are not followed then you cannot be a leader.

Having trained, taught and coached people both in leadership roles or those aspiring to be leaders for many years, I have a strong interest in what it is that makes a person an effective leader.

There are numerous ways in which individuals can find out about their capacity to lead others. For some, this is being given responsibility for people and finding out the hard way. Increasingly though, organisations are far more aware of the risks of doing this and they will provide development programmes, coaching and training to grow their own leaders and if recruiting from outside will look at an individual’s track record as an indicator of likely success.

What is potential?

“A person with potential is one who can grow to maximise or optimise their talent”

In the context of leadership we are looking at the factors that, when combined, give an individual a high probability of success.

If we know what these factors are, we can begin to make key decisions about our own and others’ future roles and development.

Research has shown that personality traits predict approximately 20% of potential at work. Personality can be described as ‘the way we think’. Our personalities are largely shaped by our early twenties and become less variable as we get older.

There is no simple or single measure of potential. As with all things, some are better suited to certain situations than others.

Key questions around leadership

Anyone with more than a passing interest in leaders will have the heard the question:

“Are leaders born or made?”

Answers on a postcard please!

There is no doubt that training or development can increase leadership potential which is good news. However, clearly there are some people that will be more naturally inclined to thrive in senior leadership positions than others.

What else can help?

I have long been a fan of psychometric assessments in a leadership context as an aid to self-awareness and to give insight for personal development. For you or your existing leadership team they can help with developing positive relationships through being more aware of each others strengths and weaknesses and being able to play to them.

Critically, psychometric assessments can also provide real insight to aid decision making around people development, building leadership teams, succession planning, recruitment and internal promotion.

High Potential Trait Indicator (HPTI)

I use the HPTI from Thomas International as one of the key assessment tools for leadership development.

The HPTI assessment looks at six personality traits. It assumes that certain personality trait levels can indicate a high potential to succeed and be considered ‘optimal’ based on the requirements of a senior executive leadership. Too much or too little of a trait can indicate characteristics that could ‘de-rail’ an otherwise successful person.

The six personality traits measured by the HPTI are as follows:

  1. Conscientiousness – combines self-discipline, an organised approach to work and ability to control impulses which others might give in to
  2. Adjustment – indicates how individuals react emotionally to stress, external events, pressures and relationships
  3. Curiosity (novelty) – how individuals approach novelty, innovation, change, new information and methods
  4. Risk Approach – how someone deals with challenging, difficult or threatening situations
  5. Ambiguity Acceptance (complexity) – an individual’s reaction to complexity and contradictory information
  6. Competitiveness – the relative desire to win, need for power and reaction to winning and losing

Why is HPTI so useful?

  • It provides a subjective assessment on an individual’s leadership capacity based on their personality traits. This adds valuable insight to career development decision making.
  • It highlights strengths and weaknesses in the context of where the person is currently in their career and in terms of where they see their future direction.
  • It can provide an excellent basis for discussion around issues from an organisational leadership perspective.
  • It aids understanding of how and why some internal conflicts arise and what could be done by modifying behaviour to reduce the impact of these

To find out more on the HPTI assessment go to https://www.thomas.co/assessments/workplace-personality-tests

Our top five tips are:

  1. Do the HPTI assessment yourself or use it to aid recruitment and selection in your organisation

It is unique. There is nothing else like it.

As an existing leader, you can discover what your potential trait indicators are and where they help you to succeed and those that may hinder your effectiveness. Use it to aid decision making for recruitment and selection of successors or to identify potential leaders in the organisation.

If you are keen to take on a leadership role, it may be something that you could ask your organisation to arrange as part of a training or development programme. If this is not possible, consider doing an assessment on your own behalf. It would invaluable for your personal and career development.

When you do the assessment, avoid the temptation to try to answer in a way that you think you should rather than your instinctive response.

  1. Get feedback

Get feedback from an experienced practitioner. This will give you far more insight than a report on its own can. It also avoids you having to try to interpret the findings on your own.

  1. Take the opportunity to discuss the issues that you or the organisation are facing as part of your feedback session

The opportunity to explore organisational culture, leadership and strategic issues as part of this feedback is worth taking. You are able to talk openly in a confidential setting. Sharing issues may generate potential solutions to issues that you have already identified.

  1. Remember there are no good or bad scores!

When looking at your results, think about how your personality traits do and don’t work for you in your current situation and where you might want to modify your behaviour in certain situations to be more effective or to realise your leadership potential in the future.

In a recruitment or selection situation, consider how a candidate’s traits could interact with others in your organisation. Where could there be synergies and how could they improve existing team performance, for example?

  1. Act!

As an existing leader, decide which elements of your HPTI results are priorities for you to focus on. Your feedback and the report will provide suggestions on how to develop your leadership style. Don’t try to do it all at once. Act on the key ones first.

In a recruitment and selection situation, the suggestions in the report can be used in discussion with the prospective candidate.

We can provide the HPTI assessment questionnaire and deliver feedback for you. To find out more contact us today.

Note: We offer Thomas International assessments including PPA, TEIQue and HPTI. For more information click here

With thanks to Thomas International for some of the trait descriptors

 

SELF DEVELOPMENT – TOP TIPS

Emotional intelligence (EI) is very topical at the moment. It is often discussed as part of effective leadership but is equally important for interactions with all people at work. Understanding emotions can be very advantageous in helping you to realise your potential.

What is emotional intelligence?

A practical definition is:

“Emotional Intelligence is a collection of traits that can help people gauge social and emotional situations and interactions with others”

The elements of EI include:

  • Self-awareness
  • The ability to perceive your own and others’ emotions
  • Self-motivation
  • Being able to control your impulses
  • Empathy
  • Ability to manage stress effectively
  • Optimism
  • Modifying your behaviour to suit a situation

There are different ways of measuring EI and these fall into two broad categories – trait and ability.

  • Trait – measures place people on a continuum for each of a series of self-perceived traits. This allows for shades of ‘grey’. There are no right or wrong answers.
  • Ability – this considers EI as a cognitive ability that can be measured using performance tests with right or wrong answers.

Why does EI matter?

Self-awareness is a good start point for any development. From my experience of giving feedback sessions on EI assessments over the last couple of years, one of the most powerful ‘light-bulb’ moments for many is discovering that our emotional traits can be visible to others and the potential impacts that this can have. Once you are aware of your own traits you are also more likely to see them in others.

Understanding this and how it affects behaviour can help you to achieve your goals. It is important in work areas as varied as leadership and management, team and project work, selling and customer relationship management but it also matters in our personal lives. It helps us to understand how we appear to our family and friends too and why they behave as they do.

How do I find out what my EI is?

There are various tools available for discovering this. We favour looking at emotional traits assessments rather than ability. We believe this enables a more contextual based set of feedback. In other words, how your ‘scores’ relate both to your current situation and to where you want to be in the future.

We use the Thomas International TEIQue (Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire) psychometric assessment. For more on the TEIQue go to https://www.thomas.co/recruitment/assessments/emotional-intelligence-tests

Our top five tips are:

  1. If you get the opportunity to find out about your EI – take it!

An assessment may be available to you within your organisation or as part of a training or development programme. If not, think seriously about doing an assessment on your own behalf. It is invaluable for your personal and career development.

When you do the assessment, be truthful in your responses. The first response that occurs to you is usually the right one so don’t overthink it! The TEIQue assessment can identify if there is an indication of ‘impression management’ so avoid the temptation to try to answer in a way that you think you should rather than what you actually feel.  It is not a test!

  1. Be open to the results

We would always strongly advocate getting feedback from an experienced practitioner. This will give you far more insight than a report on its own can. It also avoids you having to try to interpret the findings on your own.

  1. There are no right or wrong answers!

We say this a lot during feedback. If you have followed the suggestions in Tip 1, the results will reflect your EI – they will be about you. Think about how your EI does and does not work for you in your current situation and where you might want to modify your behaviour in certain situations to be more effective or to realise your potential in the future.

Avoid looking at scores definitively. A score of 99/100 is not necessarily good and 20/100 isn’t bad! What works in your situation may not be right for others in theirs.

  1. Act!

Decide which elements of your EI results are priorities for you to focus on. Your feedback report should provide suggestions of helpful tips to consider. Don’t try to do it all at once. Act on the key ones first.

  1. Find a ‘sounding board’

Find someone in your organisation, that you can trust, who can give you feedback on how you act and appear in certain situations. Use this to assess where you can improve your interactions with others and how you are doing against the areas that you have identified to focus on.

Steve Bax is an accredited TEIQue Practitioner.  Click here to read more and hear his interview with Cambridge Marketing College. For more help and advice on psychometric assessments including TEIQue please contact us today.