16) Build systems.
We have seen this lesson before, but it worth being repeated. For a company to survive beyond founders and star employees, it is essential to systemize everything. Processes of production, human resource management, marketing, finance and even innovation need to be documented and standardized in such a way that regardless of who is in charge and who is present, the company always produces at quality standards. Systems do not get built because many consider this as “boring” work. Building systems is a talent. It is important for every company to identify the talent that can build systems and to give this talent the resources to do so. This often means that all employees, including top management, must dedicate some time and energy to designing and building components of the system. In the same way we compensate sales and production, we must specify objectives and create incentives to build systems.
17) Constantly monitor the market and the environment.
The definition of success as ‘the ability of a company to adapt to its environment” holds an enormous amount of truth. To adapt to our environment, we must continuously gather information on it, analyze this information, identify both opportunities and threats and adapt our company strategies. At STRATEGIES! we have learned to do this on an annual, quarterly and sometimes even monthly basis. Our performance has always been best when we are forerunners on the market because we have anticipated opportunities and acted on them in time to gain market advantage.
18) Become a learning organization.
No one today argues the absolute necessity of building the skills of staff at individual level. Becoming a learning organization however, entails much more. First it is important to build an evaluation culture rather than a blame culture. Instead of looking for who did what wrong, it is important to identify where in the process things went wrong and how as an organization we can ensure we learn from the mistake and do better next time. Failure and errors are thus converted into knowledge and new skills. Learning organizations also continuously gather new information and enable employees to acquire this information and apply it to their work. Finally learning organizations continuously use experience and new learning to improve upon their systems. Becoming a learning organization is a thrilling process that excites employees and the organization as a whole.
19) Be strong.
Markets are savage. Even the most secure companies can be seriously shaken by market trends. Who could imagine three years ago that oil companies would be laying off workers massively today? In SMEs, which are much more vulnerable to market shocks, it is important for leadership to remain cool-headed and focused in the face of crisis, whatever its nature may be. Developing a mission, vision and values as we have stated in previous leadership lessons enables you to have a framework and strong foundation when faced with crisis. It is important for leaders to remember that not only must they be strong, but they must transmit this strength to all staff, so that they too build the resilience to withstand market shocks. Being strong is therefore not something you start in the face of crisis, but well before, by building a clear identity (mission and vision) and culture (values) which are shared and practiced on a daily basis.
20) Create hope.
Hope is that intangible that can raise or crash stock markets. As intangible as it is, it is a reality for your company. Hope enables you partners (clients, bankers, suppliers, etc.) to take risks with you. Hope retains employees even when times are tough. Hope builds a foundation for creativity and innovation. So how do we make this intangible concrete? The formula is simple. Go back to Leadership Lesson No. 1 and begin to apply!
Happy 20! STRATEGIES! here’s to the next 20! Above and Beyond!