Changing Business Environments Require Organizational Change

Who Needs Who?

Many long-accepted concepts by which people still manage their businesses and their careers died several decades ago. These concepts live on as myths. Those of us who continue to live by them can hurt themselves and their interests very seriously. The micro-case which follows will help clarify the point I want to make.

Says the young ambitious professional to the boss: “I am not sure it is the best approach to solving this particular problem.”

Says the boss to the young professional: “Remember that I own this company. If you don’t like the way I do things, you can go elsewhere.”

Young Professional: “I don’t mean to offend, but I thought I was fully responsible for this project. I have been researching it for the past year and have also been working on different applications.”

Boss: “Fine, fine, I know that you are working and all that, but now there is something much more urgent for you to attend to.”

Young professional: “But…”

Boss: “No buts about it! I just told you what is expected of you!”

This dialog demonstrates several levels of dysfunction:

Neither of the speakers really listens to the other.
Each of them sticks to an agenda regardless of the input from the other side.
Each speaker assumes an invincible position: “I have the upper hand and can’t be beaten.”
The young professional assumes that his project is an end in itself.
The boss assumes that he knows best.
Both accept seniority and patriarchy as a measure of relative status.
Both underestimate the impact of constant and continuous change on business development.

Let us look at each point in turn. Although the speakers have heard and understood the meaning of the words uttered by the other neither of them has heard the underlying and most important message being communicated by the other. The boss is saying that something new has changed in the circumstances and rapid adjustments are called for. The young professional is saying that he has become so attached to what he is doing that he would hate to do anything different. Neither recognizes the other’s needs for support and understanding.

Each of the speakers has a unique vantage point. From that particular perspective their individual positions seem to be fully justified in their own minds. Neither of them has communicated to the other the rationale for changing or not changing the present course of action. Such an exchange of views could have resulted in one party being convinced of the other’s point of view or the emergence of a completely different solution resulting from a synthesis of views. In such a case both sides would feel less hostile about the necessary change in action.

Each of the speakers addresses the other as if he/she is in a superior position. Surely the boss has privileged information that it may not always be appropriate to disclose completely. However the boss can speak to the young professional in a tone and manner that recognizes the professional as an adult who is making a significant contribution to company development. The young professional speaks with the arrogance of someone who feels that his/her expertise is somehow indispensable. The truth is that they both need each other: the boss provides resources that the professional may not have been able to access independently and the professional provides expertise that the boss may not possess.

The young professional acts as if the project at hand is the most important thing to the company. It may be important, but such an attitude reveals a perspective limited to immediate operations and disconnected from the larger environmental picture or the strategic considerations for long-term survival.

The boss assumes he/she knows best. That may be so, but people get very much further with young professionals if enough information is shared to demonstrate the more global vision of conditions and expertise in making business judgments. Such behavior would enable the boss to lead through credibility instead of coercion.

Both speakers act as if seniority and patriarchy are the norm for defining relative status. The boss is not shy about displaying his power and the young professional acknowledges this power by retreating into a more conciliatory mode of communication when he/she hears the uncompromising tone of the boss.

Finally, both underestimate the need for a high level of flexibility in today’s business management approach. Whether we like it or not, contemporary business is driven by technology, by massive amounts of specialized knowledge, by high-speed global information transfer and by gigantic financial conglomerates and economic alliances which supersede government and political constraints. The days of the slow-moving, bureaucratic hierarchy are long gone. Today’s businesses have to be lean, responsive, collaborative, dynamic and supremely flexible.

To sum up, I will point out a number of changes that will affect both employers and employees. The business environment has become so complex that there is no room for an “I know best” attitude. Sound business decisions are the work of dynamic multi-disciplinary management teams. Seniority is important only from the perspective of mature judgment and credibility.

The accumulation of knowledge and experience are valuable only if they are combined with continuous learning and development because of the high degree of obsolescence in the knowledge-base and technology of so many fields. No one can afford to be comfortable in a life-time job or area of specialization. The pace of innovation and global competition imposes a stance of unceasing proactivity and creativity.

Collaboration and team work are the hallmarks of the future because there will be so much information that needs to be shared and exchanged in order to make sound decisions, develop new ideas and compete effectively on global markets. The power of human intelligence and creativity, multiplied to the utmost by the synergy of team work to produce innovative solutions to a steady stream of new and constantly evolving circumstances is going to be the most important competitive advantage in the coming decades. We need radical changes in our attitudes to business relationships, ownership and the significance of wealth if we are to emerge as successful business leaders in the years to come.

Who needs who? The days of the one-man show are numbered. Only dwarf-sized businesses can be run on the basis of, “I am everything here.”

Fay Niewiadomski founded ICTN (International Consulting & Training Network) in 1993. ICTN provides complete management services to its clients who are among the leading regional and multinational players. Furthermore, she has worked with CEOs, Board Members, Presidents and Ministers of Government and other Leaders to help them meet the challenges of change within their organizations through creative problem solving, management interventions and powerful communication strategies. Prior to founding ICTN, she researched the subject of “Managing Change through Needs-Based Assessment’ in large Lebanese Organizations” for her doctoral work at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Additionally, she also held various university positions as a professor at AUB and LAU and as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at NDU.

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The Importance Of A Disaster Recovery Plan In Business Environments

A disaster recovery plan is a detailed plan that is designed to outline how a business will recover from an unexpected event that causes costly losses. By developing an effective plan, businesses can restore the business’s ability to operate by recovering from the initial loss and resuming normal operations. While a business owner hopes that a disaster or catastrophic loss never happens to them, everyone should have a plan in force in case it does. US Department of Labor studies show that virtually 40 percent of all businesses who experience a disaster never re-open. Do not become a part of this statistic and understand the importance of a disaster recovery plan in business environments.

Crises and disasters that can affect your business operations can include theft, fire, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, power failure, Internet failure, hazardous material leaks and spills, security breaches, terrorist attacks, and computer hacker attacks. While the severity of each of these risks will vary, each exposure can close your business doors for good if you do not have an effective and comprehensive recovery and resumption plan in force. While not all of these risks can affect your business, you must plan for each risk you are vulnerable to.

While developing a recovery plan make take a lot of time and effort, once you have developed a successful plan you will ensure the continuity of leadership throughout the organization by relocating or repairing the damage that has been done in a reasonable time frame. You should outline realistic time frames on when facilities, records, assets, records and computer systems should be restored so that you know you are on track for business resumption. While some of the common disasters that occur today are preventable, it is important to develop a plan for every uncertainty.

The three primary goals of all disaster recovery plans that should include reducing the potential for injuries and physical damage to properties and records; stabilizing the effects of the disaster by beginning recovery efforts; and implementing the right procedures depending on the type of disaster that has occurred. While business insurance will pay for damages and loss to the corporation, re-opening your business and resuming operations requires planning. Assign individuals and committees responsible for implementing and following the recovery plan. Also, it is important to be sure that your business is not permanently closed because you failed to plan ahead of time for unexpected losses.

The Value of Military Leadership Experience in Turbulent Business Environments

In today’s turbulent business environments, every leader should be concerned about how well his or her organization executes and how well it adapts to change. Execution has been on the list of top concerns of CEOs for years now. But the turbulent business environments of the past few years underscore the necessity for rapid adaptability and execution to survive and prosper in the new economy.

What’s the secret to executing in turbulent business environments and propelling an organization to the next level? There are many attributes that contribute to an organization’s success. But there is an often forgotten element that has gained increasing attention in the past few years. It may come as a surprise, but a powerful means to achieving success is to infuse your organization with military leadership experience. There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates just how important it is to have leaders with experiences that only military officers have.

Bringing Military Leadership Experience to the Private Sector.

In 2005, Korn Ferry International, in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit, published an astonishing report that demonstrated the extraordinary value of military leadership experience in the private sector. The report Military Experience and CEOs: Is There a Link? unequivocally demonstrates that there is indeed a link between business success and military leadership experience. By “military leadership experience” we mean, specifically, officers. The report showed that S&P 500 CEOs, as a demographic group, are nearly three times more likely to have served as an officer in one of the four U.S. military services than the general population of U.S. adult males. It also showed that companies led by these former military leaders outperformed, on average, other S&P 500 firms. These CEOs also lasted longer in their positions by about 2.7 years on average. So, not only did these leaders perform better, they were more committed to their companies over the long haul.

Executing and Winning in Turbulent Business Environments.

In 2009, the value of military leadership experience in turbulent business environments was further punctuated by London Business School professor Donald Sull in his book The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunity in an Uncertain World. Sull, who adapts armed forces tactical theory to business management practices, asserts that turbulence will likely continue to be a quality that the global economy will experience for a long time. For Sull, it is rapid adaptation and execution toward small gains that lead to success, as in current U.S. Marine Corps tactical doctrine and in the tactical improvements for fighter pilots that emerged after the Korean War. The ability to debrief is highlighted as a core competency in adaptive organizations, just like in the U.S. armed forces. But it is the ability to translate strategy into action, supported by the ability to debrief and learn from doing, that is the secret to executing and winning in turbulent business environments.

The ability to make decisions and act when faced with new challenges and limited information is the skill possessed by those with military leadership experience. Whether these leaders fly aircraft, navigate combat ships or lead combat troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, their daily lives depend upon solving problems and executing their decisions under constantly changing, turbulent business environments. These are also the skills necessary for business leaders.

Prepare for Turbulent Business Environments with Skilled Military Leaders.

For anyone that is still skeptical about the value of military leadership experience, Dan Senor and Saul Singer make an even more compelling argument for its value in their 2009 release Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. Although the authors attribute Israel’s phenomenal success to several factors, including a mission objective orientation and non-attributive debriefing, one of the most significant is that Israeli companies actively recruit individuals with military leadership experience. The authors scold American business leaders for their illiteracy regarding soldier’s resumes and their failure to recognize the value of military leadership experience in their companies. “Given all this battlefield entrepreneurial experience,” write the authors, “the vets coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan wars are better prepared than ever for the business world, whether building start-ups or helping lead larger companies through the current turbulent period.”

Every business in America can benefit from the experience gained from those serving as officers in the U.S. armed forces. In light of the current economic turbulence and the proven capacities of military officers to execute and excel in turbulent business environments, companies would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to draw upon their talents. These officers possess abilities to plan and set goals, communicate and motivate others that no business school can teach. They have practiced and honed their decision-making skills in life and death situations. In all, they provide a rich resource that is not inexhaustible. Companies that stake a claim on this rare commodity and actively recruit it will certainly position themselves to execute in the turbulent future ahead.