Align Strategy: Factors

Today we're talking about Success Factors. These are the factors that will drive success in our organisations, given the trends we've identified that will shape our future. This is all about aligning with the future operating environment and the characteristics we need in our organisations to succeed. What are those factors?

Nina Tassler noted that, “failure is a fundamental factor of success.” I think it's important to note at this juncture that we will not be able to predict with 100% certainty the characteristics we need to be successful in the future. Just as the trends can only be drawn from our observations, and as such are imperfect, so too are the Success Factors we're looking to build. However, we can and should draw some conclusions, start implementing them and begin to observe the impact. We will fail and should learn to fail fast and fail forward, as they say.

One of the frustrations of those who seek to bring change is the perfectly natural instinct to protect the status quo. It is seemingly embedded in the human psyche and certainly in organisational behaviour. In particular where there is a culture of control and fear; but that’s a topic for another day.

There is a phrase that is an anathema to the innovator, “But, we’ve always done it that way”. Have you heard it, have you said it? Whilst I think everyone recognises that change for change’s sake is pointless, most would give at least intellectual assent to the need for change in a rapidly changing environment.

The step after identifying trends is, understanding what you need to do to be successful. What are the organisational characteristics you have to improve or invent? For example if eCommerce is a trend, we should have the capability to sell online and do it well. Simple stuff.

If you do this well you literally create your future success, by building success factors into your organisation to respond to a dynamic changing market.

If you stay static the world moves on as you die trying to do the same things in the same way. Often change is seen as a risk, but in a fast market no change is the riskiest thing you can do. It’s hard to make the decision to adapt, but not changing is also a decision.

To key principle here is that we have to change at the same rate or faster than our environment. And it’s crazy fast…! As the late great George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

To survive the winter, Alaskan Wood Frogs' bodies freeze solid. They stop breathing and their heart stops beating. This allows them to survive temperatures as low as -60 degrees Centigrade. And in spring, they thaw out and "come back to life."

To achieve this they build up high concentrations of glucose in their organs and tissues. The sugar solutes act as "cryo-protectants," preventing their cells from shrinking or dying. A harsh environment leading to a mind-bending adaptation. If they did not have this success factor they’d be frog-popsicles.

ITW is a company that produces a wide array of industrial products. It is highly profitable and 100 years old. This big, old company, which is nestled in a traditional industry, thinks small. ITW believes that being nimble, hungry, and entrepreneurial are the ingredients for business success. As a result, any time a business unit reaches $200 million in revenue, the division divides into two $100 million units so it stays hungry and nimble. The company would rather have ten independently run and innovative $100 million units than a single, bureaucratic, and clunky $1 billion unit.

Companies that can stay more curious and nimble have a better ability to change and adapt more easily. They have a stronger sense of urgency and are not afraid to embrace change. They put their curiosity, imagination, and creativity to work. They know what their Success Factors are and are innovative and adaptive enough to build them.

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