Building Up 101 : DO-s and DONT-s.
Updated: May 31, 2019
Organisation always going through ups and down in their journey to reach their vision, mission or ambition. While I will write what are the DO-s and DONT-s during 'downtime' separately, let me share my story on things to consider when things were up.
There's always a sweet spot moments, when the market are great, and everything around you seems in favor for your organisation to get all the goals it has set. For example, your business might have established a very competitive advantage that other competitor simply don't have, hence, everything happens as per plan. I have seen that period during my first years of work. As pioneer for consumer goods, the company had established distribution business models that set things up for success. It has manage to created a network of exclusive distributors throughout the nations, that makes its products reached to far ends of Indonesia and recruited many households as loyal consumers. The story went well, as the business model went unchallenged for decades. The story doesn't stopped there, but I will leave the rest of the journey in another post. For now, let me share what does the company did to sustain that competitiveness for decades, while highlighting also consequential blind-spots that made it disrupted.
Things that went well - which also means the DOs :
Do start building your talent management and succession planning.
Talent and succession planning is key factors behind sustainable success on how the company instill strong knowledge management and culture-building through massive and rigorous internal successions. Sales Directors who lead the distributive trade were appointed based on pipeline of the best sales managers (who has depth of hands-on experience in territory-management, including its dynamics of understanding shoppers and customers landscape in the region, and immersing themselves fast into local culture of the province he/she is leading). It was very rare that external appointment was made to the organisation. When you are the market leader, this is indeed one thing the organisation did right -- especially in such heavy-operational senior leadership role where understanding on details operational matters is as important as thinking strategically in conquering the market.
Invest on system to build future-capabilities ahead.
Capability is a core focus of the organisation when it is growing fast. Functional Academy (probably, similar to the idea of a Corporate University in recent terms) was built to ensure any new joiners to the business was accelerated fast through various courses that has been designed to immerse them with the how. Not only through courses, newjoiners to the organisation is educated through a structured traineeship program where they need to work in the region, and manage a distributor themselves in the month-7 of their traineeship. The "swim-or-sunk" approach has been proven to naturally select the best-fit candidates who then stay in the organisation for long tenure, and provide stability from both business-continuity and talent pipelining perspective.
Define capability roadmap and its organisation blueprint.
Stack-by-stack capacity-building, driven by long-term design of the organisation blueprint. Consumer goods is a complex business as it contains full cycle operation: from innovating products, procuring materials and manufacturing variants, managing distribution and logistics to get products into retails, ensuring its commercial viability through marketing, and managing topline, bottom-line, and cashflow, every week, month, quarter and year. Hence, what has been working was to introduce changes one step at a time, because maintaining excellent operations remain key priorities to deliver weekly numbers. With clear organisation blueprint, changes that has been planned can be funnelled and driven single-mindedly one at a time. Planned funnel of changes was key to innovate in such operational-heavy business. Once there are 3-5 different changes that has to be done at the same time, people will confused, priorities are scattered, operations become derailed.
Now, because of the things they did well, it has unintended consquences as below, which gave us a hard-lesson of the DONT-s as we should avoid it in similar scenario:
Internal-oriented culture of "we are the best".
There is a very strong internal-oriented culture, created unintentionally because people were working very close together just like hand-in-gloves. There are blind-spots on whats going on outside the organisation, as anything out-there considered irrelevant to 'best-practices' they already have in the company. This attitude of "we are the best" has potentially lead to complacency, in which, if a Leader failed to saw it on the first place, would create massive inertia, leading to unexpected downturn when the business lost its competitiveness slowly, but deadly.
Mental block of accepting changing new realities.
Just like converting a star-athlete from one-sport to another, the same story also happened with capability. With deep knowledge of "how things happen in the past until now", mastery on the craft People have ironically becomes a mental-block to accept new reality when things are disrupted. I recalled a story when a Sales Manager surprised to see that all his promotion budget were spent for just half-of-the-ROI he was expecting. And while he believe that he did everything right "just like in the past several years", he missed the fact that many intuitions he has, no longer applied. Being open minded and learn new things are a shift that the Academy need to do, counter-intuitive to its initial mission to maintain legacy of knowledge it meant to instill within people's minds.
Living in the past and invoke romanticizing history.
Being nostalgic, and failed to move on. As part of being witness to how organisation unfolded its success through deliberate evolution made People wish that changes will happen exactly as how it has been: gradual, stack-by-stack. This is also why, many large successful corporations were failed to adapt in the recent era where changes are multiplied by so many factors: changing consumers, changing technology, changing competitive landscape, etc. What usually happened is that these companies reacted to external pressures by introducing so many changes at the same time. My take out is that: this is also wrong. There has to a balance, where brutal prioritisation (and yes, making bets) needs to be taken by Leaders to ensure there is a focus that people can hold. When it comes to drive changes, landing one-two changes that leads to reality that benefit/making impacts to people's life is more important than trying to land ten-to-twelve inspirational changes, yet, failed to translate into any realities that make People believe in those changes, no matter how inspirational it is in theory.
If you are lucky enough to be in the situation of building up, here's in a nutshell: don't forget to think long-term and be mindful. And if you start seeing the three DONT-s symptoms I have shared above, take actions. If you are the Leader, change the course to stay on track. If you are the HR Business Partner, talk to your business leader and advise him/her accordingly.