Businesses face accelerating and ever-increasing competition today.
Driving this increased competition are four key factors:
increasingly more effective technologies;
more effective technological processes;
more effectively engaged people; and
the ability to more effectively respond to continuously evolving consumer expectations.
This is not rocket science.
This is simply a function of successful businesses representing an integrated combination of people, processes and technologies that are sufficiently aligned to serve a purpose –typically customer demands — with profit.
In light of our continuously evolving options provided by our continuously expanding technological advances, peoples’ expectations are naturally rising. People, generally, are expecting things to be faster, more accurate, with fewer errors, fewer health risks, greater convenience, less cost, less pollution, greater reach, and on-and-on the list goes.
These expectations are rising in the minds of all parties — business planners, consumers (customers), and the public at large, including employees.
The means and expectations are both present today for continuously accelerating business-to-business competition. For this reason, business competition keeps increasing.
Balance is imperative
Many times, the greatest excitement around planned business development is found around the introduction within the company of new technologies and processes that will more easily enable coordination and completion of increasingly complex tasks of increasingly greater depth with increasingly greater speed and precision. And why not? These technological and associated process advances can be fantastic — and are often critical to achieving numerous operational advantages.
Even so, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective and not let the jazz of these new processes and technologies take us away from also remaining consistently cognizant of the third leg of our successful business enterprises. That third leg, recall, is our people working within our enterprises.
Balance is important for at least three reasons
Achieving and maintaining a balanced perspective across people, processes, and technologies — in our business planning and investments — is crucial for maintaining our business success, for at least three reasons.
1: New technologies and processes create new and different demands upon our people who are interacting with, controlling, and otherwise using these technologies and processes to accomplish their tasks. This represents a crucial operational focus to which we are wise to attend.
New technologies bring new capabilities and therefore also bring new considerations and requirements to the completion of our technology-driven tasks. This often may, although not always, require different personnel with the needed different education and training.
In addition, two other significant developments are unfolding.
This is occurring at the same time our technological advancements are unfolding, sometimes pushing new technologies, sometimes being pushed by new technologies:
2: Our understandings of people are increasing. Sage wisdom from the ages has been enhanced in recent years by findings of modern neuropsychological science.
We now have a greater appreciation of the inherent complexities and differences among individuals, as well as a growing sense of universal principles that apply to the well-being, performance, and resilience of all individuals.
3: Rising expectations among all parties. Continuous advances in understandings today, within all fields of endeavor, are now more easily communicated globally, quickly informing many more people, who are then able to further harness these advances to even more practical use. More effective services and/or more cost-effective products are brought to market. The public-at-large, becoming aware of these advances, begins to take advantage of them, to integrate them in their lives, and are open to more.
These increasing expectations by the general public lie within virtually every domain of human interest and activity, from every day conveniences, through easier to use and more powerful technologies and processes of higher quality, and including services offered driven by higher and more capable expertise for increased consumer satisfaction.
New + New + New => ? ! The Upshot
The upshot of all of this includes the following:
Higher levels of multi-disciplinary expertise
driving higher levels of business aspirations, planning, and implementation.
Business success requires greater attention to more details,
assisted by new technologies and processes
for greater speed, reach, and accuracy.
These technologies and processes are utilized, managed, and leveraged by people
who possess the required new education, training, and attitudes
for constructive and competitive use of these technologies
in order to more effectively attend to continuously evolving consumer interests!
Did you catch the FULL CIRCLE OF HUMAN ATTENTIVENESS in the above description? Let me restate it.
Humans evaluate, improve upon, and constructively distribute.
Expectations by all rise, based upon experiences.
Consumers, increasingly in-the-know and increasingly aware of our inter-connectedness, demand more, in terms of not only convenience and attractiveness, but also in terms of the impacts upon themselves, others, and our planet.
For required competitive advantage, companies are listening to consumer preferences and creating new options…
An “inconvenient challenge” — and opportunity
There is, however, an “inconvenient challenge” amidst all of this.
Stated in most simple terms: Our business technologies and processes are emotion-free. The same cannot be said for the third foundation of our business success, that is, for the people who work as part of our business enterprises.
Whereas our technologies and processes can, in theory and in practice, be altered or replaced according to straight-forward technological and business logic, it is a bit more “complicated,” or at least in a different way “complicated,” when it comes to “altering or replacing” the people who are working within our enterprises.
When altering the requirements of a people’s jobs or vocations, people react and respond emotionally, intellectually and behaviorally in ways that our inanimate technologies and processes simply do not.
Moreover, people behaviorally respond in often unpredictable ways — each person’s response being unique to that person, in terms of quality, overtness, and, ultimately, practical impacts upon business operations.
On top of this, each person’s advocacy group (family, professional group, other sympathetics) also responds.
And ditto for when people are replaced. Only now we can also add to the mix the responses of the new candidates and their advocacy groups.
We now may have to also contend with newly unfolding interactions that will or are already occurring between generations, between “senior” and “junior” players within our business enterprise systems.
All these factors lead to additional challenges that are simply not encountered when the focus is “simply” upon changes in technologies and associated technological processes.
Yet even when one’s focus is “simply” upon implementing changes in technologies, these other factors are still playing a role, for good and for ill, when it comes to your business enterprise success.
When you include the “people leg” in your business planning and operations focus, you might find yourself asking the following questions:
How, how far, how long will it take, and at what cost can we educate and train the needed new knowledge, skills, and attitudes to our present workforce?
What, on the other hand, is the cost of acquiring new candidates who already possess the knowledge, skills and attitudes that we need?
What will be our costs, tangible and intangible, of letting some of our “old guard” go?
How will we best integrate our new employees with our “old guard?”
What about clashing expectations (“culture clash”)?
How will we address these differences in expectations without losing our business focus and momentum?
How can we best support our workforce to teach us what we need to learn, for optimal business adaptability and performance?
These questions might seem a bit overwhelming to attempt to address.
Well, in reality, this “inconvenient challenge” is actually one of your greatest natural resources for constructive balance as a business leader.
Remember the importance of business BALANCE for achieving and maintaining the competitive agility, unique quality, and responsive adaptability that is absolutely required for center-field business performance today?
Think about the following.
For starters, imagine with me, for a moment, that the “people side” of business operations were not emotionally reactive nor responsive, but instead were similar to the inanimate technological and technological-process sides of business.
It would be a “dead” world comprised of largely morons. Is this what you would want? I don’t think so. Nor I. The implications would be Draconian.
Since “non-responsive humans” is clearly not the reality we face, nor what we would wish to face, let’s focus on what is.
The reality is that each of our technologies and technological processes were initially designed and implemented by a relatively small group of people to meet (at least some) people’s interests.
These (often amazing) creations,
are produced for whatever reasons by those with the imagination, intelligence and where-with-all to bring them into being.
The impacts of these creations, are then quite naturally evaluated by other members of our species
who, over time, are likely to enhance aspects of these creations as well as enhance the utilization and distribution of these creations to better satisfy the interests of greater numbers of people.
Because we live in an increasingly inter-connected world, all of this is occurring increasingly in front of all of our very own eyes and ears.
This is potentially quite helpful, in our “shrinking” world that is facing increasingly pressing economic, social, and ecological challenges, because we are also increasingly empowered, by our technologies, to be participative in our world, when it comes to the creation, use and harnessing of our technologies and our technological processes to humanity’s advantage.
This is potentially quite advantageous.
The basis for hope
More minds, inputs effectively coordinated, allow for more intelligent and effective responses, especially as regards to more complex phenomena, than would occur under simply a few minds alone.
Increasingly, people are aware that this applies also to our most successful and sustainable business practices.
Business best practice
It is becoming increasingly more universally understood and accepted that, in our business practices, all three dimensions of our business foundations — our technologies, our processes, and our people — must simultaneously represent the central foci of our business planning, our business investments, and our business operations, if we want to achieve and maintain optimal business performance, agility, and adaptability over time.
What is at stake here is more than simply the fact that the potentially weakest leg of our tri-legged business foundation could potentially create business instability.
Also at stake here is the most imaginatively creative asset of our business operations. The “people leg” of our business foundation is the only truly imaginative leg in our business foundation.
In contrast to our other two business foundation legs, the “people side” of our operations contains the only source of true imaginative creativity within our enterprise. Amidst the rapid changes all around us requiring vigilant adaptability with creative agility, this is an important business asset to both protect and nourish (develop).
Let us remember that it was people who created our technologies and technological processes to be utilized by people on behalf of people.
Let us also not forget the sometimes inconvenient fact that the “people side” of our business operations also represents our brothers and sisters, cousins, parents, and children.
The third leg of a strong business foundation is distinctly unique from technology and technological processes precisely because of its distinctly subjective human creative responsiveness and because of our uniquely human relation to these people.
The “people side” of operations is clearly more “SQUIGGLY”
– that is, emotionally (and intellectually, behaviorally, and creatively) REACTIVE as well as RESPONSIVE –
in sharp contrast to the inanimate technological and technological processes that we also are including in our business operations.
These “inconvenient truths” are the facts of the situation.
Failure to attend to this more “squiggly” side of business operations is easy to understand, in part because of the “extra hassles” involved.
Besides, “People can and do adapt, no?”
Well, yes and no. Yes, people do creatively adapt in ways that machines do not. And no, people are not infinitely adaptive nor can they, nor should they, simply be re-cycled like old technological scrap.
Remember our original question, “How do you keep up, amidst accelerating changes?”
I ask you now, as you embrace and plan for the future amidst the presently swirling changes around you,
would you prefer to tackle the upcoming challenges largely by yourself
or with a cadre of similarly aligned leaders of complementary talents working with you?
As you work hard to keep up, would you prefer
a relatively small circle of leaders in your organization, or
leadership circles that are effectively active and integrated throughout your company, top to bottom?
These are the questions that are being addressed pro-actively, with an eye to the future, by business leaders who have entered or will be entering center-stage or center-field performance in their industry, and who want to maintain their competitive business standing.
These leaders understand the crucial importance of business BALANCE for top performance, agility, and adaptability — within tumultuous and sometimes unfriendly environments.
This balance requires integrated attention — by those top-to-bottom and side-to-side — to all three foundational legs of their business practices — their technologies, processes, and people — in order to successfully achieve and maintain triple bottom-line performance (Profits, People, Planet).
These ascendent business leaders increasingly recognize that the “people side” of their business operations represents a uniquely creative and adaptive powerhouse in their business.
Even so, the “people side” is also a “grounding” side of business operations,
sometimes for good and sometimes for ill.
The uniquely “squiggly,” yet uniquely creative, “people side” of your business operations is “grounded” in the uniquely subjective emotional reactions and responses of your people both to routines and to changes introduced in the workplace.
Ascendent business leaders, therefore, increasingly understand and demonstrate understanding of the importance of their workforce having
- access to pursuing personally (individually) inspiring missions on the job,
- supported by personally (individually) inspiring values,
- to, in a coordinated fashion, achieve strategic company results,
- with clear understanding of how they, themselves, contribute daily.
These components are essential for developing constructive workforce motivation that is conducive for fostering positive emotional responses.
These components of an effective workforce culture are not “automatic” and yet are the requirements for strategically developing a constructively adaptive, yet aligned, motivation within your workforce.
Only then can all three of your business foundation legs be optimally strong and functional, and strategically employed in unison.
Ascendent business leaders now also increasingly understand the critical importance of their own positive modeling for constructive learning by their workforce. This includes constructive listening.
These leaders possess an appreciation of the inherent complexities and differences among individuals, as well as a growing understanding of universal principles that apply to the well-being, performance, and resilience of all individuals, all of which can be applied to advantage in their business enterprise.
Fortunately, “true organizational systems change” is a PROCESS that is characterized by a BEGINNING, a MIDDLE, and a new END-POINT.
The nature of the physical universe, of which we are a part, is that change is a process. While change is always occurring all around us, “systems change,” also known as “systems transformation,” occurs less frequently and is always characterized by a beginning, middle and a new end-point state.
“Systems transformation” is not simply an un-ending, accelerating process with no end. No. Instead, true systems change involves stability, lack of stability, leading to a new kind of stability. This holds for micro-molecular changes through macro-universe birthing of new stars, and everything in between. This obviously includes human affairs on our planet Earth.
Upon reaching “stage three” of true systems change, the new system is comprised of newly operating mechanisms for a new kind of systems stability.
The new system cannot violate any of the “old” rules of the “old system.” Nevertheless, additional new rules have been created that lead to additional options.
This is one of the central tenets of Systems Change Theory, that the new system operates by the same rules but with a different integration of these rules to create a new system. The new system cannot be predicted with certainty by reference simply to the old system. The new system always includes something “new.”
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