In the past few years, we have experienced a more volatile economic climate than I have ever witnessed over the course of my last 30 years in the business world. Meeting after meeting, business leaders are begging for reliable forecasts or fundamental insights into what lay ahead for their businesses. Long term planning has taken on a new meaning – it’s months rather than years now. In fact, budgets are constantly in flux, being redrafted month after month with a multitude of contingency plans or counter measures in place should the economic climate change.
In addition to the macro economic issues, we are also seeing significant geographical inconsistencies. Some economies are struggling to stay above water while others are growing and providing real opportunities to those businesses that can rally their resources. This global variation puts additional pressures on today’s business model of leveraging centralized services and best practices and boils it down to one simple question: How do you fund such inconsistent business needs and at the same time meet the budgetary needs of your own company? All of these inconsistencies and ever changing factors result in the slowing down of business results and for any business, time is its worst enemy.
Ultimately, all of these inconsistencies and their adverse effects on the business have created some interesting conversations with my business leaders. In most situations the conversations starts out with, “Ok smart ass, you have been preaching to me about being a consistent leader for years so what’s your answer for this?” It’s at this time that most of them have smirks on their faces if only because I have been beating on them for such a long time, they now have an opportunity to take my coaching and use it against me!!! Of course, being the consummate professional I am, I smile back and let them bask in the warmth of putting me on the hot seat for at least 5 or 10 seconds. It’s when my smile begins to fade that I lay it on them: When you look at it, there is remarkable consistency to these inconsistencies!!! And before they grab something to throw at me, I remind them that they have built an organization that has the ability to take action and to build processes that solve consistent problems once identified.
So what are the critical steps to consistently manage inconsistency?
- 1) State the Reality of the Business – Let your people know that you understand the inconsistencies of today’s environment and the pressure it puts upon them, their people and their plans. Acting like these pressures don’t exist does nothing other than make you look out of touch. People admire a leader who is not afraid of reality.
- 2) Reiterate the Company Vision and Strategy – Reinforce that it is still the future you see for the company but reiterate that the path to that future may be different or might need to be adjusted at times. In the end though, the destination remains the same even if the path varies.
- 3) Identify Crucial Behaviors – Categorize critical behavior styles that you will all need to integrate into your work life to manage these ever changing times and constantly emphasize them. As an example – Strategic Agility, Dealing with Ambiguity, Conflict Management and others.
- 4) Repeat the above process – Don’t think that once you have identified the problems that all is done. In an inconsistent world the problems change and morph at an ever increasing rate. Make sure that your business reality reflects the reality of today.
- 5) Speed, Speed, Speed. Take action and if that does not work, take action again. If you wait, the problem has changed and your solution will not work. (If this is a weak point for you, re-read The Scarlet Letter of Indecision to get you up and moving and motivated to take action.)
In short, be very consistent in dealing with and managing these inconsistencies and over time, your organization will build its consistent competency in dealing with this ever changing world.
My goal for this blog has always been two-fold. First, I have the opportunity to share my insights and years of experience with you, the reader. And second, I myself get to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc. To make this blog a mutually beneficial experience, I would ask that you take the time to post your comments, your questions and your own war stories from your years in the business. Let’s use this blog to generate dialogue on the issues we’ve all faced in our businesses and work together to come to some great solutions.
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Barry, classic advice, well delivered. The prepared leader will thrive in these times, either at the expense of the ill-prepared leader or, at the very least, well ahead of them. The candor and transparency you all for is the key. There aren't any rugs big enought these days to sweep things under, and by engaging everyone in the facts, more rapid, more complete action can be taken. One of your best posts! Well done!