In an interesting conversation with clients this week the discussions were around the question: “should companies plan for the distant future (10 years and beyond) and what is needed to get out of a death spiral where a slow death is in the making?”
There is a big difference between growing with age and growing old. With age, it sometimes comes with wisdom. With more than a dozen of C-suite execs that I have worked with or coached, for most of them, the wisdom came one day after they had passed the age of 50. Growing comes with age, which sometimes takes away the energy and urge to make radical change. Ask yourself or your organization, the last 5 years of your company or yourself should be referred to as a “growth experience” or “aging experience”.
A CEO’s job is to make sure the company is growing with experience” and not “aging with experience”. A company needs constant renewal and the leadership team is expected to generate enough energy to motivate the entire company. You need a strategy to energize and motivate. Not empty speech and propaganda video and banners. Time doesn’t mean we gain more experience. Reinvention, renewal and resetting are mantras for growing experiences. We shape what we become. When companies are stuck in a stagnant mode or worse in a downward spiral, it is because of the experience they have. Not because the new things that they try. They are usually too old (state of mind), conservative, naive and irrelevant and that managerial mindset is holding the company back for serious reinvention.
A look back at many failing leaders’ biggest attempts to bring their companies back for the past 10 years reveals an embarrassing series of missteps, mistakes, and flat-out bad products, culminating in a flurry of poorly-executed, uncommitted attempt to create and own a distinct market positioning. Most of the times, the products fail before they are being introduced. No one can do anything at that time. Think about the following:
· We have been very good at making this and we should be fine.
· We always do things this way. It is too risky for us to change.
· Let’s watch where the market is going first. We can wait.
· We need to do what Apple, Nike, Amazon and Starbucks do.
· We should hedge our bets and try different things, too.
· Let’s give the market what they want and make sure we have a competitively cheaper offer.
If you do one or a few of the above, you will most likely be somewhere along the downward spiral. For companies to end the spiral of death, it takes more than cost-cutting and requires an orchestrated effort for everyone involved to imagine and see the possibility forward. It is about applying a practical, future-oriented foresight to drive strategy and unleashing the company from legacy people, thinking and even management board. There is no place for the “old" in the world of constant resets.