The New Company You Are Building as the Competitive Environment Changes (and Changes, and Changes)

Over years, I’ve written various articles about the evolution of our market and how we need to change to address it.  I’d decided it was time to pull all those ideas together in one, hopefully, thought provoking, insightful, action motivating piece.

Then a friend sent me Robin Lewis’s outstanding article on just this issue and I had no idea if I was relieved I didn’t have to write it or disappointed I didn’t get it done sooner.

Mr. Lewis’s article is called “First, The Bad News. Then 2019: Tough, Tougher or Toughest,” so don’t feel like you’ve escaped my occasionally urgent and cautionary tone on this issue.  He’s not precisely all sunshine and rainbows either.

I agree with his five issues to be addressed.  All of them.  I am in lockstep with him on the urgency of doing these things.  I might have broken them down a little differently and provided different emphasis, but that doesn’t really matter.

If you aren’t well into doing the things he advocates when the recession does hit (whenever that is) your chances of surviving that little economic inconvenience will be lower.

Go read the article, then come back because I want to add a little perspective I hope will be useful.

As regular readers know, I’m a balance sheet nut and have been preaching the value of a strong balance sheet for years beyond count.  It’s the foundation of your ability to survive harder economic times and to maintain a strategy even as the grounds shifts daily under your feet and some of the things you try in response to the new environment don’t work out but cost some money (and teach you something).

Robin doesn’t specifically address that, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t find fault with my call for a strong one.

The other thing I want to highlight is the transition companies are being asked to make.  It impacts every part of a company and the interdependencies are huge in ways they have never been before.  Take your traditional organization chart and draw some more boxes.  Then connect each box to every other box.  That’s my not too subtle way of telling you that your old way of thinking of your organization is invalid.  The chart I’ve just described is not the basis for management.

Ambiguity is the order of the day.  One thing changes another that changes something else in some other part of the company in a way that’s a total surprise, etc.  Organizational flexibility and pushing responsibility down the line requires different people and different mindsets than we’re all used too.  More communications will be unstructured.  Changes will happen on the fly.  Even the best companies are figuring this out as they go along.  They have the balance sheets to make lots of small mistakes but learn from them.

Read Robin’s article, consider the global organizational impact, and go from there.  Yes- I know- easy for Robin and me to say, damn hard to do.  That’s why getting to it in spite of the ambiguity is such a critical competitive factor.