Building Flexibility into Services Business
( An Article inspired by one from Charles Green)
When our Workshop Facilitators facilitate Scenario Planning sessions for companies we ask them to think about their key success factors.
One of the examples we use is four areas of success factors and have them see how they changed for the Auto industry from the post war period into late 1900s.
The four success factors we mention are
- Managment and Board Experience
In the early part of this period it’s widely thought that the keys to success were
- Management And Board: Ability to control labour cost through negotiations with unions
- Technology: Standardised and Easy to build gas guzzlers
- Marketing: Exclusive Efficient and Effective dealer network
- Operations: Efficient mass production using automated assembly line
However as time wore and oil crises loomed and competitors making smaller cars emerged they changed to
- Management And Board: Supply Chain management and Strategic Alliance Management
- Technology: Fuel efficient engines
- Marketing: Brand Development
- Operations: High quality manufacture of smaller runs
You can already begin to see from a people and their skills point of view in the example above they are fundamentally different.
And many other aspects of a company would have to have changed dramatically in order to be great after the changes.
We ask the Leadership team members who are scenario planning what key success factors are at play today …
Then we get them to speculate on what the key success factors might be in the future .
Then we ask them to look at how they can build flexibility into their company.
We know we cannot KNOW the future but we can try to be as nimble and flexible as possible to cope with any changes that the market may throw at us.
Here are a few areas that people are coming up with more flexible approaches that you may find interesting
- People and skills:
You may assume that today it will take a certain elapsed time to hire a particular category or type of of employee
A common rule of thumb is thatit’s a three-month cycle.
What if you could cut that to three weeks? To three days?
You should definitely be thinking about managing people but not having them on your payroll to improve your flexibility.
Think contracting, outsourcing, working virtually, across time zones, modularising work.
Software, movies and consulting rojects get done now, why not extend it to “core” hiring?
- Facilities and Equipment:
You are all probably still assuming that you must own or have first call on assets like facilities and equipment
However what if you could get all the access you need just by sharing with others?
That would save lots of money and increase your ability to flex.
After all, you rent a room at the Holiday Inn in Reading instead of owning an apartment there.
Why own a car when you can use Citycar?
Why are you driving alone? Why not download the car share app.
Why are you paying Microsoft for software to sit on your PC getting old when you can access cloud software, always updated, for less?
Why are you buying new books instead of buying used for a 1p + Postage!?
Why are you spending money on dedicated office space when you could share it out with other tenants? Regus? Instant Offices?
- Knowledge management and IP development
You still think your organisation must nurture its knowledge and keep it safe.
How about generating more knowledge, and more know-how, by openly sharing what you have with everyone else?
This is the logic behind networks, communities of interest, collaborative marketing, open-sourcing, Crowd funding, wikis, webinars, curating, mash-ups, etc.
In what other areas of business life can you build flexibility into your company and make it more resilient when change happens??