Francis Bacon, father of the scientific method, famously said: "He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator." I couldn't agree more! Certainly, the time has come for business leaders to "apply new remedies" in their pursuit of building organizations that can rapidly react and respond to changes in the marketplace.
Indeed, re-imagining business operating models that can readily scale up to seize opportunities and scale back when demand subsides is critical to maintaining competitiveness in today's volatile world economy. Here are 5 tips that leaders can use to create businesses that are built to scale:
1. Run Flat: Similar to an athlete that sheds body weight to become quicker; businesses should shed management layers and run flatter to become more responsive to the marketplace. Organizational levels make for bureaucratic thinking and stodgy decision-making. By reducing layers of managers managing managers, we can hasten the time required to make decisions in response to business opportunities and challenges.
2. Adopt a Project Mentality: I am a strong believer in that all of the work necessary for achieving an enterprise's vision for the future should be organized and managed as a portfolio of projects and programs. Ultimately, it is these projects and programs that comprises a firm's strategic plan.
Senior leaders can accelerate the response time of their organizations by adopting a project mentality. A business is less apt to squander precious resources on impractical and half-baked ideas when a more methodical, project-based planning approach is in place and is functional. It positions the firm to more purposely aim their investments at leveraging opportunities in the marketplace. It enables them to more readily take advantage of available external expertise, as described below.
3. Hire for Transience: One of the points made in my most recent book, The Executive Checklist (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2014), is that part-time and temporary work programs are gaining popularity in business today-making the availability of highly skilled freelance workers greater than ever before. Hiring for transience in a project-based work setting enables businesses to scale up and back as necessary. But, it does introduce a few considerations that must be addressed, including:
- The need to establish assimilation programs that create a culture that attracts high quality free agent personnel and gets them up-to-speed quickly and effectively;
- The need to review and reengineer business processes in order to allow work to be done remotely;
- The need to adjust work management and performance monitoring to accommodate remote freelancers, and;
- The executive team must promote this cultural shift and proactively manage the enterprise through this evolutionary step towards the freelancer-rich operating model.
4. Speak Millennial: The next generation of worker has a strong desire for independence and lifestyle freedoms, so, they are likely to continue to seek out free agency as a means to gain more control over the ways in which they work. To ensure that you can attract the best and brightest from Gen Y, be sure that your organization is Millennial-friendly.
Here are few tips brought out in the book:
- Concierge Services (e.g., car maintenance, dry cleaning, etc.)
- On-premise Child Care
- On-Premise Pet Care
- Casual Dress Code
- Remote Working Model
These ideas can go a long way towards demonstrating a willingness to create a comfortable and rewarding work setting for its staff members.
5. Redefine the Vendor Relationship: Through redefining the way vendors "fit" into the business is the last piece of re-imagining the organization to be built to scale. Vendors can play an important role in enabling organizations of the future to be more "mutable"-able to scale to size and capacity as needed.
We have already seen countless examples of how outsourcing repetitive activities to best-of-breed vendors is a way for an organization to better manage business cycle fluctuations, while enhancing their capabilities to meet market demands for speed and flexibility. For sure, they'll be more of this to come! Similarly, vendors can assist in project work and alternative staffing. Companies, like IQ Workforce, are already playing in the space and redefining talent-on-demand models for the future.
To close, we will have to think differently about our businesses, how they are organized and the ways in which work and operations are managed in order to create an organization that is built to scale. By doing so, we will create new opportunities to better control future market dynamics in ways that will enhance and grow our enterprises.
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