When you are growing a business, it's hard to find time to focus on anything but the crises of today. Yet if you don't spend some resources preparing for the changes in the marketplace we already know about, there may be no tomorrow for your business.
In my years of mentoring and advising business leaders, I find that real planning for the future always gets the short shrift.
Of course, nobody really knows all of what tomorrow will bring, in terms of globalization, digital technology, or demographic shifts, but most experts agree that certain elements are already obvious, and things must be done today to get your business ready in time.
I found some key ones in a new book, "The Future-Proof Workplace," by Linda Sharkey, PhD, and Morag Barrett. These authors, who both have extensive credentials as executive coaches with top tier business leaders around the world, detail six factors of change that every business needs to address today to keep ahead of the wave.
I believe these factors are key to the future success of every new startup, as well as every mature company:
1. Leadership must be values-based and people focused
The command and control leadership of the past is proving to be too inflexible, devoid of values, and not empathic to people issues - customers, employees, and partners.
Check your leadership style today, and expedite the transition to one of engagement, collaboration, and adaptability.
2. Company culture drives decision making and process
Business culture now means much more than uniformity and conformity. It now means shared values and true empowerment, which is the new key to employee productivity and profitability.
A healthy culture, with living values, is essential today for growth, adaptability, and innovation
3. Organizing principles must include social impact
Yesterday's principles were good verbiage about profit and shareholder value, but ignored in day-to-day operation.
Today, a compelling and impactful purpose, around which teams can get excited, is key. Team members want to contribute to the greater good and have pride in everything they do.
4. Relationships in all directions are critical to success
Historically, organizations played down the role of work-based personal relationships. Google was one of the first to learn that good relationships created high-performing teams.
Due to social media and the Internet, these relationships now need to extend to customers, partners, and suppliers.
5. Diversity and inclusion bring more value than ever
Most companies never realize how much damage can be done by human unconscious bias.
Only by embracing inclusion and creating a truly level playing field for all, is a company able to connect and adapt to all the diversity in today's global marketplace, and keep up with the changes.
6. Data technology facilitates more fact-based decisions
Technology is now much more than speeding communication and automating work processes.
Technology allows forward-looking predictions of outcomes, and critical decision-making assistance through artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), medical diagnostics, and data analytics.
It's not enough to merely talk about these changes. Every company needs to track their progress and measure results - establish metrics to understand how much and how effectively their workplaces are being transformed and compete.
From a career standpoint, leaders and employees need to assess their own progress to "future-proof" their career.
It is evident that the pace of change is not slowing down, and will continue to accelerate into the future. This means that both you and your company need to be more agile, more open and willing to learn, and rethink your focus on the future versus the present.
Sometimes you have to make waves today to balance and survive the waves already starting to crash around you.