As we are heading into a new decade and pause to reflect on what the 2020s may hold in store for us all, I am mindful of the wise words of Confucius (551 BC-479 BC):
Study the past if you would define the future.
So I'd like to look back on what I have seen over the better part of the past four decades and what has emerged for me personally, shaping my 2020 vision for business.From my perspective, a clear, unique focus area stands out in each one of these decades.
I started out in the early 1980s as a software programmer; that was back in the days of the wild west when source code was printed out on A3-sized green and white striped paper, symbolic debuggers were just a dream as yet unrealised; and about the only thing object-oriented were the paperweights on people’s desks. Back then, the focus was squarely on QUALITY. W. Edward Deming’s teachings on continuous improvement and a "Total Quality Management" approach back in the 1960s and 1970s began to bear fruit:
- It became evident to software development companies that this led to less rework and more reliable applications.
- And the American car manufacturing industry found that this was rapidly becoming an imperative; It was not an option, as the Japanese overtook them as the world’s largest producer of automobiles in that decade. Yes, quality was here to stay.
Enter the 1990s and this became the decade of CUSTOMER FOCUS. I can recall reading a memo from a senior manager at AT&T where I was working: He was declaring that unless the word customer was mentioned in the first 10 minutes of a meeting, he would be walking out of it. A somewhat over the top reaction I know! But people said that sort of thing back then. A primary focus on internal results rapidly gave way to a clear realisation: Unless you were providing your customers with what they really needed, you were unlikely to be able to get the results you needed anyway. So it was far better to really understand what your target market was actually asking.
"OUR STAFF (ARE OUR MOST IMPORTANT ASSET)" became the catch-cry in the new millennium, as epitomised by Richard Branson’s famous quote that "Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients." Nowadays, there is pretty wide acceptance of the idea that "your staff are ambassadors of your brand". As such, they must be nurtured and valued; and those companies that fail to recognise this do so at their own peril. However, it also became a mantra that could easily expose the difference between words and actions! So managers needed to become more accountable for "walking the talk."
Let’s take a look back now at the most recent decade. This seemed to be very much about sustainability and the "TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE" as the effects of global warming now became indisputable. Any company that demonstrated an ability to provide quality results, focus on the customer, look after its staff and be environmentally conscious, gave itself an edge in the eyes of both prospective customers and prospective employees. Many businesses were taking up recycling enthusiastically.One question on a local council’s Business Award application form goes like this:
"Commitment to environmental sustainable practices:
Describe the practices your business undertakes to operate in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner, e.g. energy conservation, water conservation, waste minimisation etc.?" This is a clear indication that this stuff really does matter when being assessed for business excellence.
I believe that we are already seeing the focus here: "WELLNESS AND WELLBEING." With statistics showing that
Which companies do people see as responsible and desirable places to work? They are the ones that provide personal support such as mindfulness training, flexible hours to enable staff to drop off and pick up their kids, or even offer childcare facilities. This, of course, has massive benefits in terms of staff attraction and retention.It is worthwhile noting that none of the focuses from previous decades has gone away. In fact they have all now become almost accepted business practice. And I strongly suspect this will be the way of things through the 2020 decade as well.
Take the opportunity to discuss the impact on your business and possible smart strategies with Ian himself. Reach him via The NCP or on 0418 366418 or firstname.lastname@example.orgIf you enjoyed reading this post, here is a selection of posts by Ian which you may find relevant and insightful: