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Key Methods for Identifying, Anticipating, and Adapting to Changes in Powerful Trends

Mar 30, 2008
In this article you will find the questions you need to answer in order to identify the current and future best practices for locating, anticipating, and adapting to changes in irresistible forces.

Although you might be tempted to answer only the questions for one of the three areas, limiting yourself in that way would be a mistake. You'll achieve far better results from this process if you look into all three areas (locating, anticipating, and adapting).

You may see some of these questions as only of theoretical interest, but that is a false perception. Working to find the answers to these questions is essential homework for you to be able to master the full potential of your enterprise's future.

Skipping this step would be like not learning algebra prior to taking on a career as a high school math teacher.

Michael Dell put this subject into the properly important perspective in his speech at the 1998 World Congress on Information Technology. He said: ". . . Product differentiation is becoming harder to achieve. It will give way to process innovation as the fundamental source of competitive advantage."

He went on to describe one trend that needs to be taken into account under these circumstances: the Internet. Dell stated that through use of the Internet, ". . . It will be possible to revolutionize processes in a way that blurs traditional boundaries between supplier and manufacturer, and manufacturer and customer."

Dell's comment itself is a leading indicator of a shift in thinking among those who are trying to make best use of irresistible forces.

They will not only emphasize making adaptation easier and more effective: They will encourage everyone else in and out of their enterprises to do the same, thus pushing the need to examine first causes ever further back in time.

Find the Path of Least Resistance

Keep in mind that the processes you use to locate changes in trends, anticipate some of those changes, and adapt to changes have to be simple, fast, inexpensive compared to their benefits, and easy-to-use.

Otherwise, you'll reap few benefits from your efforts and the expenses could be enormous. Working with these following questions is intended to help you determine the most efficient processes.

Who is getting the best results with the simplest process?

Not answering this question can be an enormous opportunity cost (foregone profits and cash flow because you did not act in a timely way).

Although direct costs of doing the locating, anticipating, and adapting should always be a concern, of even greater significance is being able to do the locating, anticipating, and adapting rapidly and efficiently to get more benefits from taking better actions sooner.

Most companies have found that orders for one or more of their products or services are extremely good predictors of future economic direction that affects them. This may be the case because the product or service is tied into some essential precursor to increased or decreased economic activity.

For example, most industrial processes rely on electricity. If no electrical generating capacity is added, the economic growth rate of most countries will decline, even with rigid allocations of the existing electrical capacity.

One way to improve on these insights would be to pool information with customers or suppliers so that you can cross-check your insights very quickly from other perspectives.

For example, in the early 1990s, Dell Computer built a simple model to anticipate and adapt to changes rapidly based on the orders it received for custom-built machines. However, Dell soon found that it couldn't rely solely on itself.

If suppliers weren't attuned to the same issues, Dell might go off in the wrong direction or suppliers might not be able to support Dell.

Dell moved early to making long-term commitments to its best quality suppliers, thus treating them as partners and sharing information and responsibilities for new product design in a way that blurred the normal supplier-customer relationship.

The suppliers then have their own engineers stationed inside the Dell facility during the new product launch. As telephone calls come in to Dell that pinpoint problems, product orders and shipments using those components stop until the on-site supplier engineers solve the design flaws.

Because this approach merely involves statistical regressions that you can do on computers, you can test thousands of alternatives for each irresistible force in seconds after you have the data in electronic form.

Since you probably keep your own records in electronic form, this method can be the basis of a proprietary best practice of considerable value by drawing on your own firm's confidential data. Few today can hope to locate a simpler, faster and easier process to use than this one.

Which organizations act as though they locate, anticipate, and adapt to irresistible forces ahead of others?

Management and business publications are literally full of such success stories. While many such claims are overblown, checking with the people who claim to be good is a way to start.

Telephone interviews are often sufficient to determine whether the people involved are using a process you should evaluate or they simply believe their own press.

Who tracks this area?

Academics and business editors often make a living researching such organizational processes. Ask these people whom you should investigate for best practices.

Who is the best in every country at these activities?

Most people have a bias in favor of the way that people in their own home countries do a process. Yet someone in another country will often have developed something a lot better.

The odds that the future best practice will originate in your country are probably less than 10 percent for any irresistible force changes that you want to locate, anticipate, or adapt to, so don't be chauvinistic in your search.

Should you outsource locating and anticipating?

Your company may find it easier, less expensive, and more reliable to hire an external firm or person to provide help with implementing whatever process you decide to use for locating and anticipating change.

Management consulting firms, market research organizations, economic forecasters, and futurists now provide this kind of help. Be sure to check with those who are most successfully outsourcing this activity to find out what aspects of these processes they are outsourcing.

Beware of using standard reports that are available to anyone. Chances are that no future best practices can be built solely on such reports, because the results will be too easy to duplicate.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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