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Check Your Skill Box to See What's Missing

Apr 9, 2008
Few businesses have succeeded in the past by consciously and deliberately adapting to changed irresistible forces. Examples include GE's refocus onto financial services, VISA's growth in credit cards, and Shell's adjustment to a changing petroleum market.

Most success has come from simply being the beneficiary of irresistible forces that happen by chance to be helpful to the company. This situation is like the sailboat that is always going in the same direction with its sails set in the same way. Often, the wind will blow in more or less the right direction and good progress will occur.

However, whenever that wind shifts towards the bow, the progress will quickly slow or stall. If you and your firm develop the necessary skills to take advantage of whichever way the winds blow, you'll avoid those delays and stalls, and achieve breakthrough gains instead.

Essential Skills of Effective Enterprises

To identify the irresistible force management skills that are missing from your company, you first need to determine what new tasks will have to be implemented. Here are some areas to consider where you may need additional skills:

1. Developing a statistical capability to aid in the identification of new and shifting irresistible forces.

2. Spotting the causes of new irresistible forces with which your operation is now unfamiliar.

3. Developing a strong ability to anticipate continuing shifts in irresistible forces.

4. Interpreting when changes you notice become unstoppable trends.

5. Deciding what skills make the best use of shifting irresistible forces.

6. Determining how to acquire the necessary skills that your people are missing.

7. Integrating new employees, skills, suppliers, and partners into key task areas.

8. Improving coordination among those sensing and needing to adapt to irresistible forces.

9. Designing compensation and recognition programs to match the shifting needs of the enterprise in order to fully benefit from the irresistible force trends.

10. Improving communications about and response time to changed irresistible forces.

11. Adapting to rapid changes in growth rates smoothly and effectively.

You need to know that some of these skills (and others) will be in short supply, until more organizations become highly capable in adapting to irresistible force shifts. For example, executives frequently report that there are few people who have designed computer-based systems that provide lasting competitive advantages, as measured by continuing gains in market share and profit margin.

Yet few of the enterprises that do adapt well to shifting irresistible forces lack such capabilities. You should assume that you will usually have to find this talent in other companies. You will have to train high potential people in your business to fill partial or total gaps that cannot be handled better by hiring and partnering.

To be effective in this search inside and outside your organization, be sure to check whether the people can solve the kinds of problems you plan to throw at them. Also check to see that they are excited by the purposes of your group's activities, and love doing the kind of work you need them to pursue.

Once you've determined the tasks, you then need to assess your skill levels and effectiveness in these areas. Many companies will make mistakes in this assessment process.

For one thing, they'll try to do the evaluation solely through interviews and forms that are filled out. A far better approach is to search for case histories of performance in the context of shifting irresistible forces, and to provide assessments that test capabilities in these areas instead.

Another common error is to select people based on how well they executed fixed assignments and achieved narrowly defined results, rather than for their adaptation to irresistible forces.

Easier Essentials

As complexity and understanding of irresistible forces grow, these factors can combine to overwhelm the skills and experience of almost anyone to handle them. Break the same issue down into smaller and smaller pieces, and more and more people will have or can learn the skills to provide useful perspectives.

Then, the pieces can be assembled in the most attractive way by one of your better generalist thinkers. This approach works best, naturally, if all of those working with the pieces stay in contact with each other to share information and insights.

Imagine that your enterprise is growing rapidly around the world from a small base. Initially, your sales organization is headed by one person. As your business grows, you decide to split that job into two jobs, one for domestic and one for international sales.

As time passes, the international sales job will be broken down by continent or end markets served. Eventually there will be a head of sales for each country of any size. Finally, there will be heads of sales for large individual customers in individual countries.

As you can see, the need to coordinate increases greatly, but the skill set that each person must have becomes much smaller. Many companies err in not specializing rapidly enough so that they can provide their more talented people with an appropriate scope of responsibility to match their existing skills and experiences.
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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