Leaders, firms and industry service organisations are constantly besieged with competing and conflicting priorities from different parties wanting their priority placed at the top. What embattled leaders see less of are useful insights on how to ‘stop’ doing what’s not so important today.
The challenges of priority-setting are well described, with lots of books on the subject. These tomes usually fall into the ‘true but useless’ category – rather like a coach telling a sports team that all they need to do to win the game is score more points than the opposition.
The priorities may well be apparent, but the real challenge for leaders is ‘how do I stop doing what’s not working’. For example, an industry service organisation’s (ISO’s) leadership will know that a traditional policy/priority setting process through committees is far too slow and cumbersome today and, when most industry value/businesses are not participating, it is also unrepresentative.
This is a very real situation facing modern ISO’s and a common reason for businesses opting out of membership.
It seems to be a simple choice to just stop doing what is an outdated and flawed practice. However, it takes real courage and leadership skill to do so, as those involved will resist.
Leaders often try to tackle the problem indirectly. For example, through making incremental changes or by including sensitive reforms as part of wider transformative change (e.g. business model innovation).
The main point is that the problem being solved in this example is not simply one of structure, but about a core business process and the values people attach to mechanisms that enable them to feel part of their ISO.
The business process re -engineering proponents of some two decades ago contended that firms were making a serious mistake by just using digital capabilities to automate existing processes. Instead, they argued that building true competitive advantage required ‘obliterating’ old processes and designing new ones.
A new business model that retains and embeds old businesses processes will under-perform just as surely as the old model. As ever, leaders must be willing to ‘obliterate’ outdated processes and find new ways to achieve what stakeholders’ value most.