Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Key Questions for the Era of Uncertainty

I am a big fan of the Ram Charan management books.  He has a new one just out, The Attacker's Advantage:Turning Uncertainty Into Breakthrough Opportunities, that I just completed.

The book has an extensive list of questions that leaders need to be thinking about in the age of uncertainty.  These are:
  • How aware are you that structural change is occurring more frequently?  Does it worry you, or do you see opportunity in it?  Do you consider it part of your job as a leader to detect it?  Do you consider it part of your job to create it?
  • Do you pause to consider whether operating problems are signs of structural change?
  • Is your altitude high enough to see above your industry to geopolitical and other macro factors?  Do you have a disciplined routine for rising above the daily details and sharpening your mental antennae to identify bends in the road sooner?  Is your team doing so as well?
  • Are you tracking companies that are using mathematics and advanced computing power to transform their business, even if they are outside your industry?  Are you imagining how some of them might destroy your industry and reshape your market space?
  • Are you prepared to accept the reality that uncertainty is here to stay?  Do you realize that you may need to make bold decisions even when some of the factors you have them on are still not clear?
  • Are you psychologically and organizationally prepared to convert uncertainty into breakthrough opportunities? 
  • Do you habitually pick up on anomalies, contradictions, and emerging trends by talking to people and reading newspapers and magazines?
  • Have you expanded your information networks lately, beyond your industry, country, and comfort zone in order to widen your lens to calibrate your thinking through other people's lenses?
  • Do you have a routine mechanism for you and your team to pool your observations about the external landscape and to explore potential impacts on your business?  Are you allotting sufficient time and attention to this?
  • Have you identified catalysts whose activities you need to track?  Have you identified the "seeds" that a catalyst could pounce on?  Have you identified the barriers a catalyst would have to overcome to gain traction?
  • Do you have a methodology for improving your perceptual acuity, such as forming hypotheses about a trend that might take shape or what a catalyst might do and revisiting you predictions later to see how accurate they were?
  • Are you conscious of the shortening shelf life of your core competencies, competitive advantage, and the definition of your core business?  Do you ask at least four times a year: What new developments can I hake advantage of to create a new need or give the customer or consumer a more compelling experience?
  • How well do you understand the end-to-end consumer experience?  Have you mapped the touch points?  Do you observe consumers firsthand?  Do you exercise your imagination to think of new trajectories based on your observations and insights?
  • Have you educated yourself about the new digital technologies and the use of algorithms?  Is your team learning about them?  Are you paying attention to digital players coming into your space?  Do you regularly consider and discuss how you might use digital technology to transform your business?  Do you regularly talk to people with such expertise?
  • Are you on the lookout for new opportunities for profitable growth?
  • How conscious are you of the human tendency to revert to what is comfortable and known?  How aware are you of your psychological blockages and fears that prevent your from seeing new opportunities?  Do you try to overcome your own psychological discomfort with venturing into new areas?  Are you willing to make moves that are well thought out but not immediately popular?
  • Are you willing to move with speed even if some variables are still uncertain?

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