Volume 20 Number 1 - January 4, 2022

My mission is simple. I am devoted to enabling people working in manufacturing to recognize and achieve their potential; through that each of you contributes to an improved quality of life for all you touch. Mission matters. That of your business, and yours personally.

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Reason for Optimism

Bloomberg recently shared survey results that show 72% of CEOs are worried about losing their jobs in 2022 due to business disruptions. Comments reflected that 2020 was an unexpected mess, but 2021 should have been the “get back to normal” year. It wasn’t.

Many of those same challenges are still alive as we enter 2022. Wouldn’t a talented CEO have created improved conditions by now?

Talented leaders may not enjoy bettered conditions, but they certainly have improved the ability of the entire organization to make decisions within ambiguity. Focus on creating an innovative culture should have borne fruit by now.

The same survey reported 94% believe their corporate models need to be overhauled within three years, a position I believe true.

How does one enact such a major shift in the midst of daily crises?

First, and as always, grasp the current condition. “Everything is a mess” is not helpful. Clear away the fog and overwhelm by stating what you know, what you don’t know but need to, and what assumptions are important to align near-term decision-making. Often the assumptions are your best guesses on the parts you don’t know.

For example, you know you face difficulties attracting the needed quantities of certain skill sets to your company. You don’t know how long that will last, or what would change it. To unfreeze your team, tell them “Here is the assumption I want you to use for decision-making: we will NOT be able to increase our resource capacity in these five areas before December 2022.”

Of course, you will aggressively work to eliminate that constraint, and if you see reason to specifically alter that assumption you will. In the interim, your team knows how to think about that resource constraint.

Consistent clarity, even if wrong, at least enables consistent decision-making. Beats the heck out of paralysis.

Next, create a group of no more than 10 individuals, consisting of your top thinkers and a few external insightful thinkers. Don’t ask about 2023; ask them what they see for 2025 – 2030. Don’t limit the conversation to your industry. Your thinking needs a jolt. Creating a different future requires different thinking.

The goal is to envision the future you will create and how soon you will create it. A sense of direction is required; a clear vision must be identified soon. You are giving the organization a sense of where you intend to take them.

With consistent clarity on current condition and consistent understanding of the scope of business model changes expected, you can prioritize actions into bite-size pieces.

An organization on overwhelm facing big changes can’t unfreeze itself.

Leadership does that by making small assignments that facilitate learning, progress, and new skills. In parallel your team is monitoring triggers of the key assumptions defined earlier while the “future thinking team” continues to fine-tune the vision.

You have calmed people down, enabled them to make decisions, set the new direction for the business, and started making progress in creating it.

That’s a significant accomplishment. As is knowing and sharing what steps you are taking to turn the rudder. Your people want to know someone is captaining the ship; you want confidence in your skills to do that well despite the weather and the condition of vessel.

It was never about the product or the equipment. It is the thinking skills and culture within your organization that are reason for optimism.

The Starting Pistol

Norman Cousins:
"Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects."

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"We may not know how, but the belief that we will, makes it all possible."

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