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6 min read - March 02, 2023

Facing into the Challenges of 2023 – Part 2

My previous article, Part 1, introduced the cube metaphor, used for creating organisational alignment, and then provided a number of suggestions for leaders in relation to how they might respond to the year ahead.  The specific focus was on Processes & Systems, Structure and Information & Metrics.

 This week I will cover off the remaining ‘sides of the cube’:  People & Rewards; Continuous Improvement and Culture & Leadership.

 As mentioned in part 1, all of the below need to be intentionally connected to your aspirational strategy so as to drive the required response to any opportunities or challenges you might confront during 2023.

 People and Review

1. Right Talent for the Time – with an evolving business environment, and a potential move away from the business models that once served you well, there also comes a need to look at your team.  I am a big believer in loyalty and having a tight team, but in times of change we also need to be really conscious of NOT basing our hiring decisions on the skillsets of our current employees, rather on the needs of organisation moving forward. Consider how you effectively build, buy or externally source what skillsets you need which may mean further changes to your model

2. Capability delta – how well are you truly using your development spend?  Now for some organisations, the training budget line might appear to be an easy option for ‘cost out’ but you should avoid a straight slash and burn.  I am not saying don’t reduce it, but irrespective of whether you are a growing or cost conscious business, I see too many organisations not optimising the use of their training budgets. Be really clear about the needs of the ustomizedn and the roles within it, complete a training needs analysis for each of your team against these needs and then prioritise what skills/ roles/ people are the core areas of investment, for your limited budget

3. Reward what you need – I mentioned earlier the need to measure the critical things you want your business and people to focus on.  Next step is to ensure that you have the reward mechanisms, processes and systems to reinforce the required behaviours.  Inflation, minimum wage increases, a war-for-talent and changes to immigration requirements, have all absolutely created wage/ salary pressure which organisations have to respond to. Some need to also ensure their total remuneration approach is contemporary (i.e. ustomized sales incentives/ bonuses, etc.); but if you can take this ‘hygiene’ factor off the table, then how can you also use your non-financial recognition and benefits to reinforce the type of environment that clearly supports your team (e.g. leave provisions, insurances, wellbeing initiatives, discounts, work environment flexibility, quality leadership interaction, internal coaching programmes and job rotations, etc.)


Continuous Improvement

1. Improvement as a muscle – people in business naturally focus on important or urgent work.  However, too often this day-to-day focus negates the discipline required to enhance what you do, driving a reactive focus within the team to just fix something after the fact (something arguably Auckland rate payers are suffering from now). You need to create a culture, reinforced with the right processes/ systems that enables them to identify issues, prioritise the impacts of change and problem solve.  Everyone needs to be empowered to focus on continuous improvement – as Lisa Carrington famously said it’s all about ‘shaving of the seconds’ and she relied on the support of her team to do this.

2. Don’t forget quality and speed – to be a highly effective organisation, whether confronted with opportunities or challenges, you need to be focusing on all types of performance gaps. You need to be able to get the balance right between a focus on cost efficiencies, as well as how best to deliver strategic outcomes in a more sustainable way.  The first can significantly free up capital to invest in the second, but you still need to make sure the latter is done in a robust, enhanced manner

3. Don’t be part of the pack – I often get asked about benchmarks, and while they might have a role as an input into what you do, avoid just copying your competitor.  The key is to design around what makes you unique and facilitates your strategic delivery, is getting a balance between the value you see in best practice learnings, versus what works best within your organisation to create customer value and internal alignment


Leadership and Culture

1. Alignment Leaders – I confront this challenge myself, am I focused on the right things to lead the business or just being busy?  In our experience as a leader the key elements of your role need to be making strategic priorities/ choices, driving the required tradeoff’s and building the capability in others to effectively lead the business. This last comment aligns to the classic saying of ‘stay on the balcony not the dance floor’ – especially when confronted with challenges, or too many opportunities

2. Cultural Intention – culture is never static, its dynamic and influenced by many things. This ‘influence’ is amplified through change which creates risks to your established culture. You need to be intentional around the activities you undertake, as leadership, structure, process, capability, systems, metrics change will all influence culture – make sure you are focused on how all of these facets come together to reinforce the culture you want, especially if the one you have today will not best serve you in the future

3. Leverage other Leaders and the Team – when you are in the midst of change, as a leader, you can feel like you have to carry the weight. You don’t have to do it all yourself, rather you will get a far better outcome if you involve others in designing solutions, engaging with stakeholders and implementing any change.  By given others some shared ownership you make them a key part of the change. Recently a client had a change process, with significant proposed impacts on the team – by engaging with them on what else they could do, they came up with the idea of changing shift patterns, hours and roles, saving 66% of roles that were to be lost.  That is an awesome outcome.

 As a business owner or leader, you will never be short of levers to pull, the question “Is how do you create a structure around all of these choices to help you prioritise what you will focus on?”.  For me that is why I find the cube analogy so helpful and it allows me to capture all the things I could do, but then start to sequence what I will actually do. 

 I hope the model and some of the suggested options for each side (of the cube) are useful during what is shaping up to be another year where your leadership will be called upon immensely. Good luck!

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