Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Designing for the future

Over the past few weeks we realised how important it is to continue paying attention to improving our present operations. We saw that while something new is being introduced and while the new product or service is not yet fully worked out, tested and functional, the “old” product or service is suddenly dropped.

We also began looking into designing a vision for the future by defining our business in terms of what our customers need instead of the product or service that we offer. While products come and go, basic needs of different customers stay around. We noted that moving our thinking from a specific product to the purpose of that product, our horizon expands, for example from “we print newspapers” to “we provide the latest news”. Once you have clarified customers’ needs, you can think about how you have shaped or will shape the organization to meet these needs. To do this corporate profiling, you need to study the interaction of a number of key factors or business elements, through which you provide your product or service to the customer. The key business factors we identified were:

Core goals – What is it that your company or organization is to do?

Core values – What is really important in the organization?)

Strategy – What is the approach used to achieve the mission of the organization?)

Business processes – What are the interconnected activities that enable you to reach your goals?

Structure – How do people relate to each other and to the work flow?

Systems – What are the procedures, formal and informal, that make the organization function?

People and skills – What professions and skills must be possessed by the people in the organization to be able to achieve its goals?

Culture – What are the norms of an organization, the way things are done?

Next we will look into how we can design for the future, being the period between eighteen months and five years from now. This requires us to develop a new mind set and trying to find answers to the following questions in respect of our customers, the competition and our company:

Our customers:

Will we be serving the same customers in the future that we are serving now? If not, how will they be different?

How will we reach our future customers?

The Competition:

What will be the basis of competition? Innovation, cooperation?

What will the competition look like?

What must we do to ensure that the industry evolves in a way that is to our maximum advantage?

Our company:

What capacity must we have to be a market leader?

What strategic alliances do we need to develop?

What will be the profile of the employees?

In studying these questions and trying to find answers we will apply again the following three steps:

Envision: carefully articulate a clear vision about where you want to drive the industry you are in.

Prepare: Find the shortest route between where you are now and where you want to go.

Deliver: Determine on what basis you will compete, once you have arrived at your new destination.

Now, if you want your company to be a market leader and one of the best in your field, you will not only constantly be improving your current operations, but you will be committed to creating a new competitive position in the future. What exactly that vision is, only you will know. You must come up with your own vision, unique to the kind of business you are in. To develop this vision you will begin with scanning the horizon and environment of your industry. In doing so you will identify opportunities. You will anticipate demand. To be able to do this you must develop insight in trends in technology, demographics, regulation and lifestyles, which will help in creating a realistic vision for the future. Next you need the courage and tenacity to turn this vision into reality. Next week we will continue to explore how this can be done. As for opportunities, with the economic growth and transformation we find Ethiopia going through, there will be no lack of opportunities. It requires us to recognise them, take hold of them and turn them into reality. Do you have what it takes? Why not? In his inaugural address Nelson Mandela said: “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” The choice is ours.