Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Deliver for change

Designing for the future, being the period between eighteen months and five years from now, consists of 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.
Last week we looked into the second step and discussed how to prepare for change. Your company must identify the gaps between its current competitive strengths and tomorrow’s competitive requirements. Once these have been identified, you need to determine how the gaps will be closed. Will you develop the needed skills and technologies on your own? Will you do it through collaboration with others? Or will you do a little of both? Most companies choose the last approach, as they soon discover that they cannot create the future single-handedly. They build their own new core competencies and then build alliances with others.
Core competencies are the skills and technologies unique to an organization. Building new core competencies requires management to adopt a whole new perspective on how it will manage its future. The company is now forced to take a proactive role in creating its own future. This begins with a good understanding of the differences between today’s customers and those the company is likely to be serving in the years ahead. This is followed by a detailed examination aimed at unearthing the core competencies that currently underlie the company’s competitive performance. Once the existing core competencies have been identified, the focus shifts to the future and the following questions come up:
What new skills and technologies must we develop or acquire in order to get to the future first?
Which of these core skills and technologies should we develop internally and which should we acquire from outside?
The next task is to strategize how each can be realized. Now because of the costs and risks involved in building leadership in a core competence area, few companies normally want to go it alone. Most find it necessary to join forces with others, who offer critical complementary resources. This means forging new strategic alliance, something that is not quite common yet in the Ethiopian context. We should however open our eyes to developments around us and understand why we see more business networks developing.
There are many different ways in which alliances can be forged, ranging from temporary and weak to long-term and strong. There are networks of individuals, joint ventures and partnerships. Many companies feel the need to simultaneously participate in different kinds of relationships, while playing a different role in each.  Next we will look into the third step in designing for the future: Deliver.   
When it comes to marketing a new product, who knows what will work and what won’t? Nobody. We must therefore create the new reality around the new product ourselves. In designing a marketing strategy for the new product we must find answers to some of the following questions:
How will we position the new product or service? What design features will customers be interested in? What price will they find acceptable? What promotional tactics should be used? Which distribution channels would work best?
Answers to these questions can only come from the marketplace itself. By making a series of controlled, low-cost incursions into the market, a company can learn where the heart of a future demand actually lies.
Now, today development costs are so high and product life cycles too short to allow companies to fully develop a product before marketing it. Today, companies include customers in the development cycle, by inviting their input in the process. By making a number of limited incursions into the market, a company is able to move rapidly forward without putting itself at risk, while learning from failures will allow it to venture where none have ventured before.
The company now needs to be organized to deliver its new products and services. What will it look like? It will have to be forward looking with four different elements operating: Leadership, talented workers, resources and back up & support.
Once the new vision is agreed upon, the role of the leadership is to communicate it until every single person in the company understands it and works for it. They walk their talk, encourage all, help them believe the mission can be achieved, resolve conflicts by means of problem-solving rather than blaming. They treat mistakes as learning opportunities.   
The workers have been thoroughly trained and empowered and are in charge. They go about their duties as owners, making decisions and solving problems in the interest of the new vision and mission.
Resource providers offer advice and support to teams instead of trying to catch people doing things wrong and controlling, policing and auditing their activities. The managers offer support to their teams too.
Now, this may all seem far- fetched, taking the Ethiopian context and corporate culture into consideration. Remember though that we are trying to do business in a globalizing market and in order to do this successfully we have no option than to try and become world class companies, able to work towards the future while improving the present. We will continue to look into how this can be done successfully.