In 2017, I had client engagements in nine countries and led business excellence workshops for more than 400 CEOs across the globe. As I looked at the trends across all those different organizations and industries, here are the four major things I observed.
Disruptive technology. Very, very few of the organizations I worked with were adequately prepared for the huge changes that will occur in their industries within the next 10 years. Banking, medical, accounting, construction, consumer goods, industrial manufacturers, software development. I am hard-pressed to think of a single business I worked with that will not experience some level of turmoil, possibly annihilation. Yet, I was dumbfounded to see that the leaders of these organizations were investing very little time, effort, or money in trying to stay ahead of technology and prepare their organizations and people for the inevitable wave of change that will roll over their businesses in just the next few years. This is the single most concerning issue I see right now.
As goes the senior leadership team, so goes the entire company. In the last year, I have had the unfortunate job of working with several companies that were headed for bankruptcy. Although I tried mightily to help them, the demise of each was the same: a dysfunctional senior management team. One company, with more than 400 employees, was destroyed by three senior managers who did not get along. And, it’s not just the employees who were hurt — it was their husbands and wives, their families, the community and all the vendors they dealt with. When you add it all up, three people wreaked economic havoc on several thousand others simply because they were poor leaders. On the other hand, I also saw many struggling companies that were turned around by high-functioning leadership teams that worked together superbly to save their organizations. Leadership — good or bad — has a massive impact on the future of an organization.
Most companies I work with could gain a bit more profitability or market share by tweaking a few things here or there: become more efficient in a process, increase the marketing spend and negotiate better terms with their vendors, for example. But, the single greatest thing that can drive dramatic increases in revenues and profitability is creating a high-engagement culture of employees who each have an ownership mentality. Current research indicates that in the typical company, 24 percent of employees are engaged, 45 percent are disengaged and 26 percent are actively disengaged — in other words, they are actively attempting to sabotage their company. That means that as much as 71 percent of employees do not like the company they work for or the work they do. Change those numbers around, and you will change your business.
Lack of disciplined execution. In the last 18 months, I have done more strategic planning work than at any other point in my career. Yet, I am fearful that little of it will yield the kind of results the companies are hoping for. The reason? Everyone is excited about doing strategic planning, but few are as excited about doing strategic execution. My research shows that the average American business executes only about 10-15 percent of its strategic plan. If they could get that up to 50 percent, they would crush the competition. Why are similar companies outside the United States a little bit better at execution? Because they embrace the idea of using coaches and consultants to hold them accountable for delivering the major goals of their strategy. It is also interesting that in countries like New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, and Malaysia, even small companies have a paid board of directors that works closely with the senior management team and pushes them relentlessly on strategic execution. It is a mystery to me why American companies don’t focus more on the importance of disciplined execution.
There are a few other movements that I am watching, but these are the major things I see at company after company across the world. I’m going to guess that as you look at this list, you’re going to see some of the same issues inside your business. I can tell you from experience that if you can fix some of the things listed above, you will see a dramatically positive impact within your company.