Competing for the Future: What it Takes to Win

Whether an organisation realizes it or not, it is competing for a place in the future. It can sit back and let itself be overrun by events, act in a crisis manner to deal with rapid or unexpected changes or it can prepare itself. Create a state of readiness because as Arnold Glasow has said, ’The only problem with the future is that it is usually here before we are ready for it!’ How do you get ready?

How do you create an enduring organisation that stands the test of time, rapid change, unexpected events and turbulence while all the while maintaining excellence in all it does; produces outcomes or results which set the standard for the industry – the benchmark, consistently; continuously creates and delivers value to all key stakeholders.?


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What Dr. Marra knows from some 43 years of experience around the globe – hands-on experience with more than 160 organisations of every sector and industry in 39 countries is that success comes down the relentless focus on a vital few factors.

The question then becomes, ‘What are those ‘vital few’ factors that are so critical? They are the ones shown in the diagramme above. The core shared purpose as well as the vision (the destination the organisation wishes to reach most of all in usually the next 3-5 years) should both act as a guiding light to ensure the organisations maintains its focus and also act as a ‘litmus’ test. By that I mean, every investment, priority, project, initiative or objective and strategy set should be tested against the vision. Will achievement or completion of these activities ensure the organisation will get any closer to reaching its vision? If not, then DON’T DO IT!

Next it is essential that we align the organisation as a whole around the vision. Every department, function and individual – whether senior leadership or frontline need to be clear about their contribution to achieving the vision. It must also be the case that their capabilities to make those contributions have been strengthened sufficiently. It is only when we do this effectively that we are able to harness the full power of the people in the organisation at all levels.

We then come to the two critical internal elements which are necessary for success. The first is that of ‘organisational capability’. Over the years there have been some 7 factors that I have found contribute most to ensuring an organisation is capable of success. These will be discussed as part of the programme. Some of these are guaranteed to surprise you!

One of these is the culture of the organisation. The culture can be the biggest enabler or the biggest inhibitor of performance of an organisation. Why? We will discuss with some examples. Who owns the culture of an organisation – that is, who is accountable for the culture and its evolution? Simple answer, no one.  That’s a major issue that needs to be resolved.

Then there is that component which primarily focuses on continuous regeneration – revitalization of the organisation – keeping it fresh and in step with it changing operating environment – internally and externally. This I simply refer to as the ‘renewal’ component. However, it is the component that in the end result keeps and organisation’s business model ‘forever young’ – never allowing it to go out of date and to be able to endure or stand the test of time, change and turbulence.

What kind of infrastructure is required to ensure ‘renewal’ is working – that its components of adaptation, creativity, innovation and learning are all contributing and form a seamless integrated flow? How does that happen? Again, what type of infrastructure is required?

The key link – the bridge that brings these two internal components together with the two external components of stakeholder relationships and agility, market competitiveness and sustainability is the ‘creation and delivery of value’. It is now my firm belief that the true purpose of any organisation is, in fact, the creation and delivery of value to all its key stakeholders. Value is defined as any tangible or intangible benefit which the customer or other stakeholder believes the competition or alternate providers are either unwilling or unable to provide. As such it becomes and immediate source of differentiation and competitive advantage. Value is what determines the basis for exceptional stakeholder relationships as well as competitiveness. What are the 9 sources of value and which ones do organisations rely on most – yet still don’t do enough with them?


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We will look at the components of a customer (stakeholder) management systems and talk about the key components of such as system such as relationship strategies, the customer experience, key customer feedback and the most important sources of that feedback and much more. What are the 8 practices management engages and reinforces throughout the organisation that destroy relationships with customers? What about service quality versus service excellence and why are the 8 pillars of service excellence absolutely critical to success in building customer loyalty and strengthening customer relationships?

Finally we will examine agility which I define as the capability of an organisation to identify, assess and act on opportunities or threats faster and better than competition. This includes hyper-decision making – making more optimal decisions, assess risks and doing it all faster than ever.

We will talk about the true competitive advantages of an organisation as well as making sure we also discuss their vulnerabilities. Some of these vulnerabilities only come to light under times of rapid or unexpected change. Then, of course, there is sustainability or what I like to call ‘principles of engagement’ with society and the local communities. What is your organisation doing to enhance societal well- being as well as prosperity?

Then, how do we measure it all? Do we have the right key performance indicators? Are they being measured the right way? Are they measured at a level that is sensitive to the real changes going on inside as well as outside our organisation? Traditionally a balanced scorecard is used by many organisations, yet the traditional balanced scored is need of replacing with a new generation one. What might that look like?

And then there is the rewards system. Once again, traditionally in most companies, all the focus, all the rewards went to those who were either the best firefighters or always hit their targets no matter what behaviour they exhibited. They leave a trail of dead bodies and assorted collateral damage behind and it was deemed OK because they hit their targets – therefore entitling them to getting the biggest bonuses. However, some years ago, the best-in-class organisations said, NO! This is not the way it should be done. Hitting the target is only part of what is required to get your bonus. The other equally important component is ‘how’ you hit that target, meaning did you exhibit behaviours and practices consistent with the values and beliefs of the organisation?

Taken together, the above systems form a powerful, practical and relevant approach to ensuring your organisation is doing all the right things right. As Peter Drucker once said, ‘leadership is much more about doing the right things’ than about ‘doing things right’.  The ideal, of course, is ‘doing the right things right’ which implies and element of near flawless execution – an area where most organisations fall down even if they have the right approaches and strategies.

This program is based on ‘fact’ – not fiction, not theory but hands-on experience through which insights into what works and what does not work, what is most important and what is not are all shared with the student or delegate. What you see in the above diagramme evolved over more than 30 years of his significant experience as it became increasingly clearer what the real ‘ vital few’  areas of focus were that organisations needed to excel at to be successful long-term. It is simple, logical, relevant and easy to apply in your own organisation to take it to a higher level of performance – competitiveness and profitable growth. As Dr. Edward Deming once said, ‘Management knows so much that is not so’. Let’s see how we can ensure we fill in the empty spaces with knowledge – with wisdom that will make a significant difference not only the performance

This discussion as mentioned above also introduces a number of new concepts such as ‘renewal’, redefines strategic concepts such as ‘value’ (one of the most important strategic concepts to evolve globally in the past 20 years) and ‘agility’, for example, in new and different ways and what Dr. Marra considers a ‘correct’  manner which should be followed by organisations wishing to be successful.


If you want to learn more, join my new online program:  Becoming a Strategic Leader in 6 weeks by Cultivating Your Creative Thinking


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