“Only The Paranoid Survive” was written years ago by Andy Grove, then Chairman of Intel. It told the story of the transformation of Intel from a memory to a microprocessor company. I loved the book, it is featured on my bookshelf—partly because the title is a great reminder.
Yesterday, a client and I were discussing the transformation in his organization. We started about 2 years ago with an organization that just wasn’t performing. We undertook a massive transformation, changed about everything–people, processes, tools, metrics, incentives. Virtually nothing was left untouched. Two years later we’ve seen sustained outstanding performance for at least a year. We were taking a few moments to reflect and congratulate each other on the progress of the organization and the result produced.
Then we started talking about what’s next. He astutely said, “I know we have to continue to change and improve. I don’t want us to become complacent and fall back into bad practices. What should we be looking at now?”
I love the perspective he has. Too often, too many leaders don’t have this perspective. Their organizations are performing well, hitting their numbers, things seem to be on track. Everyone starts getting comfortable, they settle into a routine. They may be a little cocky and confident about their success. They may see no reason to change — “If it ain’t broke……..”
It’s a very dangerous set of behaviors. Let me focus on a couple of aspects.
First, as sales leaders, we must focus on continuous improvement. We have to look at how we continue to improve the overall productivity of the organization. We have to raise the bar on performance. Whatever a sales person produces this year, next year, we would expect them to do more. From an organizational point of view, improving productivity means that for every dollar we invest in sales and marketing, we would expect a greater return (read bigger numbers) in the coming years. Sales leaders constantly have to look at tuning everything so that sales people can sell more.
Improving productivity requires constant examination of our sales processes, workflow, tools, systems, and the skills/capabilities of our people.
But there’s another aspect–our current and future competitors. They are looking to destroy us. They’re trying to outperform us. We need to be concerned about what our current competitors are doing, making sure we analyze their strategies and actions, putting in place strategies that enable us to create greater/differentiated value for our customers. More worrisome are the non-traditional competitors. New technologies, different ideas, new approaches. Think how the mainframe, minicomputer, workstation, PC, market places have changed–all increasingly displaced/threatened by tablets and smart mobile devices. Then there will be things that displace them. Or look at how the software business has changed from licensing to cloud delivered services. Or how telecom has changed from primarily voice, to data, to rich media.
Then finally, and perhaps most importantly, our customers are going through radical changes. Their businesses are growing/evolving/changing. How they buy is changing profoundly — and will continue to do so. If we don’t change with them, we aren’t serving them and creating the value they expect. If we don’t change, if we don’t help them change, then we are slowing them down. They’ll look elsewhere for solutions.
Everywhere there are things that can threaten us, disrupting what we do, changing our success to underperformance to survival.
It doesn’t matter how well we are performing. It doesn’t matter how strong our strategies are. A little paranoia is very helpful. We have to constantly inspect and improve everything we do. Our current and past success is meaningless, we have to continue to innovate and grow.
What are you doing to continue to improve performance? What are you doing to innovate and lead–both your customers and the industry?