Technology is moving very fast. It has permeated every aspect of our lives. 10 years ago, there aren’t as much smartphones available. The iPhone wasn’t invented yet. Now, the buzz is all about the Apple Watch and the rumored iPhone 7. But now, it seems that every month there are new breakthroughs. Last year, SanDisk announced a 200GB microSD card. Back then, that wasn’t even conceivable.
Eric Schmidt said in his keynote How to Reach Business Nirvana about technology, “It’s like Moore’s Law has run amock.”
It’s already a given that technology is changing our environment. That means the market consuming that tech (us) is also changing their behaviors, i.e. the way we shop, the way we work, etc. But the problem is that businesses are designed to move slowly and make decisions very slowly.
Two Ways to Move Quickly to Adapt to the Market
- Look outside your company
- Make effective decisions
1) Look Outside Your Company
Results only exist outside the company. This is a fact that most businesses keep forgetting.
They focus too much on the problematic employee, the corporate politics, how their email client can’t send to the person beside them. Growth only happens when customers buy from you. If you don’t address their needs and think that you “know” them and that whatever you are doing is for them, you’d be out of business pretty soon.
One example I can think of is a company who sees a constant decline in their revenues. Its customers keep complaining about their crappy product through the customer service hotline. Stop for a moment. What do you think the company should do? I reckon the answer is “improve the product to address customer complaints,” right?
What did the company do in this case? Totally the opposite. The company produced more versions of the crappy product. Its general manager (GM) argued that if the product was more accessible, more people will buy; thus, solving the problem of declining revenues. I’d argue the product is the main reason why the revenues are declining. Piss off more and more customers, they won’t buy from you.
Now, this company company claims it is customer-focused. Giving the company the benefit of the doubt, this is simply another display of the knowing-doing gap. Will this move of producing more sub-standard products solve the declining revenues? Far from it! It will just create more problems. The customer already said what they want — improve the current one.
There is a two-step process for this:
- Know what you have to be updated with
- Use tools you already have to stay updated
1.1) Know What You Have to Be Updated With
- Identify the industry your company is in
- break down the activities your companies do
- look at the components in each
Let’s define what each of these components mean then look at a random example: a local garments which produces pants for both the local and international market.
- Suppliers —> these are sources of raw materials, particularly the textile, jeans, and machinery.
- Input —> or Inbound Logistics. This includes how you get your raw materials to your place of operations. Some business functions that are involved here are purchasing and warehousing. For bigger companies with international operations, freight forwarders are also included here.
- Process —> This is where you conduct value-adding activities that transform the raw materials into something that customers are willing to pay for. In our example, this is the conversion of rolls of textiles into the actual ready-to-wear pants and jeans.
- Output —> or Outbound Logistics. This includes how you get your finished products (from the process) to your customers, like deliveries to stores.
- Customers —> this part considers where and how your customers buy (i.e. branches / e-commerce).
1.1.2) Examples of What to Look At
- Suppliers —> You look at textile producers like Bangkok and Malaysia.
- input —> customs, port congestion, shipping fees, container vans, truck ban and truck lanes
- process —> new machines, efficiency, case studies of other garments companies, best practices, new technologies
- output —> distribution to retailers and wholesalers, news about department stores, ecommerce, death of the middle man
- customers —> why they buy, where they buy, ecommerce, designs they like, complaints they have, on-demand, customized.
1.2) Use Tools You Already Have to Stay Updated
You have a smart phone right? Make use of it!
Download an RSS feed aggregator. I am sure there are tons out there. I use feedly.
Look for sites that talk about your specific industry. Don’t know where to start? Type “_____ industry news.” For example, I typed “cloth manufacturer industry news” and got the following sites:
In addition to industry news, I always add local news (like inquirer, rappler, etc.) in my readings as well. This helps me stay updated with current events.
Finally, to make this a habit, add the activity to an already existing habit. I read my feedly every commute to and fro the office. I browse around 500 articles (headlines) each time. I may look up around 10-20 articles in detail if it interests me.
I don’t read everything. If you notice, I only mention headlines. Because that is already enough for you to stay updated. If there is an interesting news or a hot topic that each site is talking about, that’s a sign to read up on that piece as well.
This whole process takes me 15 minutes each time, for a total of 30 minutes each day. Instead of sleeping or thinking about nothing during my commute, I add knowledge that will help me be more effective in my work.
2) Make effective decisions
This is my personal favorite. One of the great lessons taught by Peter Drucker is about making effective decisions. Most of the times, managers go to meetings to discuss a lot of things then decide. After the meeting, because there are no ground rules to follow, the decisions made just falls through the cracks. Here’s a great example of a meeting I came from (in one of the meetings I had to endure in my career).
My role in the meeting is an attendee, not the leader or facilitator. In the meeting, we reported project updates and current issues. In the meeting, it was decided that Manager A will take care of preparing a sales report and send it to Party X. It was due the next day. However, Manager A was not present in the meeting. Because Manager A was the GM’s direct report, it was his duty to relay that information to Manager A. A week later, during the next staff meeting, the task still was not done.
Classic problem. A decision was made, but not effectively.
Now, the project is already 6 days behind. Take note that the GM acknowledged in the meeting the week prior that he will notify his direct report.
Taking from Peter Drucker’s definition, there was no decision made. Why? Because the person who needed to know about the decision was not informed. There was no action done.
- Classifying and defining the problem
- Specifying the answer to the problem
- Deciding what is “right,” rather than what is acceptable, in order to meet the boundary conditions
- Building into the decision the action to carry it out
- Testing the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events
Have you made decisions lately that did not meet these 5 criteria? How did it turn out? What about the decisions that met the criteria? These elements make up effective decisions.
Technology is changing every business sector. Some much faster than the rest, but there is no escaping it. Instead of being afraid of new things, and being scared of what you don’t know, it is better to be more proactive about it. This way, you won’t be caught off-guard when news surrounding your industry gets announced.
All recommendations here are free. All it requires is a change in behavior.