Less than 3% of leadership time is spent on collectively building a view of the future. At least, so said Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad in their book “Competing for the Future.” You might find some comfort in the fact that shocking statistic is over two decades old. But, even if things have improved subsequently, it is cause for concern.
Both the pace of change, and the fact that 70% of change initiatives, reportedly, fail to achieve their objectives, suggest that proportion should be significantly higher. This implies a need to take action to improve matters. Before identifying how to do that, however, you might ask, “Why, given the rate of change, do leaders not spend more time on this?” After all, safeguarding the future is surely a primary leadership responsibility.
Lacking the resources to research how executives do spend their time, my only option was to turn to our 21st century oracle, Google. Searching “How do executives spend their time?” threw up some pretty mixed results, with many referring to CEOs only, which I ignored as “leaders” includes more than CEOs.
The first result was this generic 2014 infographic. The only other relevant item on the first page of the results was another 2014 article, highlighting the results of a global Strategy& survey on whether executives spent their time on the right things. Interestingly the results show that executives themselves do not think so! Not only is this scary, but it arguably indicates:
- Executives need to manage their time better;
- As initially assumed, executives do need to spend more time on shaping the future;
- It will be difficult to increase the proportion of time spent on this;
- Any or all of the above.
The next page of results only revealed more of the same. It appears that much of the questioning revolved around strategy and also indicated that executives felt they did not spend enough time on this. Whether or not you agree that strategy and shaping the future are synonymous, this suggests that executives are failing to optimise (their own and their organisation’s) performance; to safeguard the sustainability of the organisation, and to prepare properly for the future.
Possibly this is because they are too pre-occupied with performance measurement. The growth of “big data” and the creation of ever more systems and controls to regulate and review everything, keep informed and prevent surprises, demanding more meetings, more preparation and more follow-up than ever before and has them on an unwitting treadmill.
This is a result of not trusting, valuing and developing employees properly. When you recognise that people are the life-blood of your organisation, and that organisational success depends on each person optimising their own capabilities, being more aligned, and fulfilling their own potential, you can redirect your efforts. This entails recognising that ‘Every Individual Matters’ and creating an organic structure where, through common purpose and a clear understanding of their role, people can self-manage without constant supervision.
Recognising that ‘Every Individual Matters’ empowers your employees and engages them more. It makes them more responsive and adaptable, and is by far the best way to anticipate, identify and react to external factors and thus to shape the future. This is the ultimate win-win because it internalises and integrates change, reducing both your responsibility for, and the amount of time you spend, instigating it. But it all begins with recognising that ‘Every Individual Matters.’
If you like what you have read contact me today to discuss how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could provide the catalyst to help you create a culture of ‘Love at Work’, in which everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding improvement that transforms – and sustains – organisational performance.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.