It’s a daunting prospect for most CEOs to navigate the complexities of change that have been both organic and accelerated over the past two years. But why?
Simply, organisations’ long-term strategies, however well designed, are no longer always fit for purpose. Suddenly, there are many more moving parts that are difficult to predict. The attitudes, working speeds and capabilities of a CEO’s teams may not be optimal, or necessarily what the market needs right now.
To counter this challenge, it is time for CEOs to see these challenges as opportunities, and to embrace ‘continuous evolution’.
“The lifecycle of companies, from embryonic to huge success, can now be meteorically quick. However, to enjoy continued success is where companies often come unstuck, as they fail to embrace the concept of continuous evolution,” explained Manfred Abraham, co-CEO of Yonder Consultancy, a company that aids the balance between storytelling and vision creation, and partners with clients to set strategies centred around deep insight.
Not everyone important to an organisation is data literate. But everyone is story literate. Every CEO needs to effectively convey their bespoke story to those both inside and out of their company.
Abraham added: “Data is, and always has been, an important enabler of effective business strategy. And, to implement an effective strategy, you need a culture and business model that embraces continuous evolution and allows it to thrive.”
The chain of actions; from ongoing market and customer understanding, to identifying strategic opportunities, to communicating internally in an engaging and motivating way, to driving that strategy through to implementation for business improvement, and measuring the success of the actions, should form a continuous loop that rolls on and on in real time as the market evolves. That speed of evolution is only getting faster.
And it is this notion of ‘time’ that Yonder really taps into when working with clients, powered by an innovative solution called Yonder Clockface.
“Yonder Clockface interprets complex and multifaceted data, and translates it into deep customer understanding,” explained Abraham. “CEOs need to know what their customers want now, what they want next, and – most importantly – why. This customer understanding needs to be delivered on an ongoing basis, around the clock; and not just as part of three-year goals that are set in stone and reviewed at the end of that period.
“Once you’ve entered the continuous evolution circle, you must communicate your story strategically to give the company and its employees a clear direction of travel that your teams feel aligned to, and are excited by.”
Abraham reaffirms that this improved forecasting and real-time adaptability does only work if the second half of the equation is fulfilled, and the story is relayed effectively, internally.
He continued: “Storytelling (where you’re going and why), combined with explaining the context of data, will bring people aboard your journey. Tim Cook of Apple, Sonia Cheng of Rosewood Hotel Group, and Gary Freedman of Restoration Hardware are all excellent examples of how to do this right, and deliver huge value as a result.”
Inherently, as companies grow and become more successful, then the number of siloes are likely to increase in tandem, and communicating effectively becomes more difficult. A prime example Yonder sees regularly, are the KPIs of individual siloes not actually adding up to the organisation’s strategic direction of travel. That’s when a CEO has a problem.
In that respect, interpreting the numbers from the individual siloes and connecting them through storytelling to keep everyone moving forward together, are two key tools that future CEOs need in their armoury.
Abraham concluded: “As a CEO, it is increasingly difficult to be aware of all the moving parts that contribute to ultimate business success. Not only are customer expectations, employee demands, market dynamics, politics and societies changing, but they’re doing so at a faster pace than before. This all has a huge impact on which stories people connect to, and why.
“Yonder Clockface helps CEOs monitor and forecast customer reactions. The resultant insights can then be used to tell coherent stories and to truly capitalise on the opportunities that today’s fast-changing world presents. This is opposed to seeing such rapid shifts just as challenges.
“Because really, isn’t it exciting to be operating in such a dynamic market? Constantly looking for those new opportunities surely makes it far more interesting to be a CEO now, and we hope more business leaders embrace that excitement in the future.”
Originally published in The Future CEO report, in The Times.