In simpler times, one could comfortably establish a satisfactory level of performance in any area and pace themselves while delivering reasonable productivity. A co-worker told me that he would set a high level of work output, which was nowhere near his maximum effort, and his boss was pleased and impressed. There were no engagement surveys, but individuals surpassed the objectives and expectations of management and the marketplace. Employment was not at risk and if someone did not like their jobs they could easily find a job at another company. Today, I don’t have to tell you that times are different.
The current economic climate resulted in layoffs. Remaining employees are doing the work of several people. It is impossible for mediocre performance to hide. Additionally, investors are desperate and aggressively scrambling to find investment options that warrant their resources. Business demands a skill set and a mindset superior to the requirements of the past. Today, the speed, endurance and techniques (SET) of yesterday are no longer good enough to make the grade, for a variety of reasons.
1. Survival demands Excellence
Companies are searching for a higher brand of talent and consequently, people’s jobs are at risk. Average performers are particularly vulnerable. Average performance will no longer be condoned or tolerated. In tough times the marginally effective are an endangered species. The mandate against mediocrity is strong. Only the strong survive and the survival of the fittest is the order of the day.
Organizations are calibrating employees and force ranking them from the best performers to the lowest. Workers are also labeled as A, B, and C employees. The closer you are to the bottom of this rating scale, the more susceptible you are to personnel cuts. The angst this creates in the workforce perpetually reminds people of pay for performance. This also means that just good enough isn’t.
Effort alone is insufficient. The old adage of working smarter not harder still has merit. However, when you work smarter without a corresponding increase in working harder management accuses you of loafing. My earliest recollection with working smarter was in college when I worked on an assembly line changing oven liners at a General Electric plant. I devised a way to work smarter to make time to read from a book. This infuriated my foreman who said, “If you are going to create more time, take that time and sweep the floor.” He really wanted me to work smarter and to work harder.
Nearly twenty years ago, I gave my District Sales Managers an extra office day every quarter to create something that would benefit their sales team. It could be read a book to develop a workshop or anything that would improve their level of creativity. Companies talk about being creative, but most do not take the opportunity to put words into action. Some companies such as Gore, Inc. build creativity and thinking time into their culture.
2. Changing needs of the Marketplace
Marketplace needs change due to demographic shifts in the customer base. The buying power of diverse consumers is steadily increasing and will cause companies to alter their marketing mix to include these customers. The four generations of consumers will motivate companies to customize their marketing messages to the desired customers. Marketing was already a sophisticated practice, but it will be even more specialized.
The Total Quality Movement made quality a non-negotiable; a standard part of every product or transaction. Poor service will not be tolerated and the market will run consistent violators out of business. The customer has many options in person or on-line. Companies are vying with their competitors to acquire and inspire customers to buy their products. For example, customer services procedures mandate that returns are handled without hassle, which is different from the interrogations people encountered a few years ago. Individuals and organizations must move from acceptable performance to exceptional performance, because only in the domain of excellence can they hope to prosper.
The competition is changing in number, methods and locations. The stakes are higher as entrants are fiercer and more lethal in their promotional strategies. Some will advocate peaceful co-existent, while others will try to annihilate the competitors.
Students prepare for and compare themselves to their class mates. Their limited view of the competitive landscape confined to their classrooms, schools and communities. Clearly, students are competing for resources and recognition on standardized tests in their state, but many of their competitors will reside in other countries. Students across the globe are sacrificing their time and dreaming of living the prosperity of our American dream. Globalization has created a global economy where people compete directly or via the Internet.
Paradigm shifting is almost a dance of regularity as best practices and input from outsiders accelerate the rate of change in most industries. Theodore Levitt, the esteemed Marketing guru, popularized the phrase, “planned obsolescence”, which basically challenged companies to replace their product, before the competition made them obsolete. This philosophy also works with individuals. It is incumbent on each of us to make our current skills obsolete, as we replace them with a newer version, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 or whichever version is needed to meet the needs of the future. A culture of innovation is imperative to stay ahead of the myriad of changes in the business world.
3. Technology could make you Obsolete
Companies must find a way to improve their products or the marketing of their products and services. Social networking and its many platforms and applications have spread the exposure of many brands to a larger audience. Companies are evaluating the use of technological advances such as the iPad and the Internet to market their products. Technological advances are being solicited and evaluated and implemented to form a competitive advantage or maintain competitiveness.
Knowledge is doubling at a great rate, “as shown in patents and academic publication, knowledge doubles at different rates for different sectors, ranging from 2 years for nanotechnology to 21 years for other sectors.” (newsfan)
There is more to keep up with and more to master. So everyone must keep up with new information, best practices and scientific applications for their brands, business and career. This applies to everyone, even if your focus is your education or managing a career.
Everyone must stay on the technological wave and ascertain its value. We must find a creative way to promote our brand, even if the brand is our own identity.
Everyone must emphasize speed, endurance and techniques (SET) beyond what was previously acceptable, as we strive for the exceptional. Clearly, we must embrace the reality that good enough isn’t.
Copyright © 2011 Orlando Ceaser