1. The concept in reality
In enterprise leadership, reality always takes priority over theory. So for Infinity Strategy® to be of practical value, it has to be translated into actions which will improve both the current state and the future prospects for the organisation.
Identifying the obstacles and potential pitfalls ahead and mitigating those risks is part of the underlying purpose behind Infinity Strategy®. Using iRMA as an assessment of strategic risk management provides a superficial picture and shows how balanced the risk profile is at the time. The weaker the score for Succession Planning, the more benefits the enterprise leader will derive from adopting Infinity Strategy®.
The challenge is to design permanent solutions which accommodate the inevitable, unknown changes that will occur in the future. The key outcome of Infinity Strategy® in action has to be that the organisation is sufficiently agile to adapt to change and continue to function successfully.
2. People performance
Succession planning is at the heart of Infinity Strategy® as the ageing process is the most tangible evidence of the progression of time and the existential changes which it brings. Leading and managing any organisation involves delegating tasks and responsibilities to other people, relying on them to perform and to communicate.
This applies both internally and externally. It is surprising how little direct attention is given to succession planning by enterprise leaders of all types and how often boards of directors or trustees fail to monitor this critical aspect of leadership. The classic scenario is that in which the CEO is allowed to select and anoint his or her own successor. That happens too frequently and the results are often unsatisfactory.
2a) Practical actions
There are three key elements of people management that can directly affect performance. They are Recruitment, Development and Retention. To improve the effectiveness of all three requires refinement of technique, based on studying what works best for the organisation.
Although there is no single formula that suits all situations, Infinity Strategy® offers a core policy solution which embodies the philosophy behind the concept. That solution is Career Contracts.
Career contracts offer a return to the value of a life-long commitment to one organisation, celebrated and widely practised by Japanese companies but also historically in the British civil service as well as other areas of enterprise.
Features of Career Contracts include:
- Matching new recruits against the ideal profile of someone who will fully commit their future to the organisation, in return for specified benefits
- Designing a personal development plan with each employee, setting milestones for learning, progression, job variety through role exchanges or a similar system, paid leave for voluntary work and mentoring of colleagues in the closing years of working life.
- Regular reviews and reappraisals, to give each employee the opportunity to achieve their full potential at the appropriate level of knowledge and ability.
- A development pathway for future leaders, to ensure that the people with the right qualities are encouraged and supported in their progress through the organisation. The best succession strategy is to develop future leaders from within, but to also ensure that they have a global awareness and understanding. Sponsoring Further Education and sector outplacements are examples of how organisations support the progress of future leaders.
There are many additional features in Career Contracts, all of which are designed to reduce employee turnover and improve productivity.
3. Process management
This is a complex and variable subject, with many unique aspects reflecting the scale and nature of each enterprise, market conditions, external factors including supply chain and government regulation, technology and economics. There will be many common factors, however, in specific sectors or types of enterprise. The point of applying Infinity Strategy® to process management (or systems if you prefer) is to anticipate change.
Disruption and declining efficiency are just two of the numerous threats to sustaining a process or operating system whilst maintaining optimum performance. Obsolescence is an occupational hazard of managing operational processes.
3a) Process Standards Test
Infinity Strategy® cannot offer a universal panacea for this aspect of enterprise leadership, but it does pose a set of generic questions, on to which can be bolted variations which more accurately reflect specific organisational challenges. This interrogation is called the Process Standards Test and it is intended to challenge assumptions and provoke research into future-proofing measures.
Process Standards Test questions include:
- How much does the current process/system rely on technology?
- What can be done to prepare for technological change?
- How often does the current process/system underperform?
- What is the cost of process/system underperformance?
- How often does the process/system break down or fail?
- What is the cost of process/system break down or failure?
- What are the implications of the current process/system becoming outdated?
There are many more questions in the Process Standards Test all of which contribute to a strategic view of the sustainability of current operational practices.
4. Product/service delivery
Customer experience is the ultimate test of success for every enterprise. In different sectors the customer may be the called a consumer, client, user, patient, or given some other designation. The final assessment is the same – can the enterprise continue to deliver a positive customer experience or does it risk losing loyalty?
The challenge for enterprise leaders is to continually maintain the highest levels of customer experience, whatever KPIs are used to make that assessment. This is a universal leadership responsibility which has the same high significance in both the private and public sectors. Whether market share starts to decline in the retail sector, hospital waiting times increase or product quality in manufacturing is compromised, it is not long before the witch hunt starts. The CEO (or equivalent) is generally in the firing line!
4a) Next generation customers
Infinity Strategy® invites enterprise leaders to recognise their future customers long before they meet them! Next generation customers is a practical idea that demands imagination and courage as vital ingredients in profiling the markets in which the enterprise will find itself in the future. Change is inevitable and a host of external influences will affect how the organisation sustains its value and competitiveness.
Examples of what Next generation customers may demand include:
- More free services or product features
- Increased speed or reliability
- Improved durability or adaptability
- Wider availability, better after-sales support
- Higher standards (eg: safety, performance, environmental)
- Better user experience and benefits
This is by no means an exhaustive list but illustrates how the Next generation customers test assesses the long-term strength of customer relationships.