By Greg Schuster, CCIM, Head of Integrated Portfolio Management
Organizations and their leaders are increasingly evaluated by new metrics. Historical absolutes are fading, each replaced by a new measure of value to our customers, employees, and owners. Expense and risk management still make nearly every list of top corporate objectives, but it is difficult to establish a business strategy that will maintain relevance throughout its own brief life cycle. These changes instead point to contributions to operational excellence, innovation, and growth as the new barometers of success.
According to PWC’s Global Innovation Survey, nearly 80% of the most innovative companies have a coherent innovation strategy and manage it like any other business process. PWC confirms these same organizations are growing at a much healthier rate than their less innovative peers. How are these metrics unique, and how do they correlate?
Organizations that grow – in relevance and revenue – do not overlook operational excellence. Today’s business climate creates acute tension between long term excellence and short term results. Your most valuable customers and employees will recognize what excellence looks like. They want to be part of it and help it grow and develop. It is imperative that you, your leaders, and your organization understand how you are different and innovative; however, of equal importance is a command of the inherent strengths and weaknesses of your organization. One of the most overlooked elements buried in piles of SWOT analyses and business plans is a genuine and honest assessment of organizational areas of improvement. Your team has undoubtedly heard you articulate organizational strengths – they also want to understand what is needed to improve and will appreciate transparency and candor. Real improvement most often comes from introducing new ideas and building complimentary teams versus “fixing” or “changing” individuals or leaders.
Invest for Growth
In a now famous speech at a Harvard Commencement ceremony, Sheryl Sandberg said “Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.” Good leaders are passionate about growth. They recognize it often requires something much different than what has created growth in the past. It requires investment. One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to look at every element of a business as being “inadequately invested in”. We have all had to answer the question “If I only had one dollar to invest, what would I do?” In most organizations there is fierce competition for investment of capital. Leaders who want to support growth must develop strong convictions and a plan around the investments needed to create that growth. Investment is key to jumping the curve of linear growth into something more exciting.
Convert Ideas into Action
Many business leaders today are operating on disruption overload. How can we filter the masses of new ideas we encounter to those that can help your customers and those you can actually implement? It is important to find ideas that are sharply focused on a relevant challenge or inefficiency, and those that will be intuitive to your entire organization. Intuitiveness is the key to converting valuable ideas into real action. How do we separate organizations that dream and talk about being innovative from those who create and capitalize on disruption? Look no further than two of the most obvious examples of our current era. One of Amazon’s published leadership principles is “Invent and Simplify”. I love this association. The inherent differentiator in Apple’s innovation has been the intuitive nature of their products. This is what separates the organizations we all know and value from the rest.
The best initiatives on a good team won’t be associated with one individual – they will take on a life of their own and be widely adapted. To help create a culture capitalizes on change and uses it to produce better results – don’t be afraid to focus on candor, investment, and intuition.
Greg Schuster, CCIM, is the Head of Integrated Portfolio Management, Americas region, for the Global Occupier Services group at Cushman & Wakefield.