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Tactics for Doing Business at the Speed of Now

By: John M. Bernard`

Today, businesses must learn how to function more effectively during what is the biggest economic shift in more than a century. The world is moving rapidly from a global economy driven by mass production to one driven by mass customization. The mass production revolution (that was then) made it possible for businesses to deliver the same product to millions of customers. The mass customization revolution (this is now) demands we vary our products and services to meet the unique needs of customers who want what they want now. To do that, business leaders and managers must fire up their people and enable them to seize opportunities and solve problems almost instantly. In the battle for these impatient customers, you must act more quickly than ever before or run the risk of losing out to more nimble competitors. In short, you must do business at the speed of now.

In this new world, three game-changing drivers make it possible for any organization to grow prosperously: social media, cloud computing, and the “millennial mind-set.” Social media quickly creates vast powerful communities by connecting people inside and outside an organization; cloud computing provides a cost-effective means for giving workers the resources they need to solve problems the instant they arise; and the millennial mind-set demands that it all happens in the now. Based on our experience at Mass Ingenuity, below are tactics we’ve found helpful to leverage these three forces:

SOCIAL MEDIA TACTICS

Abandon the “no use of social media while at work” policy.
If you try to discourage employees from accessing social media at work, you’ll discover quickly that you cannot halt the flow of information, after all, they all carry smart phones to work. Trusting your people to use social media in a thoughtful and responsible way can create an army of good cyberspace representatives.

Develop and deploy an externally focused social media strategy.
The bigger your organization, the more critical external social media becomes. You are not looking for one-time marketing input but for a way to remain in constant touch with the voice of the customers who are essential to your business.

Develop and deploy an internally focused social media strategy.
Internally, social media allow access to the information needed to make prompt decisions. While it enables the sharing of ideas and suggestions, it’s real power lies in their capability to surface problems and solicit solutions. It’s the most powerful tool for leaders to hear the voice of employees.

CLOUD COMPUTING TACTICS

Trust the cloud to keep your information safe.
Since you cannot guarantee the 100% safety of information in your on-premises systems, it increasingly makes sense to rely on the big cloud providers that can afford to hire the best world-class experts and employ the most cutting-edge state-of-the-art technologies to ensure data security.

Take a baby step before you make a giant leap.
Pick a pilot project, small enough to manage easily but important enough to your business that you must to pay attention to it. Try something like Google Apps (mail, contacts, and calendar), a fairly important shift, but a relatively minor and safe one. Or consider transporting your website hosting to Rackspace or a similar provider. You’ll detect few if any changes besides reduced costs and fewer problems.

Let the cloud increase your employees’ access to the data they need to make sound and swift now decisions.
In order for your people to make great decisions in the now they need freer access to business data that will give them everything they need to make those decisions. When that happens, every decision advances your organization toward its goals.

Create and implement a bold cloud strategy.
Your long-term strategy should aim to get your organization sufficiently out of the technology business so that you can concentrate more of your time and energy on your real business.

MILLENNIAL MINDSET TACTICS

Engage everyone in the effort to understand the millennial mind-set.
Initiate training, facilitate open conversations, and engage your millennials. Understanding what the millennials are looking for can provide important insight into what your business will need to do in the future.

Analyze the implications of the millennial mind-set on your organization.
Ask yourself some tough questions. What do we do that just won’t fly in a millennial world? Do we have any business practices (causing environmental harm, using cheap offshore labor with poor working conditions, providing unfair rates of pay and unsafe work environment, etc.) that, if exposed, could put our business at risk? Does our business count on any traditional approaches to getting the job done (exhausting hours, uncomfortable working conditions, excessive travel, etc.) that repel young talent? Do we welcome ideas and input from our most younger colleagues?

Develop a game plan to minimize your risks and fill the gaps.
If your business model demands you hire fresh graduates, and expects them to pay their dues in the form of long hours and months on the road, then you probably need to rethink that model. While less populous than the baby-boomer generation, these new recruits will exert proportionally greater influence on the corporate world. You need them. Develop a new approach to recruiting, nurturing, rewarding, and retaining their talent.

Welcome the millennial mind-set as the new reality.
It’s not unusual to meet executives who simply shrug their shoulders and dismiss the millenials as a bunch of spoiled brats. Whether you like it or not, the new kids on the block will end up running the show. Use them or lose them. Abuse them, and your more forward-looking rivals will harness their talent to leapfrog over you. It’s your choice.

Implement most or all of these tactics, and you will move your organization more surely into the now. The full transition will take time, of course, but you should be able to measure some positive effects right away.

About the Author(s)

John M. Bernard` is the founder and chairman of Mass Ingenuity (www.massingenuity.com) and the author of Business at the Speed of Now: Fire Up Your People, Thrill Your Customers, and Crush Your Competitors.