We all like to hear good news every now and then. Especially as the days are getting longer and the warmer. And so it was nice to hear Bill McDermott, the first US born co-CEO of SAP recently stated that the dark days of the economic crisis are behind us and we need to prepare for and focus on a growth model again. He further mentioned that all good leaders faced with this transition will understand the need to maintain the customer at the center of this new growth model. To satisfy those customers they must continuously ask the following questions:
- So just who are our customers? Are they changing?
- What are they like? Why are they like that?
- What do they expect from us? Can we continue to meet those expectations?
Previously in order to answers those questions a good leader would have aspired to build an efficient organizational environment and balanced the need for ‘hard’ data with ‘soft’ skills in the various operating functions. That balance was often hard to create as too much reliance on either side was a classical path to failure. When successful, the resulting mix of personal and corporate character was impressive, infectious and quickly imitated.
However it was rarely sustainable.
In this new model, companies that desire sustained growth will need to incorporate the ability to adapt and reorganize to suit the changing needs and desires of their customers without losing their core ethics and values.
Achieving this careful balance will demand more of all new leaders. Instead of trying to develop a leader to understand change, diversity and the global market, perhaps it is best to have a young, diverse and global leadership. Jim Hagemann Snabe, the other co-CEO of SAP is Danish. He brings a different understanding of Europe and its history, culture and potential future. He was asked about his impressions of his co-leader, a very charismatic and presentable American and mentioned his optimism (‘we can do’ attitude) and his execution (‘just do it’ attitude). In turn Bill McDermott lavished praise on his co-leader for his European style and historical perspective.
Both talked about a new environment dominated by an ever increasing speed at which business is conducted and the pace at which change is demanded. We may soon reach the ‘catallaxy’ point coined by Fredrick Hayek in the last century where the rate of change is so fast as to be self generating and spontaneous. In conjunction with this the complexity of projects is also increasing due to globalization, regulation change, acquisitions and many other factors.
When this point arrives there will be an even greater need for simplification by the customers. The combination of leadership and management that can absorb that speed and complexity and transmit order and understanding will stay competitive and prosper.
Then the leaders can continue to ask themselves:
- Are we still doing the right things?
And their managers can ask of themselves:
- Are we continuing to do those things right?
And the customers will continue to enjoy the whole show.