Growing Campions: Great is no longer good enough for business

This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 16, 2021 - August 22, 2021.
Growing Campions: Great is no longer good enough for business
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Great is no longer good enough. Companies that want to succeed in the current business landscape need to build beyond great and balance the powerful disruptive forces of our connected modern business ecosystem. These are the core themes of Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) new book, Beyond Great: Nine Strategies for Thriving in an Era of Social Tension, Economic Nationalism, and Technological Revolution.

If the scope of this exploration seems vast, so too are the pressures transforming our business landscape. We have seen the impacts of those transformations acutely in Southeast Asia, as changing trade patterns radically shift global value chains, while technology fundamentally transforms business operations.

The lifespan of companies, even prior to the pandemic, was shrinking. The odds of failure are six times higher today than they were 40 years ago, and the gap between winners and losers has doubled in the last 30 years.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated existing trends, not just amplifying their impacts, but creating a sharper knife-edge of opportunity between good and not-good-enough. It is time to tear up that tired business playbook and look beyond “great”, if your business is to succeed.

Greatness was once measured in market success. It was about delivering strong total shareholder returns (TSR) and basking in the praise such success generated. That is no longer enough.

The new strategic journey encapsulated in Beyond Great reveals that business leaders will need to make bold transformations across three critical dimensions if they are to thrive in the current economic environment.

Growing Beyond — Reimagine growth to reflect a more holistic view of stakeholders, incorporating elements such as positive societal impact into a strategy that encourages growth while boosting TSR, at the same time expanding beyond core business to new markets and opportunities.

Operating Beyond — Rethink how your organisation operates, creating a sustainable business ecosystem fit for the modern environment. This is about embracing increasingly advanced technologies and digital solutions to drive true transformation, leveraging a data-driven business strategy that unlocks winning propositions.

Organising Beyond — Transform to embrace a new form of business agility, with a customer-centric model and agile operational teams that can quickly adapt and pivot to meet customer needs. This agility will form the foundation of resilience in a shifting and volatile business landscape.

Organising Beyond in Southeast Asia

It is clear from our own discussions with business leaders in Malaysia and across Southeast Asia that everyone is going through some form of transformation. That is why Organising Beyond is such a critical dimension for enterprises in the region today. This is about creating a customer-focused business that can quickly respond to changing conditions and changing demands. It is about creating a truly nimble operation that is always-on and designed to deliver sustainable business advantage.

There has been a big shift in execution for many businesses over the last 18 months. People are changing the way they work through digital tools and growth in remote work. Demands in the landscape are changing, as Covid-19 amplifies those critical pressures previously mentioned.

You can see these changes clearly in your daily life, in areas such as shifting e-commerce habits, new digital platform use and switching attitudes to workforce presenteeism and virtual collaboration. How many of us honestly expect such changes will be rolled back?

These are just snapshots of a wider landscape of transformation that necessitate businesses rethinking how they organise and operate. In Beyond Great, there are three key areas of this Organising Beyond outlined to transform your business execution.

• Get focused, fast and flat. Create a fluid organisation that can quickly flow to fill emerging opportunities. You cannot no longer operate on static performance measures or siloed operational departments. You need a workforce that is ready to respond and organise around the customer;

• Thrive with talent. Talent is critical in an increasingly multi-disciplinary and tech-driven ecosystem. You need to strive to attract the best talent wherever you are. Look beyond traditional workforce pools to build diverse talent. Empower your employees with powerful new platforms and functionalities. Embrace the right talent with purpose and culture that reveals the positive impact of your business, to positively attract talent and empower them to thrive in a constantly evolving business landscape with comprehensive upskilling and reskilling support; and

• Embrace always-on transformation. In our dynamic business landscape, if you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. Sustainable evolution is an iterative process of constant and continuous improvement. You need a business that can adapt as circumstances change. The new type of leader goes beyond great, to lead with genuine conviction and inspire teams and business operations. That includes a collaborative learning process as leaders and employees constantly evolve, while helping a business steer through any ambiguity that may emerge in a volatile ecosystem.

Always-on transformation requires strategy, purpose, and execution. Beyond Great defines this as a Head, a Heart and Hands. The Head is defined by bold transformation visions, such as pivoting from legacy technology stacks to a cloud-first approach. It builds a dynamic portfolio of transformation initiatives that drive through change, led by CEOs who actively champion and engage change.

The Heart is the passion that drives your organisation, through purpose, culture, empathy and leadership. This can be promoted through nationwide leadership events amplifying your purpose, followed up with genuine actions. The Heart is central to a culture of change and offers welcome synergy with success metrics such as customer obsession, and inclusivity.

The Hands are the culmination of passion, purpose and strategy. They represent an accountable leadership working together to solve strategic issues. It also incorporates the technology required to empower an organisation to succeed in a transformation journey, with an agile and data-driven approach to sustainable business success. This should be underpinned with a focused CEO scorecard aligned with the overall strategic vision.

Organising Beyond requires the Head, the Heart and the Hands to align. When they do, they create the opportunity for business to truly thrive.

There is no doubt that businesses face a challenging landscape ahead, with disruptive forces of social tension, economic nationalism and radical technology transformation. Organisations must act quickly to build beyond great in this vola­tile business landscape.

Those who succeed set themselves on the path to a valuable prize — embracing a route to delivering outstanding value to all business stakeholders, catalysed by an inspiring organisation and energised talent with the ambition and vision to build beyond great.

Kasey Maggard is global practice management director for global advantage and Zarif Munir is managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group

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