Your success pillars: hardware, software, content, awareness.
It is not.
It is about focus for efficient management.
IT-like terminology just makes it short and simple.
Any computer-operated system needs both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ to operate properly, and the quality of those makes a big difference in the user’s decision to purchase. While being mandatory for any state-of-the-art machinery, it is however no longer sufficient. In order to differentiate, the producer needs to deliver also quality content – added-value applications with friendly interface, which create ‘best user experience’. Finally, it does not matter if you have the best hardware, software and content if you keep this to yourself… you need to make sure that everyone is aware of that in order to purchase, enjoy and then further disperse the positive feed-back.
Apply now the same rationale to a human being – we are all born with unique hardware and software, develop content and build awareness all around us until the last day of our life. Most of us perpetuate the content and awareness for a while, even past the moment when our hardware and software has stopped functioning…
Can we apply the same to a profession? I believe so. The basis for this lies in the education and continuous learning.
First, there is a set of so-called ‘hard skills’ to be acquired as a pre-requisite by any individual who wishes to adhere to the profession. Then each of those individuals has a blend of unique so-called ‘soft skills’ that differentiate him/her from the other members in the way he/she does things in the area of human interaction. The set of skills needed vary significantly with the profession - for example the hard skills of an actor may represent soft skills for a doctor or mathematician. The backbone (or basic social survival kit) which transcends most of the professions is instilled to most of us from childhood to adolescence, while the adult life is all about further developing our own unique set of skills, according to the content we wish to contribute and the awareness we intend to raise in our environment.
Enlarging now from individual to collective self, I finally get to the point which is that wonderful complex system that a manager has to lead towards greatness nowadays, both in terms of content and awareness (no matter how you may specifically call them - profit, deliverables, bottom line, quantitative and qualitative results, regulatory constraints, team spirit, customer centric, social responsibility etc.).
Any manager, no matter how big a ship he/she needs to steer has a two-fold focus need – human resources and everything else. You cannot cross the street without the first one. The rest is all about the manager’s mandatory hard skills set, which should be a pre-requisite for his/her appointment.
In terms of mastering your team’s performance, it is all about integrating the limited resources at your disposal (hard and soft skills), by generating together credible proper content and facilitating awareness – both inside the team and towards external parties, so that you can add value to all the stakeholders involved. And the best way to do this is in a continuous flow motion, just like going around the world in a car. Set your itinerary, get your resources and passengers on board, check that all your mirrors are adjusted to maximise vision from all possible angles and… start moving! Drive courageously but keep your passengers safe (and make sure they feel that way!), adapt to your surrounding and maintain schedule. And… don’t forget to refuel and enjoy!
The longer the trip, the more you will need to make adjustments – to the car, itinerary or passengers. And when this happens, my advice is to concentrate on the future usefulness of needed changes. If you want to stay one step ahead of (real!) competitors you should get comfortable with an anticyclical approach. Romanians have a saying for this – responsible people build sleigh in the summer and carriage during winter.
In times of profits flowing and markets growing you may want to invest in expensive ‘hard’ components and content design while maintaining all the rest. In times of difficult survival and shrinking demand you should direct your scarce resources to ‘soft’ skills and awareness (including loyalty of best people!) while maintaining all the rest. Never forget that driving under difficult conditions requires the best set of skills and the most feasible (not fast!) car for survival. You should use hardship periods to unload unnecessary burden, but make sure you don’t lose top performance drivers in the process.
If you distribute your management priorities around those four pillars in an anticyclical and forward-looking manner, you will notice that your team members will start self-investing in their own upgrade to generate better content, to the benefit of the entire system.
Finally, even if you are not yet a team manager, you may find that the same logic can be applied to everything important in life, both in terms of personal and professional accomplishment. It helps turning dreams into plans and executing them without losing focus.
I know this is no easy challenge, because anticyclical approach actually requires abilities to understand the past and see the present as it is, with the purpose of anticipating the future. Which is actually the topic of the next episode…