I was training a group of middle level managers this week.
Their company is undergoing some stress at present. Disruption to their business as well as changing consumer preferences means that this long-standing, gargantuan organisation is need of re-calibration.
In general, the word “disruption” has a negative connotation in daily life.
“My friends arrived unannounced and disrupted my day”, or “I could not watch the broadcast of my favourite football team play today, because rain disrupted the satellite transmission.”
In business, it is commonly accepted that the term “disruption” was first fully explored by Clayton M. Christensen, a Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University in his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”
Professor Christensen introduced the idea of “disruptive innovation.” He argued that this phrase best describes successful companies that eventually do not meet their customers’ needs.
They build super structures and create policies that supported their past growth, but they are not agile or nimble enough today to adjust their efforts to anticipate the future needs of their customers.
His theory is also used to explain how small companies with minimal resources are able to enter an established marketplace and dislodge an older, more established provider.
In 2015, Professor Christensen decided to update his theory and wrote in the Harvard Business Review that a disruptive business is likely to start by either satisfying the less-demanding customers, or creating a market where none existed before.
In practical terms, in the past, many successful conventional businesses flourished by having a generation of people who were happy to be told what to do; to follow instructions; and to put in the hard-graft to achieve the objectives of their companies.
Communication modalities were fairly straight forward. Strategy meetings were followed by action plans, and most of this was done by senior managers, with little or no consultation with their staff.
Once the plans were formulated, middle level managers were tasked to cascade this down to the rank and file of the company, who would work hard at executing them.
If a company cracked the code by following these steps and coupling it with good governance, tight monitoring and control, and were able to keep their staff motivated by decent wages, benefits, and a reward system, it would be successful.
Anyone in business today will understand that while the fundamental tenets of this established system are still used, the most successful modern age enterprises are not staffed by compliant foot soldiers, but rather by people who come from different generations with a variety of skills, hopes and aspirations.
And, this new generation of employee is not afraid to voice their opinions.
In the case of the company I was training, their traditional business practices are slowly becoming obsolete. The more progressive members of staff can see the “disruption” whereas there are wide sections of the organization that cannot see beyond their past successes.
As a result, profitability suffers. This means the lowering of rewards for the team, which in turn leads to a general drop in staff morale.
Many companies face this problem, and employees live with uncertainty and get sucked into the overall demoralisation of “disrupted” businesses.
For your organisation, the decision makers will need to work on embracing the disruptions and learning from them.
But how do you, as an individual, continue to be focused as your company or even your industry goes through a renaissance period?
I reckon there is one really effective way.
Go back to the root of why you work in this company. What is most valuable to you?
Remember that you only get enthusiastic when you have an interest in what you do, and develop a sense of eagerness to achieve what you perceive as being most valuable to you, personally.
Focus on your purpose. You may come to work in an organisation for a variety of reasons like self-actualisation, just rewards for skills, personal satisfaction, and so on.
But for most of you, the answer is a lot less complicated.
It is because you want to provide for your family; your spouse, your children, your pets, all depend on you. You also continue to work because you want to maintain your lifestyle; you like the home you’ve built, the holidays you take, the car you drive, and so on.
In reality for most people, this is they continue to work.
When you can connect with practicalities like this, things tend to get a lot clearer, and you become focused on your purpose.
Work is no longer an imposition. It becomes a means to an end, rather than an end by itself. You will see your work as an enabler for you to maintain a certain standard of living.
Being connected like this will make you work with focus, even as you face troubles or disruptions.
I can assert that successful individuals are wired like this. You are only able to continue to work with vigour in the face of adversity, or uncertainty, when you are clear about why you come to work.
Are you clear about your “why”?
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”