Bryan’s Blog: The 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak

“I say the 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak”

I recently read this Knowledge @Wharton interview “‘Industries of the Future’: Alec Ross Unveils the Winners”. At the end of the interview Ross says, “I say the 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak. One of the key things is to give up on the kind of control that you’re most comfortable with and begin to understand that a lot of the ground shifting under your feet is going to shift whether you like it or not and to understand and accept that we’re going to be living in a world of ever-faster-paced change.”

My additional advice to you as a business leader is to take a 360 degree view of the control you are used to and identify the areas of fastest change and prioritise them for your attention.  Keeping in mind that:

  • Boards and CEOs are demanding “summary in detail” – that is they want it fast and they want to be able to see any landmines.
  • Staff lead by Gen Y have a very different view of command and control compared to the one you grew up with.
  • The Customer fronting part of your organisation is screaming for it to come faster and smoother.
  • Support functions in the organisation such as IT, Finance, Procurement and Risk are scrambling to deliver cost-effective initiatives around data analytics, cyber security and digitisation or in the HR space they will be working on wellbeing, mindfulness and resilience while legal and audit are also scrambling to keep up.

The secret to responding to these rapid changes is flexible strategies.  If you are a business leader you need to empower your decision makers to design their own methods of working through the uncertainty of a fast changing environment. And if you are a business leader in a support function you must ensure you also allow sufficient flexibility for the business to be able to develop their own way of achieving your goal.  After all, your goals and their goals must be aligned. Right?